Making B2B Ecommerce Work for Your Business

While business to consumer (B2C) ecommerce has seen massive growth over the
last decade, the business-to-business (B2B) world has been slower to follow. We
interview Technology Management’s managing director, James Crowter, to find out
why this is the case and what ecommerce can offer businesses seeking to reduce
costs and build customer loyalty.

Why hasn’t B2B ecommerce taken off as quickly as B2C ecommerce?

In B2B businesses the relationship between the buyer and seller is usually
more personal than in the B2C world, which is more difficult to replicate
electronically. We’ve seen B2B businesses encourage customers to use their
ecommerce sites by offering lower prices online, free delivery or reduced
telephone customer service, but they’re not spectacularly good long term
strategies. Today we are starting to see B2B ecommerce gain traction as they
begin to understand what works well.

Which B2B businesses suit an ecommerce website?

I see two viable areas. Firstly, if a company sells a complex product with
lots of information that’s difficult to access easily, ecommerce can work well.
Any business where customers have traditionally received a catalogues is an
obvious contender – especially with the search tools that make it easier to
pinpoint the product the customer is looking for. While ecommerce makes a lot of
sense for these businesses, sometimes only the product research rather than the
purchase is what the customer wants.

The second opportunity lies with businesses selling to markets where the
buyer isn’t sat at a desk all day. A classic example is independent retailers:
What ecommerce allows the buyer to do is look at price, availability and then
place orders out of office hours, rather than find time during the day when
they’re busy dealing with customers in their shop. Anyone selling to smaller
retailers has an opportunity to offer a website where the customer can log in,
see their order history and quickly reorder common items.

How would you suggest businesses evaluate their need for an ecommerce
website?

Always try to look at look at it from your customers’ point of view. While
talking to your customers is valuable, their response can sometimes be deceptive
because they won’t always embrace change. Ask yourself, ‘If I was the customer
how would I like to trade with this business? What would be most convenient for
me?’ Think about what frustrates you when trading with your suppliers and
consider how ecommerce could fix those problems.

It’s also worth analysing incoming phone calls, emails and faxes. Categorise
what customers are asking for and look at the response times of each one.
Anything that you can respond to instantly has a much higher customer
satisfaction level, which is of course something ecommerce sites can do well.

During a recession is an investment in ecommerce still attractive?

In times of recession when businesses are looking to survive by cutting costs
and increasing sales, investing in ecommerce is an attractive proposition:
there’s a low ongoing cost – typically £100-150 a month from Technology
Management. And our standard fee for setting up a content management ecommerce
store on the back of Microsoft Dynamics NAV is £5000. When you compare that to
the cost of producing and distributing catalogues, it’s clear that ecommerce can
offer a quick return for the right business.

What ecommerce work has Technology Management done for customers?

Biasi sell boilers and radiators to plumbers’ merchants that often want to
place orders out of office hours. When Biasi’s customers visit the ecommerce
site they can search for radiators based on the dimensions of the room the
radiator needs to heat. With a range of over 3500 radiators, this offers a more
convenient alternative to traditional catalogues.

Another example is UK stair lift manufacturer, Minivator. They offer their
dealers a web portal that features a product configurator to help them correctly
specify and order a stair lift.

To discuss the opportunities ecommerce presents your business contact
Technology Management today on 01902 578300

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