For small, mom-and-pop retailers, complex or proprietary procurement platforms simply aren't in the cards.
With the pandemic accelerating businesses' digital shift, small retail buyers have shifted their buying operations to the B2B eCommerce realm, and for many, the online marketplace operates in lieu of a procurement solution.
As such, online shopping for small retailers must be streamlined, efficient, and most importantly, secure.
Yet for small vendors, prioritizing the buyer experience can be a challenge with limited resources. Speaking with PYMNTS, IMC_di President Eric Dean and Senior Vice President, Head of Product Strategy and Customer Experience Brandon Ward explored how small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can ensure a positive experience for both buyer and seller in the B2B eCommerce realm, and the opportunity for commercial cards to address both sides of the B2B equation as the digital trade shift progresses.
"We have tens of thousands of mom-and-pop shops on our platform, and this may be their first foray into an online marketplace," explained Dean, adding that the user experience is the "absolute foundation" to IMC_di's approach to B2B eCommerce via its digital platform ShopZio.
For both buyers and sellers, however, this shift online can be an unfamiliar and oftentimes uncomfortable one. As Ward noted, the B2B trade arena is one ingrained with human interaction and in-person meetings, whether it be connections with sales representatives or visits to trade shows.
"It's important for buyers to have a relationship there," he said. "All of our research says, especially because of COVID, that we have to meet the buyer where they are... Whether it's about reordering or discovering a product for the first time, digital channels are so important right now."
Visibility And Security
While the B2B eCommerce model can be new for both buyer and seller, the customer often has the advantage of already being familiar with online shopping, with SMB owners embracing eCommerce in their personal lives. Yet in the B2B realm, there are some unique challenges.
One of the biggest is inventory visibility, according to Dean. For mom-and-pop shops, buyers need to be confident that if they spend several hours searching for a product, that item will actually be in stock.
Another major hurdle, both Dean and Ward explained, is security, particularly when it comes to payment.
Today, commercial cards are on the rise for SMB B2B eCommerce, and Dean said he's seen a gradual shift in this arena away from net terms. The card, he explained, is a valuable tool to address key working capital pain points for both buyer and seller.
"We saw a change in the last few years towards the credit card away from open account terms," he said. "And we ascribe that to the credit card company offering net-30, plus points."
The pandemic has accelerated commercial card adoption thanks to its ability to provide working capital and capital float on demand. With margins tightening, B2B sellers have the opportunity to get paid more quickly, while buyers have that extra time to pay the bill.
"That margin pressure I really see regardless of the size or nature of the buyer," added Ward. "What I think is most on the mind of the supplier on the B2B side is they'll do anything to protect that margin."
As a result of commercial card adoption increases, PCI compliance is a quickly growing focus for both sellers and the B2B eCommerce platforms through which they sell and accept payments. For business buyers, having the assurance that the item they want to purchase is not only in stock, but that the payment they make will be secure, is critical in today's quickly evolving environment.
Addressing these inventory and payment needs will be key for B2B sellers and eCommerce platforms as the B2B trade ecosystem readies for some permanent shifts. That's not to say that the legacy ways of trade will entirely fall by the wayside — at least not yet. But as this evolution continues, promoting visibility and easing payments friction will be important to easing the transition.
"COVID has forced a dramatically-accelerated change in behavior, and some of that is going to be permanent," said Dean. "Businesses will go back to trade shows, and they'll work with sales reps, but they're going to stay on B2B eCommerce — though, only if we do a good job of making sure that one, it's not hard; two, it's safe; and three, we can add real value."