How has B2B digitally matured? Are the days when digitising a business was understood as an online copy of the physical business or product catalogue now behind the industry? After all, to be successful in online reatil over the long term and to stand out from the competition requires far more than just a good shop system.
The growth potential for the B2B sector is undoubtedly enormous, but the same is true for its challenges. This is also confirmed by current studies »B2B E-Commerce Sector Report« by IFH Köln and »B2B E-Commerce Economic Index« by ECC Köln and Intellishop. The results paint a complicated picture.
B2B E-Commerce Marketing is Still Growing
First, the good news. German B2B e-commerce is growing seemingly without the will to stop. According to the IFH study, B2B e-commerce sales in 2018 amounted to almost €1,300 billion. In 2012 it was 870 million.
The figures from the economic index show that online shops and comparable platforms are also gaining in importance in B2B. In fact, this form of digital distribution channels has seen the greatest growth; Around 86 per cent of companies rely on their own online shop. Marketplaces are also becoming more and more of an issue for companies, above all because of the great advantages that they offer in the entry phase and with regard to international projects.
As far as departments are concerned, marketing, sales and customer communication are the most digitised. Digital customer relations have become the focus of B2B players. For example, social selling is playing an increasingly important role.
It is noteworthy, however, that almost 75 per cent of B2B e-commerce is still handled via EDI. This shows that digital transformation in the business customer sector is still in its infancy in many respects despite positive numbers and best practices.
Anyone who believes that market growth equates to a largely digitized B2B industry is surely mistaken. For half of the companies surveyed in the economic index, digitisation in itself represents a major challenge, with only one third seeing itself largely digitised.
B2B E-Commerce: Go new ways
Thus, the enormous growth of e-business in the B2B company poses two major challenges, On one hand, it increases the pressure on those who have not opened up digital distribution channels yet. Finally, the growth figures suggest that online channels are not only readily accepted by business customers, but increasingly expected. Those who don’t serve these expectations is not competitive in the long term.
On the other hand, even those who already operate digital channels, are coming under pressure. Because the more companies rely on digital sales, the less an online shop represents a USP. When e-commerce becomes the standard, new approaches are needed to add value.
One of them is undoubtedly the transition to an experience platform, a trend that’s meanwhile also reached B2B. Examples such as on-geo or TROX show how companies can offer better customer experiences through platforms, reduce complexity, increase the variety of services offered and better control the entire production chain.
But looking outside the box also means questioning the status quo and looking for answers in the form of new business models and features. Conrad, BayWa and Messe Düsseldorf are showing the way in the German B2B market.
If complex and consultation-intensive products are hard to sell online, what can you do to change that? Does a B2B shop necessarily have to be a kind of cave where it’s difficult to find the product you’re looking for? Can I design my platform or my online shop in a way that is intuitive and simple, just like in end-customer business, and provide content in a self-explanatory manner? How can I handle the different roles in the B2B process? What significance do data, services and consultations have? Is there room for personalisation in B2B?
Understand and strategically use B2B e-commerce
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