B2B eCommerce may be trying to offer companies an Amazon-like experience in procurement, but making purchases for a company must meet security, reporting and efficiency standards high above those of a consumer going on a quick online shopping trip.
A new report from Intershop Communications AG highlights not only how B2B eCommerce demands are different than those of B2C but how corporate procurement officials are introducing new pressures on the eProcurement market.
“Today’s B2B customers are shifting their research and transaction activities online, as well as onto their mobile devices,” the company summarized in its report. “They are demanding B2C experiences, while expecting that B2B-specific buying and self-management processes will be available and covered. This is not the only trend impacting B2B commerce.”
That was the number-one demand companies cited when discussing the most important needs of a B2B eCommerce platform, with 47 percent highlighting the issue. Researchers noted that this demand for payment options includes rails like PayPal and commercial cards.
It’s a demand that surpasses personalized web content and after-sales customer service, researchers noted.
Corporate buyer habits have shifted to look a lot more like the B2C online shopping experience. Nearly all the professionals surveyed said they prefer to make a purchase online once they’ve decided what to buy, and the majority said they agree that buying via a website is more convenient, that they gather product information online independently and that they prefer not to get a sales representative involved in the process.
Intershop has identified key challenges that the B2B eCommerce process faces today.
Among the largest is the rate of errors found in order processing. Manual data entry plagues the process, and corporate buyers usually don’t receive order or shipping confirmations like individual consumers do. B2B eCommerce platforms also don’t always offer a visual of a product, making it more likely that a buyer is going to order incorrectly.
Increasing automation and adopting a self-service platform aren’t only beneficial to the buyer, but sellers can see advantages, too, the report noted.
Online self-service platforms add to customer satisfaction and convenience, but there are deeper benefits. Intershop identified the ability for corporate buyers to maintain an online shopping cart so orders can more easily be repeated. These online portals can support visuals of products to avoid order errors and can also support automation in the order approval and price negotiation process.
“What B2B customers need is to be as efficient as possible, achieving the best outcome at the lowest cost,” Intershop concluded. “So, when they require something — product, information or support — it should be either directly available or easily accessible without any need to interrupt their present workflow.”
Digitization, the report added, is critical to achieving this level of service to B2B clients. Of course, ensuring that suppliers have the resources to launch products like a digital marketplace and online ordering platforms is no small task. But with B2B eCommerce demands evolving, understanding where the end result should land may help suppliers and vendors take the first steps to supporting a new era of eProcurement.