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12_tenminutes_with_marcollivier-1 The expectations of B2B buyers in a digital-first economy

What vision do you have on the B2B business?

Many events, from megamergers to globalisation, have transformed business-to-business relationships over the years. However, the biggest challenge facing B2B executives today may be even more disruptive, and it’s happening a whole lot faster: the reinvention of B2B companies in the digital-first economy.

Do you think that B2B organizations take proper actions?

B2B companies often think that online business models are too complex for their products and services and that their customers are not ready for it yet. That is why it takes a long time before they take the step to online. However, the opposite is true: B2B customers are in their private life B2C customers! They are accustomed to buying online! And they want this convenience not only in their private environment but also in business. In my experience, a B2B buyer plans to make more than half of his or her purchases online, over the next three years. So there is a sense of urgency present!

What needs to be improved in the B2B e-commerce experience?

Business customers have a different mind set than they used to have. Almost half of them are younger than 35. They expect an Amazon-like experience and expect self-services possibilities and real-time interaction with the B2B producer, preferably online via the smartphone. Typical B2C concepts and strategies such as online marketing, personalization and online ordering are therefore increasingly embraced by B2B organisations. Research by Forrester shows that 57% of B2B organizations see the development of an e-commerce platform as the highest investment priority. Back end integration is considered equally important, followed by mobile sites and apps (47 per cent).

What makes B2B so unique then?

B2B purchasing processes are often more complex than B2C processes, with vast catalogue depths, professional and multiple buyers, specific pricing, complex orders, internal approval processes, stock-keeping in numerous locations and more complex product searches. Besides this, there is a development from full-service to self-service and from single to omnichannel and online. Improving the buying experience requires considering these specifics, which often requires dedicated developments. That's why the Intershop approach is to focus and offer a rich set of out-of-the-box features addressing these specific B2B functionalities.

How are B2B-organizations supported with these complex decisions?

This is often a real challenge because the development of a company's digital maturity is often difficult to integrate into an initial platform selection process. Forrester conducts supporting researches on a yearly basis, which can be of great help for organizations taking a first step or have a need for replatforming. Reasons to think about this can be performance, flexibility, specific commerce functionality or features required by certain customers - as pointed out earlier already. It is an important decision, which can make or break an organization!

Which innovations or functionalities do you see as dominant for the efficiency of the digital B2B channel?

Progressive Web Apps with a single-page storefront, which will bring an extremely faster shopping experience both on mobile and desktop and higher conversions as a result. Extended big data-based personalization with regards to personalized assortments, individual and competitive pricing and recommendations leading to increased sales and profit. Cloud-based commerce solutions enabling to expand the use, functionality and management of a platform gradually from a starter to an advanced-level are a good start if you think of further investment.