Guide to Optimize Your B2B E-Commerce Channel

Published On: February 29th, 20247 min read

A generic e-commerce channel is no longer enough for B2B companies looking to grow their business in today’s economy. To outshine the competition and respond to trending customer expectations, B2B companies should evaluate their current e-commerce capabilities and prioritize features that will empower them to capture market share and sustain their connections to an increasingly demanding audience. 

Forrester predicts that B2B businesses with e-commerce channels are on a path to transacting $3 trillion of US B2B e-commerce by 2027.

And that’s not all. According to McKinsey, “B2B companies that provide the best omnichannel experience are improving their market share by at least 10 percent annually.” It’s evident that customers prefer sophisticated, cross-channel coordination that provides clarity and flexibility during the purchasing process. 

Key B2B Features and Technologies to Consider

B2B e-commerce, or business-to-business electronic commerce, enables companies to facilitate online purchase transactions by other businesses. We discussed some basics about this channel in DMI’s first post of this B2B series. 

McKinsey’s survey results indicate that B2B customers now expect to interact with their suppliers through at least ten channels. Each channel has a specific purpose and works in concert with the others to influence purchase decisions and loyalty. B2B companies need to ensure that their commerce sites enable valuable interactions and allow customers to seamlessly cross channels. 

DMI helps many enterprises throughout their B2B journeys. In addition to basic order capture, order confirmation, order execution, invoicing, and billing, our clients are adopting more advanced features and techniques to support their customers’ purchasing needs. B2B e-commerce site owners can assess their maturity by considering the following recommendations: 

  • Enhance product data.
    • Product data accuracy – Access to accurate product descriptions, data sheets, and documentation is vital for individuals making buying decisions. Purchasers want to feel confident that they are selecting the best product and have all the information they need to support their selection process. Companies need to invest in data accuracy and in providing all relevant information to purchasers through their B2B commerce sites.
    • Customer-specific pricing – B2B purchasers often have negotiated pricing that should be reflected on the site when they are viewing and purchasing products. Customer-specific pricing includes product prices, negotiated shipping rates, warranties, and service plans, among other costs.
    • Product availability – Understanding inventory status and delivery timeframes can influence a buyer to purchase from one supplier over another. Sharing product availability and delivery timelines will bolster buyer confidence.
    • Customer reviews – Just as in business-to-consumer (B2C) shopping, seeing comments and reviews from other purchasers can be a compelling factor in making purchasing decisions.
    • 3-D/virtual product demos – Supplementing product descriptions and photographs with 3-D renderings and product videos can help purchasers feel more secure in their product selections.
  • Invest in consistent cross-channel experiences.
    • Real-time 24/7 customer service that is integrated across purchasing channels – B2B buyers are located globally and require customer support that is aligned with their own time zone and working schedule. By 2025, Gartner expects 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers to occur in digital channels. When communicating with purchasers, customer service and sales representatives should be aware of all previous interactions that buyers have had across company channels.
    • Purchase from any channel – B2B purchasers want to be able to purchase through any channel—meaning remotely, face-to-face, and online—as they traverse the product identification and selection process. 83% of B2B buyers say they prefer ordering or paying through digital commerce, according to a Gartner survey of 725 B2B buyers from November through December 2021. While B2B online commerce transactions have surpassed other channels in the percentage of sales, buyers should be able to leverage any channel to initiate, continue, and complete a transaction. 
    • Consistent experience across channels – In an omnichannel environment, companies must invest in a B2B purchasing experience that allows buyers to intuitively and seamlessly move between channels to find what they want without repeating the same information and steps multiple times. B2B sellers must effectively integrate and track customer behavior and data across channels so that purchasers can easily continue a transaction via any channel.
    • Mobile ordering – Mobile devices, including phones, tablets, and wearables, are pervasive in business environments. Supporting B2B purchasing via mobile devices increases the likelihood of a sale and improves customer satisfaction.
  • Consider enhanced features for your e-commerce channel.
    • Free and fast shipping – B2B purchasers are persuaded by shipping discounts and fast delivery, making it important to highlight fulfillment time for product purchases and to negotiate shipping costs as part of client pricing contracts. Promotions can also be used to offer special deals to specific customers or segments.
    • Single sign on – Providing the capability for purchasers to seamlessly log into a purchasing site with their company’s login credentials can remove a barrier to self-service. 
    • Chatbots – Chatbots allow customers to interact with a sales or customer service representative while on a commerce site. Chatting is an accessible and quick way for customers to get information about products and transactions without needing to leave the keyboard.
    • Loyalty program rewards – Loyalty programs are still an appealing benefit that can contribute to repeat business for B2B companies. These programs also need to support multiple channels, and status should be available to all channels and individuals supporting an account.

B2B companies are also leveraging advanced sales technologies to improve e-commerce site conversion and tailor the shopping experience. The following enhancements can significantly increase customer engagement, market reach, and revenue.

  • Analytics-based personalization – B2B buyers exhibit purchasing patterns based on their organizational roles and as individuals. By tracking user behavior and using data analytics, companies can personalize the B2B buyer experience based on the interactions, behaviors, purchases, and searches of specific individuals. Personalization can also be tailored by geography, vertical, and purchasing company size. 
  • Company-owned marketplace – As companies attempt to provide value to their B2B customers, many have converted their sites to marketplaces that sell first-party and third-party goods through a consolidated user experience. Adding marketplace sellers and complementary products can significantly expand the category breadth and depth available for sale on a site and increase revenues.
  • Selling through third-party marketplaces, especially industry-specific marketplaces – B2B sellers may find it beneficial to sell their products through both B2B and B2C third-party marketplaces or through industry-specific marketplaces. Companies can enable catalog feeds to share product data, pricing, and inventory to these marketplaces and fulfill additional orders that originate from these sites. Forrester believes marketplaces facilitate asset-light growth by helping existing customers do better.
  • Self-service portal – Many B2B buyers find value in self-service portals. Common examples of self-service features include incident management, return management, delivery tracking, inquiry follow-up, booking of maintenance services, product documentation, video tutorials, and downloads, such as invoices, security bulletins, manuals, and warranty documents. Providing online access to these capabilities helps personalize site content to a user’s specific needs and allows B2B customers to interact with sellers whenever and wherever they need to.

DMI’s B2B Expertise

DMI has partnered with a multitude of B2B companies to establish and evolve their online commerce offerings, including one of the largest clothing retailers in the country, a global cruise holding company, and one of the world’s largest printer manufacturers.

Our multidisciplinary team can help with all aspects of the B2B e-commerce journey, including requirements ideation, user experience design, technical architecture, solution design, site implementation and maintenance. We are experts at designing technical workflows and complex integrations to ensure uninterrupted data sharing across channels. By leveraging our expertise and partnership network, companies can enhance their B2B e-commerce sites and ensure they are properly integrated with other channels.

To discover how we can partner with your business to unlock the future of commerce, get in touch with us.