B2B eCommerce: Making it easier for B2B customers to be customers
B2B eCommerce has unfortunately been considered an afterthought by many B2B organisations for too long to the detriment of their customers. Regardless of industry, B2B customers are not satisfied sticking to traditional procurement channels. They want to be able to browse catalogues, view their prices, configure quotes, place orders and manage their account anytime, anywhere, not just when their account manager is available to take a call or read an email. It’s easy to forget that B2B customers are B2C customers in their own time, and they expect the same quality of digital experience at work as they do when shopping from the comfort of their sofas at home.
But the B2B customer experience is much more complex, with many more touchpoints than typical B2C experiences. It’s not just about product discovery and ordering. The B2B journey can be challenging to navigate with many processes. It involves users from all corners of the business who all have one thing in common; they all want a B2B user experience that makes it easier to do their jobs.
Ultimately, the strategic goal of B2B eCommerce is not to focus on customer acquisition and growing share of wallet with individual customers in the same way that B2C eCommerce is. The true goal is to scale operations efficiently through customer self-service (post-acquisition) and reduce operating costs while increasing business efficiency.
To succeed, your business has to be able to sell to your customers in the ways they want to buy from you. But if your B2B business is losing customers because your competitors are offering better experiences, or your team are wasting countless hours manually processing data, customer queries and orders, leaving them demoralised and frustrated, it’s time to modernise and invest in a proper B2B eCommerce channel.
Composable commerce pioneers
Our team have been designing and delivering scalable B2B eCommerce experiences for over 20 years. We have developed our B2B expertise by helping organisations from all sectors re-imagine their customer experiences, modernise legacy technology, and increase team efficiency through digital transformation.
Our team has helped over 40 B2B organisations to design and build better B2B experiences and improve operational efficiency through digital transformation.
Proven track record
We have referenceable experience in most B2B sectors, including construction, manufacturing, automotive, pharmaceutical, life sciences, finance, and professional services.
We designed and built the UK’s first headless B2B commercetools project.
How to get started
Most B2B organisations still need to invest in a specialist digital team, with many preferring to invest heavily in traditional sales and account manager roles to try and sell more and service more customers. But this approach does not scale, is full of risk and is rarely thought about from a customer perspective.
It’s also not unusual for internal teams to see eCommerce as a threat to their roles or for the sales team to see eCommerce as competition for their commission. Therefore, before you introduce a new eCommerce channel, you need to win the hearts and minds of your team and show them how eCommerce will make them more successful in all aspects of their role.
But if your business is digitally immature or does not have a culture of cross-functional teams working together to deliver innovation, you will need to work with external experts to help unite the business behind your digital transformation and foster a culture focused on customer experience and innovation. An experienced partner won’t just focus on technology but will work holistically with the expertise that exists across the business to help define a complete B2B eCommerce strategy and outline in full detail how to deliver it.
5 Key Benefits of B2B eCommerce
1. Organisational change and efficiency
Do it well, and B2B eCommerce will unlock massive levels of operational efficiency, liberating your teams from unfulfilling manual work and enabling them to focus on higher-value work for the business. But do it badly, and you will end up adding to the admin overhead of your teams, building more data silos and driving down team morale.
2. Customer experience innovation
A typical B2B eCommerce experience needs everything a good B2C eCommerce experience does plus much more, including things like:
- Product configuration
- Account-level pricing
- Order approvals
- Credit applications
- Payments on account
- Re-orders & stock replenishment orders
Therefore, the key to a successful strategy is to see it as an opportunity to reimagine the experience you currently give customers rather than as a way to recreate online what your sales and account function does. Typical questions a B2B business should ask itself when planning its strategy are:
- What do our customers want? This leads to…
- How can we deliver a better experience for our customers?
- Is our data good enough to support a streamlined eCommerce channel?
- How do we standardise our processes?
- How do we help our customer service team provide a better service?
- How can we make our business operations more efficient and able to scale without increasing manual admin?
- Can my existing, industry-specific technology support an eCommerce channel?
B2B eCommerce journeys can make ordering easier with much less friction and manual administration than traditional sales channels, making it a win-win for your customers and business users.
3. Increased order volumes leading to higher profitability
Without an eCommerce channel, your sales and profitability are limited by the level of quotes and orders your team can process manually. Introducing a properly integrated, self-service eCommerce capability will remove any limitations on order volumes and increase profitability. Your sales team can then focus on acquiring and building relationships with new customers rather than servicing existing accounts with manual orders.
The more scalable, efficient, and friction-free you make the B2B customer experience, the more frequently your customers will likely order, and the more profit you will make.
4. Higher customer engagement and loyalty
B2B customers order with a much higher frequency and in larger volumes than B2C customers, but B2B customers often maintain relationships with several suppliers to find the lowest prices.
If you can deliver an ordering experience that is faster, easier and available at any time, you will become the supplier of choice for your customers every time, and your B2B relationship will become less about price and more about the quality of your service.
However, a great B2B experience must extend beyond the initial order journey. If you can offer customers the flexibility to view and manage all aspects of their accounts at any time of the day, you will make it harder for them to choose to engage with other suppliers meaning you will have longer, more profitable relationships with all your customers.
5. Market Differentiation
B2B eCommerce done well is a great way to stand out from the crowd and increase market share. But because B2B eCommerce is still in its infancy, investing in a strategy now (before your competitors do) offers you a unique opportunity to differentiate your service offer and gain a competitive advantage.
Simply put, equipping your Sales team with an easy-to-use eCommerce channel will help them close more new accounts and secure more orders from your customers.
