B2B Best Practices Champion Digitization: Our Report With BECK Shows Why

Jason Hein
Jason Hein
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Having spent the better part of the last 10 years evangelizing on the topic of business-to-business (B2B) best practices in ecommerce, I’ve heard all the excuses:

  • “Our products are too technical, complex, and/or customized to sell online.”
  • “Our customers aren’t interested in buying online.”
  • “Ecommerce only works for consumer goods.”

In my opinion, B2B should no longer resort to such justifications when it comes to digitizing its business processes and refining the customer experience. In recent years, many reputable companies in the B2B space have indicated that best practice B2C tactics can move the needle in B2B. And yet, B2B companies are still slow to adopt these approaches due to the absence of analytical reports and relevant examples indicating their effectiveness. 

Bloomreach’s Survey Report With Beck Ecommerce

Collaborating with BECK Ecommerce, Bloomreach was able to surface this exact type of invaluable data in our survey report, “Are B2C Best Practices the Future of B2B Ecommerce?” Based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, we’ve collected responses from B2B distributors, manufacturers, and wholesalers to answer the following critical questions: 

  • Which B2C strategies are you currently using in your business plan? 
  • What results would your company like to see from investment in these B2C approaches, like assortment expansion, “Prime-like” shipping, and digital marketing?
  • Where is your ecommerce roadmap headed in terms of feature building and adoption? 
  • Are your go-to-market and sales teams on board with future innovations? 

Bloomreach Search Impact Validation Offering for B2B Market

Before we get into the report, let me just acknowledge that it’s easy to see why it’s typical for a B2B sales team — from Chief Revenue Officers to Account Managers and Executives — to turn their nose up to B2C strategies. In the ecommerce space, most technologies were not built with B2B products, merchandising or marketing efforts, and sales practices in mind. Plus, the disjointed nature of the purchasing process in B2B makes it difficult to measure the true impact of a B2C blueprint. 

Having spent years consulting on B2B digital strategy, the failure to show proper examples ultimately forced my clients to extrapolate how the technology would work for their unique product line and target audiences. B2B decision makers always viewed this lack of representation as validation of their rationale to not invest in digital for their business buyers.

In their eyes, a case study illustrating the capabilities of a relevant ecommerce solution doesn’t exist because these technologies simply will not cater to their products. As much as I understood the reasoning that B2B products are inherently more technical and complex, I also knew that commitment to digitization would dictate a business’ success down the road. And in today’s overly competitive commerce landscape, you simply cannot let other businesses get ahead of you.

The Major Takeaways of Our Survey Report 

In answering the question posed in the report’s title, the first result suggested that B2C approaches do work for B2B and are more effective than most would expect. Among the most popular tactics were omnichannel prioritization, content marketing, and organic search (i.e., search engine optimization). This just goes to show that the customer journey means everything in ecommerce. Your B2B brand wants to curate an experience for your potential customers that is as seamless as it is effective.

Ecommerce Priorities for B2B Distributors and Manufacturers

The second finding showed that many B2C features deliver immediate results once they go live (see? B2B marketing and merchandising can work!). Even though these digital approaches are seen as less effective by ecommerce newcomers, seasoned businesses that used these digital strategies observed momentous impacts in little time. It helped these brands generate leads, make sales, and develop meaningful relationships with their customers.

Finally, the respondents, who have already implemented such tactics and experienced highly favorable results, expressed that they were not considering specific B2C approaches for future use. As I thought there would be more specified planning around these positive outcomes, this conclusion notably struck a chord with me. Why wouldn’t this faction of the business world be satisfied with merchandising and marketing strategies that guaranteed results?

Despite the last response to our survey, it’s most certainly time to bridge the gap between digital implementation and your company’s innovation roadmap. If these B2C tactics are successful for B2B, then shouldn’t we wholeheartedly embrace them and plan for the inevitable future of tech adoption?

Here are specific takeaways that B2B companies can — and should — start thinking about: 

  1. The “great share swap” in B2B is already happening. Basically, the companies investing in digitization are seeing value and gaining share. On the other hand, the businesses that aren’t investing in online marketing and merchandising will see unfavorable outcomes and lose share. 
  2. Many B2B companies — distributors and wholesalers in particular — have historically relied on benchmarking against an unchanging set of competitors when evaluating their sales strategies. As more disruptors enter the market, it will become increasingly difficult to measure success using this traditional model, especially as more businesses deploy a “customer-centric” approach, focus on their target audience, and invest in digitization. 
  3. Moving to this digital, customer-centric approach requires an ability to collect, understand, and learn from customer behavior and connect it to the right products. Companies following this blueprint can build digital experiences and marketing strategies (e.g., video marketing, paid advertising, site search, etc.) that differentiate themselves from the competition, allow them to scale quickly and effectively, and ensure that they stay on the right side of the “great share swap.” 

Convoluted Web of Connecting Products to Buyer Attributes

The Next Steps B2B Needs to Take Toward Business Growth

As demonstrated by the rich research in BECK Ecommerce and Bloomreach’s report, the B2B companies that continue rejecting these significant shifts will suffer negative effects on their businesses. B2B businesses need to streamline the online journey with ecommerce technology and make it easier for prospects to find or learn about a single item, a replacement part, or even a complete system in an online setting. Only then can you effectively manage your full product offering, speak as an expert across diverse audience segments, and create cohesive channels to communicate with both expert and non-expert customers about technically complicated products.

It all starts with the right marketing campaigns to drive traffic to the site, of course. But what happens once the prospect is on your site? Where does the effective marketing strategy end and the fluid purchase process customers want to experience begin? If you’re ready to find out, delve into the results of this in-depth report.

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Jason Hein

Principal Product Marketer in Marketing

Jason Hein is an experienced digital strategist with a demonstrated history of working in the industrial distribution and digital commerce industries. With a robust background in merchandising and digital sales of products relevant to B2B, Jason specializes at Bloomreach in quick-ramping on product knowledge to build digital merchandising strategies for technical products. With experience in most product lines carried by MRO and Industrial companies, he uses strong digital content and information architecture to empower teams to succeed and thrive online.

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