LONDON, October 19th 2022 – The days of pitching a web store with a simple checkout and product selection are far behind us. Business-to-Business (B2B) e-commerce has grown exponentially in the last few years, and it’s more difficult to stand out than ever before.
A survey of 1282 B2B buyers across Europe and the US conducted by independent market research company Sapio on behalf of e-commerce platform Sana Commerce shows that B2B buyers are now purchasing 75 percent of their products online. The new generation of B2B buyers are much more tech-savvy, and have higher expectations of what their buying experience should be like. In order to meet their expectations, businesses need to cater directly to specific, and rapidly evolving customer needs.
Millennials have set a new standard for B2B e-commerce
The growth of the working Millennial and Gen Z population has transformed B2B e-commerce. Millennials have now become the largest generational cohort in the workforce. These employees are the first generation of digital natives who grew up using social media, shopping online and communicating electronically. Their tech-savviness brings greater diversity of knowledge into the workforce, but more importantly, more experience in commerce as consumers.
Previously, B2B customers settled for a relatively impersonal buying experience. It wasn’t uncommon to place orders by phone and have no further communication with the supplier until (or, if) the product or service arrived.
Now, B2B customers expect the same seamless and tailored experience that they would get in a B2C transaction. Research for Sana Commerce reveals that customers prioritise features like ease of check out and repeat ordering, which they’re accustomed to as consumers. This is one of the reasons why new flexible payment solutions, like Sana Pay
, are gaining traction within B2B sectors. Ultimately, B2B buyers are consumers too, and they want the easiest buying experience in both personal and professional contexts.
Personalisation has changed the market
Catering directly to your customers is key to standing out in the competitive B2B market. B2B buyers only spend 17% of their time meeting with possible suppliers
when they’re considering a purchase. In the internet-led age, buyers typically identify and research new suppliers independently online. With that in mind, your web store is the gateway to win new customers over and retain existing ones.
One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through personalisation. Personalisation involves creating a unique experience for every customer, for example, offering them hyper-relevant product recommendations, offers and content. Tailoring each customer’s experience is the norm in B2C, but this approach has recently grown more popular within B2B sectors. There are several benefits of personalisation:
1. Reduces the purchase cycle.
If you know what your target audience is looking for, you can feed them hyper-relevant recommendations, and quickly convert them into customers.
2. Accelerates returning customers’ experience. Existing customers don’t want to trawl your website for hours to find what they need. Customising the products and services they see makes their buying experience faster and effortless.
3. Helps you to understand your customers better. By gathering information on who your customers are, and what they’re looking for, you can develop a targeted approach for attracting future customers.
Advanced technology has enabled seamless personalisation
Make no mistake, personalisation isn’t new to commerce. Retail stores have hung their hats on building relationships with their customers, understanding their pain points and addressing them. These in-person efforts improved their customer’s experience by increasing the speed and accuracy of their recommendations.
Now, tools in modern technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) have made it easier for businesses to gather this data. AI and automation software can gather data on customers’ real-time browsing and shopping habits online. This includes everything from their purchase history, to their search history and job function. By analysing this data, businesses are then able to make accurate recommendations that fulfil their customers’ requirements.
According to Sana Commerce, it’s possible to gather this data on offline activity as well. The company’s recent partnership with Solen Energy UK is bringing AI-powered personalisation to the UK through its e-commerce platform, Sana Commerce Cloud. The personalised product recommendation feature is powered by data mining algorithms which utilise the tight ERP/web store integration that Sana Commerce Cloud creates.
Michiel Schipperus, CEO of Sana Commerce, said: “By gathering and analysing information on their buyers’ behaviours and purchasing patterns, web stores can provide buyers with a personalised buying journey – leading to higher revenues, loyalty, and trust. But in B2B e-commerce, this feature did not exist based on both online and offline purchases. Because product segmentation, customer-specific pricing and discounts make this a challenge.
Due to Sana Commerce Cloud’s tight integration with the ERPs of our customers, B2B web stores running on Sana have access to both on- and offline order information, as well as historic purchasing data. This golden combination is fed into the new algorithm, delivering accurate recommendations that most closely represent typical transactions.”