How we do it
Building an eCommerce channel requires a strong strategic focus with full C-level sponsorship. It also requires specialist skills and expertise that often do not exist within a B2B organisation. We can help create your eCommerce strategy, deliver the needed operational change, select the right mix of technologies and design and implement the new B2B experience; here’s how…
The Profound Way
For us, everything starts with the customer. Only once we understand the experiences your customers and business users want and your business’s strategic goals can we start having insightful conversations about the right technology mix for the future and the operational change required. This is why we begin with a tailored, consultative Discovery engagement before starting any implementation work.
Discovery and definition
Delivered by our experienced Strategy and Consulting team, our B2B Discovery phase typically lasts around a month and will focus on five key areas: your customers, your brand, your business, your technology landscape, and your data.
At the end of Discovery, we will have defined the future state customer experience, the technology to enable it, the operational changes and investment needed to get there, and any recommended technical proof of concepts needed before making any significant investment in technology or implementation.
Digital transformation and implementation
Our high-calibre, cross-functional delivery team will design and build your new eCommerce solution. The size and shape of our delivery team will depend on the outcomes of Discovery, the speed of transformation required, the complexity of integrations and the level of involvement from your own delivery teams – we are extremely comfortable augmenting our team with the client’s delivery teams.
Support and continuous improvement
Modern eCommerce websites should continuously evolve using insight and customer feedback to improve experiences and stay ahead of competitors. Our Support team is here to keep your site performing smoothly post-launch, whilst our eCommerce Optimisation team will help you plan and execute a strategic roadmap of continuous improvements and CRO initiatives.
Our B2B eCommerce technology partners
Currently, there is no plug-and-play eCommerce solution that is right for all B2B organisations out of the box due to the complexity of the different processes that exist between organisations. Therefore, your technology solution will likely involve a collection of technologies along with some customised business logic to deliver the full experience your customers and business users need.
We will only recommend technology that’s right for your business. However, we only partner with next-generation, best-of-breed composable platforms (often called composable, headless or MACH technologies). This principle enables us to design unconstrained experiences whilst architecting flexible eCommerce ecosystems that can scale and adapt as your business grows or changes.
Search and discovery
PIM and DAM
Clients we've helped...
We knew that delivering a better Customer Experience would need a successful strategic digital transformation. Profound were invaluable in helping us create this experience, from their use of customer insight to the technical implementation. The use of customer evidence combined with a technical proof of concept gave us greater certainty and confidence in all our decisions, particularly as we were considering a modern headless architecture. It’s rare you find a trusted partner like Profound with a passionate focus on the customer experience and the matching technical vision and capability to implement it. It also helps that they’re actually really easy to work with.
Head of Digital, Horizon Platforms
Profound were instrumental in helping us with our TechSource webshop development programme. As soon as we met, it was clear they listened to our brand intent, the market we wanted to appeal to and how our users interact on a global basis. Their prototyping was quick, functional and collaborative and they helped create a video demonstration we’ve used at many conferences to articulate the value of our new technology platform. I’ve really enjoyed working with them too as they were flexible, supportive and balanced. Just what you need in a long term partner.
Group Director of Technology Sourcing, Innovation and Industrialisation, Computacenter
As our ecommerce ambition grows, it is vital that we tackle customer experience and UX design with the same level of passion that we have for technical excellence in genomics. It all contributes to our differentiation in the life science market. We’re so glad we chose Profound – they were thorough, open-minded, and have a great sense for the end user ecommerce experience, which challenged us in a good way so they could produce great design work. They also demonstrated substantial skill and experience helping us understand our customers, with a very pragmatic approach. With various ecommerce capabilities now in play and more rolling out, we now have a modern, attractive, easy to use site that showcases our products and makes that path to purchase much easier for our customers.
Director of eCommerce, LGC Genomics
Profound helped us to deliver a first-class result in terms of an e-commerce website re-design, system integration and ongoing optimisation. In its first full month the conversion rate from a mobile device doubled year on year and all objectives were met in spectacular fashion. We also now have a better branded site that gives the consumer added reassurance. With 67 % Revenue Growth, 64 % Profit Growth and 136 % more online Tyre Units sold, we are delighted. Profound has demonstrated great design and technical expertise and, for a business-critical ecommerce site, that combination of skill is invaluable!
Head of Retail, Protyre
This project has been a desire for our business for many years and I can honestly say working with both of your businesses has been a pleasure. The experience and knowledge you have added to our project team has been immense and I do not doubt that we wouldn’t be where we are now without you. What we have all achieved over the course of this year on this project has been nothing short of monumental! To have created and launched the full tech stack we have in 9 months is truly amazing.
Director of IT, Interflora
The retail sector had a wake-up call when COVID-19 hit and we realised how important having a highly effective ecommerce offering alongside the retail stores had become. It was also an opportunity to seriously advance our online presence by replacing our platform, which was no longer fit for purpose. We needed an immediate fix, coupled with a long-term plan and a partner to guide us and stay with us on the journey. All our decisions were vindicated when we had our best-ever Black Friday sales that we were then able to fulfil on-time. Profound and Gradient Edge were key to the whole process – they helped us not just transform digitally, but also transform our thinking, and this has had a direct, positive effect on our strategy and resulting revenue.
Customer Director, Planet Organic
Creating competitive advantage through digital transformation.
View client story →
Sign up for a B2B eCommerce workshop
Need expert help defining your B2B eCommerce strategy? Request a free B2B workshop with our experienced team.