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Posted by Matt Osborn - 23 March, 2018

How B2B Sellers Can Better Compete with a Multichannel Selling Strategy.

The B2B industry is undergoing a transformation. As buyers raise their expectations, B2B companies must adapt their current strategies.

Just like B2C, the B2B industry is experiencing significant growth in eCommerce. In fact, Forrester predicts that B2B eCommerce will top $1.2 trillion in the US by 2021 with some sectors seeing 17% of their total commerce coming from digital B2B sales. Most businesses can no longer afford to avoid expanding to more channels like eCommerce.

MultiChannel eCommerce Strategy.pngSource

However, being a multichannel B2B seller isn’t easy. To help you overcome its complexities, we’ll provide the best guidelines for creating a competitive multichannel selling strategy.

The Revolution of B2B eCommerce

B2B merchants are experiencing explosive growth in their online sales, whether you’re a manufacturer or distributor. B2B sellers are using eCommerce to grow sales and expand their reach, while meeting new buyer expectations.

Despite recent growth in online sales, selling online isn’t necessarily new to B2B. At first, manufacturers and distributors created online portals to avoid costs and replace customer service reps. They installed eCommerce plug-ins for their financial or ERP systems with little strategy for growth. Their online portals primarily served existing customers to place reorders.

However, there is now a shift in the way B2B sellers approach their online strategy. They’re investing in eCommerce to meet buyers’ expectations, gain a competitive advantage, and expand their reach to new customers, and ultimately, generate new revenue. This is way beyond just servicing existing customers.

Changes in B2B Buyers

An important driver behind the B2B online transformation is the change in buyer expectations. New research indicates that 73% of Millennials are involved in B2B purchasing decisions now. These new buyers have different mindsets and preferences for buying. Over the next four years, B2B buyers who research online are expected to rise from 38% to 55%. Even when they’re shopping for their business, they expect an experience like B2C. 

This is leading to a shift in the B2B industry. Many now realize how important a multichannel selling strategy is.

Guidelines for Your B2B Multichannel Selling Strategy

Multichannel strategy.pngWhile B2B buyers might expect an experience like B2C, B2B selling still has its own unique challenges different from consumer selling. B2B buyers purchase large quantities at once. They need different payment options like credit cards, Paypal and customer terms accounts. Online B2B sellers must provide account transparency and give customers access to their terms accounts.

Unlike before, B2B sites now focus on acquiring new customers or even selling directly to consumers. This is a new perspective for B2B sellers. And, on top of everything, B2B sellers also must work with or replace legacy software.

It’s easy to see how obstacles start to pile up for online B2B selling. To avoid them, use these guidelines to overcome the challenges of B2B multichannel selling.  

1. Choose the Right Platforms

Whether you’re already selling online or not, you must choose the right eCommerce platform. Many B2B merchants are turning to modern consumer-based eCommerce platforms to provide that B2C-like experience that buyers are looking for. Recognizing industry-specific needs, many modern eCommerce platforms are increasing functionality just for B2B.

Don’t be tempted to buy an add-on or plug-in for your existing financial or ERP system. In the long run, these systems aren’t robust enough to aggressively grow your online presence. It won’t give you enough flexibility or functionality to truly serve your customers. If you’re already using an add-on, consider upgrading your eCommerce platform and commit to becoming a genuine multichannel seller.

To help you compare different eCommerce platforms, check out this buyer’s guide to research and decide.

2. Start with One Product Line

As you change your perspective of online selling to focus on acquiring new customers, it’s best to start your online presence small. You want to get started right away so choose one product line to sell first. Choose a line that has stable fulfillment processes and is easy to showcase online.

By starting small, you can ensure that you work out any problems before scaling.

3. Work with Experts

eCommerce is a competitive space. After you invest in new software, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your purchase. Don’t overlook the benefits of working with a digital agency to make sure your online experience meets buyers’ standards. This is new territory for you. An eCommerce expert can help with SEO, website design, product pages, checkout experience, and more. Remember, you’re looking to attract and keep new customers who aren’t familiar with your brand.

4. Focus on Customer Experience

When selling online, it’s not just about having the lowest price or the best quality products. Buyers are looking for a particular customer experience and they’ll purchase from those who provide it. As you’re drawing out your strategy, make sure all decisions focus on just that – your customer experience. Over time, you’ll keep more customers and extend customer lifetime values.

5. Automate Backend Processes

Selling on more sales channels like eCommerce adds more complexity to your operations. You now have customer, inventory, order, shipping/tracking, and product data that must be shared between your eCommerce store and financial or ERP systems. Manually entering the same data in both systems is both time-consuming and prone to too many human errors.

The best way to handle your data is to automate your processes between your eCommerce and backend system. This ensures that inventory is updated in real-time, order fulfillment is fast and accurate, and product listings are consistent. As you set up your eCommerce store, consider how it needs to integrate with the rest of your systems. You’ll need to evaluate integration platforms like nChannel who provide these types of services.

Committing to a Multichannel Strategy

For many, choosing to sell online and expand to multiple sales channel will require a cultural shift for some within your company. B2B sellers often face unique challenges when selling online because multichannel selling requires a new perspective. If you want to be successful at it, you must fully commit to this different way of selling!

Use this extensive guide to walk you through what you need to consider when expanding your business to new sales channels like eCommerce sites or marketplaces.

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About the Author

Jillian HuffordJillian joined nChannel as their Marketing Analyst. Using both her writing and analytic skills, she assists the Marketing and Sales teams. Jillian performs competitor market research, provides analysis of key sales metrics, and writes informative posts on multichannel commerce trends. She holds a BA in Marketing from Otterbein University.

Topics: B2B eCommerce, B2B Sales, Management, B2B Marketing

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