May 24, 2018 Corporate blog

The world of B2B eCommerce is evolving – are you on the fast track?

Esko Harjama
Esko Harjama
Head of Digital Customer Experience
Development trends among the manufacturers and distributors working in B2B business have many similarities. Right now, eCommerce seems to be a priority for the most of them. But where are B2B manufacturers with eCommerce today, and what are the hot topics? We can find at least four major focus areas today.
Easy ordering of Metso wear and spare parts

1. Order entry is yesterday, welcome full-blown CX and omnichannel!

To make your online services relevant today, it is essential to go beyond order entry. Many B2B companies have been providing traditional webstores and order entry tools for decades, but are now facing pressure to renew their platforms – new user requirements and business models cannot any longer be managed on outdated platforms. However, going through the transformation is a big effort for most companies.

The definition of omnichannel in B2B is not always quite the same as in B2C, as the customer journey and buying processes of the users are somewhat different. Most successful B2B sales require a lot of expertise, and discussion between the experts, sales reps and buyers. A well-planned omnichannel experience helps your users to work both in online channels and with your experts, making it possible to progress on both tracks simultaneously. Your own salesforce and experts should have the same visibility into the insights of your customer's challenges identified in the online channels.

2. Bringing B2C expectations into B2B online solutions

Although B2B users' needs are very different from those of B2C users, certain features are becoming mainstream today in B2B stores as well. Overall usability, mobile use, and ease of ordering are becoming basics – Alibaba and Amazon Business are also strongly driving B2C-type solutions for B2B users. Do you have a marketplace strategy that helps you compete with Amazon's ordering & fulfillment capabilities?

AI is becoming a reality beyond the hype in B2B. Machine learning can help improve the user experience in many areas, such as chatbots, searching, product recommendations, customer support, and much more. Start small and incrementally increase your capabilities – Google has also recently published a set of AI tools, such as Dialogflow, to make experimenting with “conversational AI” easy to start.

Personalization is also making its way to B2B solutions – the user experience can be personalized in many areas, for example in product catalogs, promotions, communication, marketing material, and so on. AI can be also used to drive personalization.

3. Support your customers in all channels – and experiment

To build a true omnichannel experience, you have to work hard with your data and architecture – reaching a good level of maturity with your digital foundations is not often easy.

As a manufacturer, providing online solutions for your main sales channels, such as distributors and direct sales, is most likely a must today. Once you have laid the eCommerce foundation for your main channels, your next challenge could be to find a way to support your distributor community to sell online for their end customers. Are your distributors already serving their customers via an established eCommerce platform, or could an OEM-provided marketplace help them increase their online business (even better)?

Today, many companies are studying their customers and customer journeys with significant rigor. This helps create the foundation for building online experiences in the right way. Remember, you do not always know what is the right service or solution for your users – you have to experiment and also be ready to fail and adjust to find the right solution. Go agile!

4. Making the transformation is often painful and takes longer than you expect

Many companies operating in traditional industries will face the challenge of their user base changing over the coming years. Millennials are changing the way online tools are used in B2B: online solutions, marketplaces and data available online will become even more prevalent sources for B2B buying decisions.

The revelation is also not to think of the transformation as a one-time development project, but more of a continuous journey. Modern eCommerce is never ready, and thinking it of as a continuous product development activity helps to position your development efforts for the long run.

Finally, eCommerce is all about making more sales and helping your customers run their businesses better – especially in the online channel. All of us working with eCommerce development are ultimately working in sales! paves way for future Metso online experiences

At Metso, we are also investing in the future success of our distributors and customers. The new online solution is already available to most of our distributors, and more users will have access to it soon. I'm very interested in hearing about your experiences with B2B online solution development – you’re welcome to send me a message and we can continue the discussion further!

Reshaping the future
Digitalization plays a strong role in today's innovations. Our ambition is to become one of the digital leaders in the industries we serve.