How to build, launch, and scale B2B ecommerce: The 2022 B2B ecommerce playbook
A strong B2B ecommerce site is more than just a new sales channel for your organization. It has the potential to increase sales, maximize efficiency, improve customer experience, and the list goes on. But to enjoy the benefits of B2B ecommerce, planning and executing on a carefully planned strategy is key. So where should you start? What practices should you avoid and what tips should you follow?
We sat down with some of the leading ecommerce agencies to answer exactly this. Why? To give you the value and confidence you need to want to invest in ecommerce. Having delivered hundreds of B2B digital commerce solutions, these seven agencies are ready to share all. They cover the B2B ecommerce strategies they’ve seen work, and those that haven’t. The result of all of their stories is the B2B Ecommerce Playbook. You can grab a copy here.
In this blog, we’ll cover the top highlights from each of the chapters:
Building a customer-centric experience – Redstage
“We wear our identity on our sleeve that we are a B2B focused company.”
Back when nobody believed there was a digital space carved out for B2B, Redstage thought differently and prioritized innovation in the B2B ecommerce space with its clients.
To innovate, you need to think differently. Because B2B ecommerce is different. It's a category in the making and each new B2B ecommerce launch has its own unique challenges.
In this chapter, Adam Morris, CEO of Redstage, explains that a lot of organizations think that their business can’t be done online. Or that the buying process is too complex. “These feelings tie back to the fact that I think we've been doing a bad job adapting B2B commerce terminology. A lot of the industry takes B2C processes and statements and just replaces the C with a B,” says Morris. “But it really isn't that – it's understanding the B2B customer's journey and where digital and self service tools fit in with that.”
Morris goes on in the chapter to outline exactly the kind of discovery process they’ve created at Redstage to help their clients identify the online journey that makes sense for them.
Helping distributors see the power of an ecommerce store – DCKAP
“I spent over 16 years working at a distribution company in industrial supply. And I can tell you that there are plenty of old school distributors that have been selling for 40 years and are resistant to change.”
Chris Brackett, Director of Sales at DCKAP, is the first one to get how hard it can be for an organization to get started on their digital transformation journey. But he’s also experienced first-hand the kind of scale, efficiency, and cost-savings ecommerce can bring.
“Pushing your existing customer to purchase online can reduce the burden on your customer service team and can also reduce the company's overhead, allowing for higher profitability. I think a lot of distributors don’t think about ecommerce from a profitability angle, or from an efficiency standpoint,” says Brackett.
So what will it take for organizations to double down on digital? Brackett explains that they need to stop looking at ecommerce as just a website. “Yes, if you have a website, you can check that off the box, but if you can’t see what’s in stock or when your goods will arrive, what is that site doing for you?”
Exploring experience-led transformation – Rightpoint
With over 15 years of experience creating unique online customer experiences, Phillip Jackson has led ecommerce projects for some of the biggest brands. At Rightpoint, Jackson is a champion for change and believes in the power of thinking beyond ecommerce as a simple sales channel and more like an opportunity to build a real connection with customers.
Jackson explains that, “the future of B2B is not about purchasing” – rather it will be about creating an emotional loyalty where your customers are working with a brand that can help them do more than just fulfill a service."
The old way of thinking about commerce just won’t cut it.
He blames legacy business models for holding back a lot of companies in the B2B space. Unfortunately, being reluctant to change doesn’t help bring the kind of results that are needed to truly win over customers with ecommerce. In this chapter, he shares his biggest advice for helping businesses create a great customer experience and thrive in the future.
Tailor-made commerce solutions as a competitive advantage – Vaimo
Vaimo knows all about the importance of getting every stakeholder onboard with digital commerce. One of the most effective ways they do this is by bringing forward the data that highlights the opportunity.
“There are companies that want to do digital commerce because they feel they need to and then there are companies that want to look at it from a growth perspective. And if you start from the growth perspective,” says Martin Hjalm, managing director at Vaimo.
A portal is just not going to cut it when 60% of B2B tech buyers are millennials. “These buyers are used to doing things in a certain way”, Martin explains. By 2025 Gartner expects 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers to occur in digital channels. What are you doing to capture that? These are the questions Martin believes businesses need to be thinking about.
“If I'm used to having the ability to look at shipping options, then why can't B2B ecommerce do that too? We bring forward some of the market information to identify the most relevant questions B2B merchants need to be thinking about,” says Martin.
Demystifying B2B ecommerce – Trellis
Isaiah Bollinger, CEO of Trellis, always tells it as it is. Not only does he get B2B ecommerce strategy, he knows how to break through the buzzwords to provide a ton of value. That's why we sat down with him to talk about tips and best practices. There's enough articles out there about digital transformation.
But how do you practically get going in a way that will set your ecommerce journey up for success?
“I started doing B2B commerce in 2012. Obviously 10 years ago, people had very little to no ecommerce presence in general, but even more so in B2B. We almost got laughed out of the room when we would tell clients we could get them to a million dollars in ecommerce,” says Isaiah.
Isaiah is a big believer that ecommerce is a complete cultural shift of the company. It impacts how sales reps onboard customers, pricing, product information, etc. It’s not something that can happen overnight nor can it be a one person or one team project to take on.
Forging meaningful connections in a digital age – Codal
Ryan Bloms, Associate Director of Partnerships at Codal, is the first one to advocate for the importance of a strategic partner in the ecommerce journey. There are so many unknowns to navigate and functionality to be mapped out, that the agency relationship is key to reaching an ecommerce result that organizations are happy about.
“Our clients trust us as the B2B ecommerce strategy experts to provide those recommendations. For instance, if we have a customer in the automotive industry, so there’s certain platforms that do automotive really well because of how complex their fitment data is structured. Others just don't. There’s no need to waste the merchants’ time going down a route that isn't going to be a good fit for them,” explains Ryan. At Codal, their goal is to airlift the entire process right off their hands, so ecommerce can be that much easier of a project to see through.
Defining your digital presence – Gorilla Group
“Ecommerce wasn't even a thing when I graduated so if you'd asked me my career path, there would be no way I would have guessed it. 25 years later here I am.”
Lisa Berry has seen the entire evolution of the B2B ecommerce trend and it's because of this that her advice is so insightful. She explains that there’s a lot of hype out there around what the future of B2B ecommerce will look like. But at Gorilla Group, they're not after the flashy features. They focus on delivering value that will change for the better how businesses operate.
“If I have to choose, I will always choose function over fashion. And to me, that is the difference between B2B and B2C. You'll always have exciting little new features in B2C that are fun and enticing and help the customer out", says Berry.
Delivering a B2B function that saves an individual as much as 20 minutes per order, that's the true feeling of accomplishment.
In this chapter, Lisa walks through one of her favorite ecommerce projects, the benefits a strong ecommerce strategy can offer, and what she identifies as the growth-limiting factors that need to be addressed in order for B2B companies to truly digitally transform.
Enjoy the benefits of ecommerce
The brands that want to be the leaders in their market today, need to already get started on building the winning customer experiences that will get them there. The good news is that your customers in your industry will always need your products. Using ecommerce will simply help future-proof your business.
You’ll own your digital channels, the data that comes with it, and the relationships you create. The next step is making sure your team and your tech stack are ready to support whatever growth goals you have in store.