Buying centers in B2B often consist of different players from the fields of purchasing, quality assurance, project management and finance. In a multi-person process, they are the ones who decide whether a provider’s products or services will purchased or not. This multi-stage purchasing process is increasingly played out in digital channels and platforms: According to a study by Google, already nearly 50 percent of B2B purchasing stakeholders in the US and Germany are familiar with digital media and use digital platforms online to research product information.
Providers, producers and service providers in the B2B are aware of this, too – and are increasingly shifting their sales activities to the digital sector as a result. But there is more to the story than that: The aim is to shift perspectives – away from the focus on one’s own products and services and towards a customer-oriented concept of digital commerce that can reflect customers’ problems, interests and preferences even online.
How do digital value-added concepts arise in B2B commerce?
B2B purchasers are increasingly taking a B2C approach to purchasing decisions in a business setting: self-determined and always in a position to compare the alternatives. Today’s B2B decision-maker insists on price transparency, a personalized shopping experience and online customer service. Special requirements – display of customer-specific prices via negotiated discounts, automatic follow-up ordering and individual delivery options – must be mappable on a B2B commerce platform. Only then do tailor-made solutions offer the desired benefits in terms of the purchaser’s individual needs and boost customer confidence.
A B2B enterprise platform comprises not only the typical applications such as the Content Management System (CMS) but also links to ERP systems such as SAP, with data transmission in real time. This is where the analysis of relevant data is a key ingredient in the effort to ultimately enable the kinds of dynamic and personalized customer experience that boost customer loyalty and conversion rates. Tomorrow’s B2B seller uses technologies to accelerate the purchase process.
The following three examples illustrate what this might look like in practice:
- Meritor – an automotive supplier for cars and commercial vehicles from all over the world: This Michigan-based supplier furnishes its customers an online catalog navigation they can use to correctly identify spare parts. Using a visual 360-degree search function on the platform, customers can identify installed spare parts directly on the respective commercial vehicle, in the space of just a few clicks. That is how the tool permits targeted and visually appealing search functionality for business-to-business customers.
- Meyer Quick Service Logistics – Food logistics with an individually tailored service feature: German food retailer QSL delivers to more than 1,200 restaurants of franchise brands such as Burger King and KFC and controls the entire logistics processes, from purchasing to distribution (one-stop shopping) through its own commerce platform. In the case of Burger King, for instance, a delivery-route planner system has been docked to its own B2B platform to provide restaurants with detailed information about delivery times right at the outset of the order phase. This feature is an example of service and personalization in B2B commerce.
- Royal Brinkman – Personalizing gardening and landscaping:
With its own B2B commerce strategy, this wholesaler to the agricultural industry from the Netherlands bases its offerings heavily around more experience-oriented B2C platforms. The keyword here: Content Commerce – Royal Brinkmann relies on useful content in the web shop to address its own customers’ key problems and questions on topics such as “pollutants in fertilizers” or “practical tips for growing tomatoes” in the form of articles with tips and short videos. The goal here: to help customers make decisions while raising their awareness of new products.
The bottom line: The platform has to fit the customer
There are countless ways to provide your own B2B customers with digital value-added concepts. A central key to growth in B2B commerce is certainly to meet the ever-individual needs of buyers on digital platforms. This may involve filtering and search functions, category and inventory management or optimizing long logistics processes. Digital solutions that revolve around data and technology are becoming increasingly important in B2B Commerce. Besides platforms with user-friendly configurations, the key to conducting successful business through digital channels also lies in integrated applications such as service bots and marketing software that help customers find the solutions they seek.