An increasing number of manufacturers and distributors are investing in B2B ecommerce. According to Digital Commerce 360, two-thirds of distributors today have an ecommerce website, and 40% of their business is generated electronically. A PWC survey reports that an equal percentage (66%) of U.S. manufacturers say that deploying digital marketing is a high or very high priority over the next two years. And Forrester predicts that B2B ecommerce will hit $1.8 trillion by 2023 – 17% of all B2B revenue.
What is driving this movement to B2B ecommerce for manufacturers and distributors? It has to do with changing buyer expectations and an increasing number of advantages presented to manufacturers and distributors.
The Expectations of B2B Buyers Are Changing
Historically, manufacturers and distributors have transacted business primarily on a face-to-face basis. B2B buyers were visited by sales reps, quotes were generated, negotiations proceeded, and purchase orders were ultimately cut. It was – and for many B2B companies, still is – a long, drawn-out process.
For many B2B buyers today, however, it’s not a process they embrace. An increasing number of B2B buyers, especially younger ones, want a purchasing experience more like what they’re used to with B2C online shopping. They don’t want to spend undue amounts of time with sales reps – instead, they want a self-service model that puts them in control and results in much shorter transaction times. In short, if you’re a manufacturer or a distributor, your customers want to purchase from an ecommerce website.
Today’s B2B buyers want to cut out the sales rep and do the shopping themselves. Fully 60% of B2B buyers prefer not to deal with salespeople as their primary sources of information, according to Forrester. They want the self-service experience provided by a B2B ecommerce website.
Shorter and Simpler Purchase Cycles
The younger B2B buyers today are used to immediate gratification. They’re not satisfied with long and complex traditional B2B purchasing cycles. They want to look at products this morning, place an order this afternoon, and have it delivered tomorrow – or as soon as is feasible. This simply can’t be done when purchasing from sales reps, but is possible when buying from a B2B ecommerce website.
Another thing that today’s B2B buyers want is a more immersive experience, similar to what they’re used to when shopping in person or at an online retailer. They don’t want to look at small, grainy pictures in a black and white catalog – they want to see all the products they’re shopping for in full color, high-resolution detail. This is difficult to do with traditional sales methods, but easy and relatively inexpensive to implement on a B2B ecommerce website.
Advantages of B2B Ecommerce for Manufacturers and Distributors
The only way to meet the evolving need of today’s B2B buyers is by building a B2B ecommerce website – and making it equally appealing for users on both computers and mobile devices. How does this move into B2B ecommerce benefit your business? Here are five important advantages of B2B ecommerce for distributors and manufacturers.
Expand Into New Territories
Offering your products online provides access to new markets and territories. When you sell online, you’re not limited to specific geographic territories. Your website is accessible to customers all across the country and around the globe. It’s just as easy for you to market online to customers in Europe or Asia or Australia as it is to sell to customers down the street.
A B2B ecommerce website lets you create an international presence at the same cost as selling to your existing customer base. There are no expensive sales reps to hire and pay, no travel expenses and business dinners to subsidize. Just put your goods online, make sure your site can handle international orders and foreign currencies, and you’re good to go. Any sales you get above and beyond your traditional markets and customers are a plus.
Create New Markets
Because you’re no longer limited geographically or demographically, you can develop new products or variations of existing products to sell to new market segments. Perhaps you sell a specific type of widget to the automotive market. Online, you can tweak that product and offer a variation to other markets that your existing sales force isn’t equipped to reach. Thanks to B2B ecommerce for manufacturers and distributors, you can sell as broadly as you like.
Provide a Better Customer Experience
A B2B ecommerce website lets you offer a better customer experience by providing rich product content, intuitive search, easy online ordering, and automated support. As an example, note the website for Stanley Engineered Fastening, which makes it easy for customers to find and order specific products.
The key to an effective B2B ecommerce website is to make it easier for customers to order your products – and to get all their questions answered. Customers can quickly and easily find out the status of their orders, make changes to their orders, initiate product returns, and obtain technical support online. The best B2B websites also make it easy for existing customers to reorder products with the click of a button.
Moving to ecommerce not only makes ordering more efficient, it can also improve the efficiency of your backend operations. Your ecommerce solution should seamlessly integrate with your existing CRM, ERP, and other manufacturing and distribution systems to automate many previously manual processes.
Increase Sales and Profits
An ecommerce website should garner your company new customers and new sales. Existing customers who find it easier to order will end up ordering more and more often. The resulting increased revenues, combined with the lower expenses from automating many backend processes, should produce higher profits for your company. It’s a win-win across the board.
Learn More About B2B Ecommerce for Manufacturers and Distributors at the International Fastener Expo
More and more fastener distributors and moving into ecommerce. You can learn more about B2B ecommerce for distributors and manufacturers at the International Fastener Expo, September 21 – 23, at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, the largest specialty show for fasteners and industrial products in North America.