|The reasons B2B is playing catch-up with B2C are several, but it is in part a legacy of B2B sales largely taking place in the physical realm. It is still not unusual for company salespeople to travel across the country to court clients with product catalogues and brochures. Cold-calling prospective clients has been the accepted B2B sales method for decades. Payments are still often made using paper purchase orders and cheques.
However, coronavirus lockdowns imposed around the world have made travelling salespeople redundant. This is creating an urgency for B2B ecommerce, says Christina Augustine, chief operating officer at Bloomreach, a business which builds ecommerce tools for brands such as Capital One and Puma.
“If I work in construction and I need face masks, I probably needed them yesterday,” she says. “The businesses that really invested in their B2B ecommerce, over physical transacting, they’re going to be the winners both now and in the coming months.”
Meeting the expectations of digitally savvy business buyers comes with unique challenges for B2B. A key issue is pricing. Unlike in the consumer world, product prices are not always visible and one client or sector can pay a different price for the same product than another. Discounts for bulk or repeat purchases are also commonplace. But rather than a sales rep revealing or negotiating the price over the phone or in person, business customers now want to see the price immediately on a website.
“A company needs to have a solution for that,” says Iain Forrest founder of digital marketing consultancy Forrest Digital. Without a salesperson mediating the sale, companies now need “to make prices transparent or come up with a solution where a prospective or existing client can log on to a specific portal where they have tailored sets of prices”, he says.
“Some companies are getting around this by making unique versions of their ecommerce store, if the client is big enough. Products and prices will be tailored to that specific client.”