Even before the pandemic, we saw a shift in the expectations of the modern B2B buyer. Now, more than ever, they expect faster and easier buying experiences — the kind they get in the consumer world.
This puts pressure on B2B retailers to deliver an advanced B2C-style experience. First, though, they must overcome some common B2B e-commerce challenges.
B2B e-commerce challenges and opportunities
Typically, B2B buyers deal with an e-commerce experience that is cumbersome, slow, and not at all how they want to buy online.
With so many more people working from home due to the pandemic, the need for companies to provide a better B2B buying experience is even more pressing. This whole new working style is not going away, with restrictions likely to be in place well into 2021, so B2B retailers can’t put off improving their e-commerce any longer.
Having more customer-centric engagement and thinking about what the end buyer needs from the system will give any commerce business a better chance at keeping their existing customers and finding new ones,
As new systems come into place, there also are opportunities for streamlining data flows through automation, which reduces costs through operational efficiencies and can also free up team members to pursue new business initiatives.
So what are the most common B2B e-commerce challenges companies face when trying to deliver an advanced, B2C-style experience? Based on what I hear from senior managers, here are the top four.
B2B e-commerce challenge No. 1: Old technology
Many B2B retailers struggle to deliver the better customer experience today’s B2B buyer wants because they rely on existing technology. In many cases, it’s simply not up to the job.
This old and heavy tech is a barrier to B2B e-commerce success. The systems are difficult to change and update and there’s sometimes fear about changing those systems. Business managers often think it’s going to be too hard and disruptive to the business to make changes.
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B2B e-commerce challenge No. 2: Time to market
There’s a perception that digital transformation — changing the technology environment of the business — will take a very long time. This is especially true in commerce.
Businesses don’t know where to start, and are daunted at the thought of scoping a project that could take years to bear any fruit.
But this is no longer the case. Modern e-commerce solutions are available with out-of-the-box configurations and integrations that allow customers to go to market very quickly in the cloud.
B2B e-commerce challenge No. 3: Upfront investment
Traditionally, e-commerce projects demanded a large upfront investment. So, a B2B commerce organization would need to raise a large amount of financing or cap-ex investments to cover software licenses and implementation, server provisioning, and infrastructure costs.
Raising finance during an economically turbulent time can be extremely challenging. Thankfully, that old-school model of financing is changing. Suppliers today offer cloud subscription models that spread the investment over time. Changes to the scope or services can be treated in a flexible way.
This gives B2B retailers the ability to only spend money as they grow, and they only pay more as they use more functionality.
B2B e-commerce challenge No. 4: Skills shortage
Another common barrier to a successful e-commerce digital transformation project is not having the right people to manage it.
Or even if a company has the skills internally, they can’t afford shifting talent away from the day-to-day business operations to help with the transformation.
The right solution provider will empower clients to make the change they need so they can thrive in this increasingly digital economy. They will help make it easier to invest in the right technology, but also provide highly skilled people to guide and support the business whether that’s co-working on implementations or fully taking over the digital transformation process.
To quote the Tony Soprano character from “The Sopranos” television show, “More is lost from indecision than the wrong decision.”
Don’t be paralyzed by indecision. Make the decision to start the journey, and then take that first step.
The digital transformation journey is about always having new goals and new barriers to knock down. It becomes an evolutionary process. You get quickly up and running, and with the power of new technology, break down barriers to evolve your digital business for long-term success.