“Well, sure,” you think. After all, B2B customer expectations and buying habits have changed fundamentally in recent years. Research from Gartner also shows that e-commerce is considered the most important strategic sales channel for the next five years. Yet many sales and marketing leaders still encounter resistance when it comes to mobilizing appropriate investments. As a result, companies are missing out on a huge opportunity for the future – unless you tackle the issue with good arguments.
Why are some B2B decision-makers hesitant to implement an e-commerce platform?
Anyone with experience in B2B e-commerce knows that the total cost of ownership (TCO) and the benefits generated by digital sales channels are crucial to a convincing business case. The TCO consists not only of the acquisition costs of an e-commerce solution – also of the costs for implementation, customization, updates, maintenance, and much more that must be factored in.
Misconception: Expensive and complicated
The total benefit (also called business benefit) consists of the expected savings and financial advantages resulting from the investment. These may include improved efficiency, higher productivity, new sales channels and target groups, or other operational benefits. It sounds logical and simple, but in practice, some B2B companies still tend to put off investing in an e-commerce platform, despite rapid technological development and the rise of disruptive players like Amazon and Alibaba. The main reason for this is that people think an e-commerce solution is costly and complicated – which is not true at all.
False loyalty to legacy systems
Moreover, players often stick to their existing systems for too long, more out of habit than for good reasons – while at the same time, the costs of maintaining these legacy systems continue to creep up. Estimates suggest rates of increase of 15 to 20 percent of the original purchase price per year are wasted as a result. So, in such a scenario, you are effectively paying for a completely new system every five years without getting anything new in return. Not to mention that there is huge room for improvement in customer satisfaction, loyalty, and usability. In short, the costs increase, but not the (potential) benefits.
What are the benefits of a future-proof B2B e-commerce platform?
The logical question that arises from this is: How can B2B decision-makers be convinced that investing in a future-proof B2B e-commerce platform is an absolute must for sustainable growth? One thing up front: as a company with a mature e-commerce platform, you will reap more benefits than you can directly quantify. If done cleanly and comprehensively, the positive impact will be so great that successful implementation and adoption will positively impact the overall performance of the business.
We could list ten clear benefits of a high-performance e-commerce solution that will trigger FOMO among digital sales skeptics – and we also do so in our whitepaper on ROI. But here we will highlight just three in particular:
1. Satisfied customers
E-commerce makes your customers' work easier and thus increases customer satisfaction. Office hours, different phone numbers for different services, paperwork: For B2B customers, these traditional ways of working with suppliers have become – to put it bluntly – annoying. Make your customers happy by offering a digital customer portal with convenient self-service tools that give them 24/7 access to processes and content and allow them to manage company profiles, organizational structures, or user roles themselves, for example. This reduces the administrative burden on your customers and allows them to maintain their internal processes. These conveniences increase customer loyalty and ultimately your revenues.
2. More revenue
An e-commerce solution or a digital B2B customer portal gets customers to buy and spend more. Because with a customer portal, for example, you can collect data about customers, address them personally, and offer products and services based on their purchase history – just like Amazon does. This enables cross-selling and upselling and thus increases sales. The customer gradually becomes more familiar with the portal and purchases from you again and again. If the buying process is quick and easy, price will be the only deciding factor and you can generate additional revenue.
3. Better business decisions
A modern e-commerce platform or a comprehensive digital customer portal with BI (Business Intelligence) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) functions provides data and thus insights. Important KPIs are automatically generated and collected from user data. The results can be read on a dashboard that can be tailored to the exact needs of each user, from the production manager to the CEO. This creates transparency, which in turn enables informed decision-making. For example, a sales manager monitors year-over-year sales numbers and growth, while management looks at overall performance and switches between focus areas such as year-over-year, quarterly numbers, and revenue per customer. All of this ultimately allows for faster and more viable business decisions.
How to calculate the ROI of a B2B e-commerce solution?
The big question – and this brings us back to the beginning – is of course how best to calculate the investment-return ratio of a B2B e-commerce solution.
We can’t give a detailed answer here (look at our whitepaper if you want more details), but here are some important points to consider: First, it is essential to determine upfront what requirements the B2B e-commerce platform needs to meet. For example, is a standard solution enough for you, or is customization necessary? What importance do performance and scalability have? And can other systems be flexibly integrated into the e-commerce solution? The latter applies equally to existing IT system components and to future software solutions.
Successful in the long term
The fact is that there is enormous potential in B2B e-commerce. According to a report published in June 2021 by Research and Markets, the global B2B e-commerce market is estimated to reach the $25.65 billion mark in 2028. And that means an average annual growth rate of 18.7 percent from 2021 to 2028.
A look at the German market confirms these figures: Here, online retail grew at an average annual rate of 9.5 percent between 2015 and 2019, according to Destatis. Between 2019 and 2020, the COVID pandemic even provided a 23.8 percent increase. But, also after the reopening of stores in spring 2021, the boom continued: Between May and December of that year revenues increased by 8.8 percent as compared to the previous-year period. Compared to the revenues between May and September 2019, online retail was able to generate 36 percent more revenue, according to Destatis.
So, if everyone in a B2B company works together to implement a proper e-commerce platform, you can be sure that the efforts will yield results in the long run.
Want to learn more about successful B2B e-commerce platform investments? Then read our whitepaper on the ROI of a sustainable B2B e-commerce platform – with background information and best practice examples.