B2B commerce involves transactions between two businesses. The transactions are much more complex than B2C commerce where an individual buys from a company. B2B transactions are larger and often take place in the supply chain where one business buys raw materials or components to use for manufacturing their own goods.
Because of the complexity of B2B transactions, B2B commerce has traditionally involved more in-person sales. Buyers and sellers would meet, come to an agreement, and the sale would be recorded and paid offline. But the rise of e-commerce has shifted the way B2B companies buy and sell products. Today, sellers can list their entire catalog online and buyers can browse and purchase at their convenience.
B2B companies that want to remain competitive must adjust their approach to keep up with the rapidly evolving e-commerce landscape. In this post, we’ll examine the top five best practices B2B companies can follow to find success in the new world of B2B commerce.
B2B E-Commerce Best Practices
Today’s B2B buyers desire a B2C level of autonomy when shopping online. B2B sellers need to adopt flexible e-commerce platforms to provide a full range of self-service functionality to their customers.
Some of the key features and information users should be able to access on their own include:
- Quick order
- Order history
- Order approval
- Payment methods
- Contract terms
- Invoice management
- Trade credit limits
- Shipping information
Because B2B transactions often involve more than one decision-maker, vendors should enable buyers to define various user roles including:
B2B e-commerce may remove part of the human element from the buying process but personalization is still essential. Buyers need the ability to quickly find the exact items that suit their needs, which can be challenging with the massive catalogs used by most B2B sellers.
B2B sellers can enhance product discovery and streamline the purchasing process by creating a personalized catalog display for each customer. Instead of having to sift through countless irrelevant products, a buyer can look through a curated list of items that are related to their interests and previous purchases.
Flexible Payment Options
B2B buyers need flexible payment options to accommodate the complexity of their orders. Besides paying with a card, sellers should give customers the ability to pay via ACH transfer, check, trade credit, and wire transfer.
While many buyers will place orders directly on a vendor’s online portal, others still prefer the traditional approach. This means that vendors must also give buyers the option to place purchase orders which will be paid through subsequent invoices.
Relationship building is a crucial part of B2B e-commerce. Most buyers don’t make one-off purchases from a vendor but rather look for a company they can partner with for the long term. This tends to lead to buyers and sellers negotiating contracts to establish terms in advance.
During these negotiations, it is best practice for the B2B seller to offer the buyer custom pricing unique to their arrangement. In exchange for promising long-term business, the buyer will receive favorable prices on the goods that they purchase. The contract pricing will depend on factors like how often they will make orders and the size of their orders. More frequent buyers will receive better terms.
B2B product detail pages (PDPs) must be enriched with extensive details about the product to enable a buyer to know with absolute certainty that an item will meet their needs. Certain B2B products are used as components to make another product instead of being sold to an end-consumer. Other products need to support custom configurations as many buyers will require the products for unique use cases.
B2B e-commerce companies should include the following attributes on their product detail pages:
- Accurate stock level
- Rich description
- Close up images
- Technical specifications
- Part #, item #, mfr #
- Alternate products
- Related products
- Compliance information