On platforms, payments, and the consumerization of B2B: Commerce expert answers all

On platforms, payments, and the consumerization of B2B: Commerce expert answers all

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B2C ecommerce has had over a decade to expand, develop, and grow. The mid and late 2000s, brought with them the rise of ecommerce platforms – first with Shopify in 2004, followed by Magento and BigCommerce. Then in 2016, Salesforce launched Salesforce Commerce Cloud and in 2019, Adobe acquired Magento to launch Adobe Commerce. 

B2B hasn’t had the same luxury of time. When it comes to B2B, it’s only been in the last few years that platforms have launched B2B functionality. In 2017 and 2018, Magento, BigCommerce and Salesforce came out with a suite of B2B commerce offerings. And while consumer commerce was ripe and ready to handle the acceleration of ecommerce in 2020, the B2B side was just getting started. 

As a result, merchants have had to navigate this new digital landscape on the fly. And while this can be perceived as a disadvantage, it doesn’t have to be. Luigi Moccia, CEO of Calashock, an award-winning ecommerce agency and Elite BigCommerce partner, has been helping lead ecommerce growth for large SMBs and mid-market merchants for over 10 years. Now, he is taking that experience to help more merchants, more easily, conduct online B2B commerce and create engaging online stores. 

What have you seen work for your B2B customers on BigCommerce?

Something really important is up-to-date product information, especially imagery. You would be shocked to know the number of B2B websites that don’t have any product images or have really poor quality images. This would never be the case for a B2C website. Because B2B selling is historically so strongly relationship based, merchants can fall into the trap of thinking things like images don’t matter so much. But that’s how you win new customers online and how you get ahead of the competition who are thinking the same thing. You can get a real edge just by taking into account standard ecommerce practices when it comes to product display. 

But I think we also have to go back to the basics. So a really intuitive, frictionless, and easy-to-use experience has to be the foundation of any online store. B2B customers are also B2C customers—they have expectations of an online experience and you need to live up to those to keep customers on your website. Payments are a big part of that, making every step of the user journey right through to the checkout feel fluid, seamless, and reflect the customer’s expectations and preferences. 

What has made you most excited about B2B on BigCommerce?

I think one of the most exciting things about BigCommerce B2B edition is the way it helps spread out the work and admin of a B2B merchant. Let me explain. In a traditional, offline B2B deal, the buyer will call the sales rep to place their order and the sales rep has to then manually process the order, filling in all of the information into a spreadsheet or whatever form they are using. Then you have the lengthy process of sending invoices, performing credit checks, etc. Processing and fulfilling orders is extremely time-consuming work. 

With an ecommerce store, the customer can go online, find all the products they need, place their order, make their payment and then monitor their shipment with a tracking code. The admin is either performed by the customer themselves, or it is automated within the back-end of the store. This frees up a great deal of time for sales reps and the rest of the team–so they can focus on growing the business, building customer relationships, etc.

Why is BigCommerce shifting to B2B? 

First of all, B2B merchants are shifting more to ecommerce anyway, so there is a need. And secondly, it is probably one of the most flexible ecommerce platforms out there. So the agility of the platform means that it can suit itself to B2B much easier than a large platform that's built for B2C, or D2C, which doesn't necessarily have the capabilities to integrate with different systems. 

And I think BigCommerce just has the ability to be more agile and say, ‘Alright, we can go headless, we can go monolith, we can integrate with WMS, with PIMS, with ERPs, with configurators, with Agent modules.’ The idea is that you can run your business entirely through the ecommerce solution. BigCommerce is able to give B2B businesses that flexibility. 

Plus, although it’s a cliche, COVID has accelerated ecommerce. Our buying habits changed and now we’re all online, all the time. Previously, business owners had no other choice but to speak to a sales rep during office hours. Now, B2B needs to serve the customer that places an order at 9pm on a Saturday night and provide them with an instant confirmation of which products are in stock and when they will be delivered. 

Why are you excited about B2B payment solutions?

Traditionally, B2B has been credit based. The flow is: I'll invoice you, and you can pay me after 15 days, 30 days, or 90 days. To not offer that natively within your website, puts you on a bit of a backfoot. The customer is going to think: Well, I would do the website order, but you're going to ask me to pay in full, so I’d rather just email or call you about it. 

Sure, standard ecommerce offers credit card and PayPal options but what Balance is doing is bringing the offline functionality to an enhanced online B2B experience for payments.

In an offline B2B deal, a customer would ring up the sales rep and say, “Can I have 10 of this item?” The sales rep would then check the ERP system, which would say that the customer has a credit limit up to a certain amount and payment terms of a certain value. But that isn’t anything close to the online experience of an online credit card payment. A large company that spends $100,000 a month with a supplier is unlikely to do that on a credit card. That’s where Balance comes in with the ability to offer instant, online net terms. 

Balance allows merchants to align the experience of online and offline. This is critical for the industry as we transition away from ecommerce to the age of commerce—where it’s no longer about online or offline, but experience. And the experience should be the same however the client and the merchant interact. The online merchants that are able to do that will have a real edge over their competition. 

What do you think about the consumerization of B2B?

I've seen B2B websites that are just a Google form. Here is the product, put in the quantity, and that’s it. No ecommerce, no marketing, no promotions. No offer to buy two get the third free, or buy two more and get free delivery or a free item with orders over a certain value. Bringing ecommerce to B2B gives merchants the chance to bring in those bundles and upsells—to align with the expectations set by B2C experience. Plus, by tailoring deals and adding real value, merchants can drive customer loyalty and LTV. 

Consumer behavior naturally transcends into B2B, it's inevitable. Now all B2B has to do is play catch-up in order to enhance the experience with merchandising and personalization and so much more. 

Ready to elevate your B2B commerce experience?

Leaders in the space like Luigi are passionate about sharing the important narrative that the modernization and digitization of the B2B industry can’t be overlooked. It presents an opportunity to build value with customers, make your brand stand out, and stay ahead of an increasingly competitive digital landscape

At Balance, we’re big believers that creating a winning commerce experience is a long game. We recommend starting small: Connect to experts in the space with agencies like Calashock and platforms like BigCommerce. Brainstorm ways to create a channel that gives your customers the tools necessary to easily purchase and transact online. And sooner or later, with the right combination of information and innovation, your online store can become a crucial touchpoint in unlocking new growth for your business. 

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