B2B sellers can learn a lot from B2C ecommerce businesses and how they allow customers to control the buying experience through self-service as most B2B companies are failing to create the seamless buying journeys customers have come to expect.
This is largely to do with B2B transactions often being more complex than their B2C counterparts. For example, a B2B company may sell products that customers need to sample before introducing to their business (we have an app for that), or their offering may need to be customized to meet a customer’s particular needs. These types of transactions require more variable pricing along with flexible payment options including check, wire, purchase orders (PO), terms, and quotes. B2B sellers also tend to manage a larger selection of products than those found in B2C.
To facilitate these needs, the B2B buying journey often includes an irreplaceable human element. In the past, this meant relying on sales teams to find then nurture leads and closeout deals. The result is a drawn-out process filled with steps like scheduling appointments with sales reps, making initial stand-alone orders, making changes to standing orders, and requesting maintenance or support. All of this adversely impacts the customer experience and can lead to less completed orders.
As customers begin to desire a shopping journey similar to their personal experiences, B2B companies must find ways to adapt their approach. While B2C commerce has always focused on streamlined shopping, B2B sellers are beginning to realize the value of a more autonomous experience.
A recent study from Mckinsey found that 86 percent of B2B leaders prefer using self-service solutions for reordering over interacting with a sales representative. Additionally, Forrester has shown that 68% of B2B buyers would rather do their own research while 60% don’t want to interact with sales reps at all.
When you provide self-service ecommerce, you change your customers’ buying journey as they are then able to steer the purchasing process instead of your sales teams. The result is a streamlined buyer’s journey as customers are able to receive assistance from your team only when needed, rather than being delayed throughout the process.
Enabling self-service won’t cause your sales team to lose visibility to your customers. Rather, the use of an integrated online platform improves your ability to access important information about your customers’ behaviors.
With self-service, customers have the ability to browse and buy on their own terms the same way they do when shopping for personal products from a B2C seller. It provides a much friendly approach to researching and buying products as customers have access to an online storefront in place of flipping through a physical catalog and ordering over the phone or in-person with a sales representative. Giving customers this freedom to control the buying journey, results in more completed purchases and fewer lost sales to competitors.