Manufacturers may hesitate to invest in eCommerce because of potential channel conflict with retail partners. But there’s a lucrative online market that manufacturers can build on online functionality to own: B2B corporate sales.
When it comes to direct online sales, the market for B2B purchasing dwarfs direct-to-consumer retail spending. Technology researcher Forrester estimates that B2B eCommerce will reach $1.2 trillion in the U.S. by 2021, almost exactly double the 2021 forecast of $648 million for B2C retail sales transacted directly online.
Furthermore, B2B buyers are increasingly bringing their expectations as individual consumers to the workplace, and prefer online convenience to working with a sales rep. More than half of B2B buyers in a recent B2B E-Commerce World survey said they considered “very important” online self-service tools and online returns. Overall, 48% of buyers said they made at least half of their business’ purchases online.
These purchasers aren’t typically served by consumer retail brands — which means manufacturers with online capabilities can build on direct-to-consumer eCommerce functionality to court a B2B audience without fear of channel conflict. As they explore the B2B possibilities, manufacturers should consider these best practices:
Offer tailored entry points into the product catalog.
Manufacturers should streamline product navigation to focus on B2B-friendly categories and incorporate relevant cross-sells and up-sells, as Kibo client MyMMs.com does in its “For Your Business” section. The tool for customizing candy colors and designs is tailored for business, with options to upload a logo and select packaging in large quantities for trade show giveaways.
Use personalization to streamline purchasing.
Business buyers have an incentive to create login accounts on eCommerce sites — they can save their shopping carts and payment information to ease repeat purchases. Manufacturers should further encourage loyalty by streamlining the purchase process via personalization — including one-click ordering and custom navigation that speeds access to order histories and recently-purchased items.
Include retail partners according to their capabilities.
Manufacturers who want to bring retail partners on board as they expand to serve corporate clients can design front-end experiences accordingly. Manufacturers may want to tap retail outlets for corporate order pickup, localized delivery services, or returns; while manufacturers primarily serving other businesses can give corporate sales teams exclusive purchasing access so they can place orders on behalf of customers.
Manufacturers, how are you catering to corporate buyers through your online offerings?