Business-to-Business (B2B) companies have traditionally relied on direct sales channel for customer acquisition and revenue growth. Owing to the dependency on direct sales relationships most companies were averse to invest in long-term commerce capabilities. Existing order management systems were considered adequate, even if distributed and disparate. Buyer expectations were limited and usually straightforward.Elsewhere, B2C companies were pioneering futuristic commerce innovations and moving away from store foot-falls to site click-throughs. The experience gap created between B2B and B2C shopping has only risen since then. B2B buyers today expect B2C like experiences which means personalized product catalogs, contextual recommendations, faster order placements, unified commerce stores and anytime, anywhere access to commerce sites.
To meet these expectations, B2B companies need to embark on their commerce transformation journeys now. Frost & Sullivan estimates that by 2020, global revenues from B2B Commerce will touch USD 6.7 trillion, twice as much as B2C Commerce with US alone generating over USD 1.2 trillion. In fact, B2B Companies that have moved their commerce operations online have started reporting significant gains already. In a recent Forrester survey, B2B companies have reported web conversion rates of 8% triple that of B2C companies and an average order value (AOV) of USD 2067 for B2B companies compared to USD 171 for B2C. But to capitalize on this potential, B2B companies will have to overcome unusual challenges, earlier unseen in B2C commerce programs. Some of these challenges are:
- Managing commerce transactions from various lines of business (LOBs) with different business models and product catalogs, spread across multiple regions or geographies
- Handling complexities in product and pricing configurations, regulatory compliances, cross-border taxations and online catalog management
- Personalizing commerce experiences for buyers from different enterprises as well as within the same enterprise (role based)
- Resolving channel conflict between online sales, direct sales and partner sales where pricing and promotions may vary depending on the channel
- Designing engaging cross-channel digital commerce interfaces with simplified browse and purchase interactions
- Providing real-time information on product availability by efficiently integrating into back-office fulfilment systems spread across various LOBs and regions.
Based on TCS success in B2B Commerce engagements, we recommend three simple steps for realizing long-term value from complex and global commerce programs.
- Play the long game: Start by defining your current and future commerce requirements keeping in mind the need to expand to new geographies and LOBs. Build a foundational commerce architecture to support a unified store front covering multiple LOBs or regions in the corporate group and also support scalable commerce operations to handle deep product catalogs and merchandizing in the future.
- Dont just go online. Go digital: Modern B2B buyers prefer to browse and buy through their mobiles and tablets as well. So B2B companies need to ensure that their commerce storefronts are responsive and equally functional on any channel, to be available anywhere and anytime. This will also enable sales teams to initiate more efficient commerce interactions with high-value clients. B2B companies also need to engage buyers via social media to answer queries and grow brand mindshare, all the while building robust commerce support capabilities with features like live chat to instantaneously help buyers complete their orders. But digital also means replacing legacy processes with faster instant mechanisms. For example, a recent Forrester survey shows that 50% of B2B buyers prefer paying online with credit or debit card compared to 28% who prefer to pay via purchase orders and invoices.
- Keep your buyers engaged: Lastly, B2B companies, need to provide at-par shopping experiences with B2C to start with and eventually move onto pioneering their own commerce innovations. This means offering rich content across channels, building gamification mechanisms to keep buyers interested, offering personalized product recommendations, delivering simpler and faster order confirmations, enabling real-time inventory visibility and fulfilment and contextual B2B marketing via the right channels (email, SMS or advertisements).
With TCS B2B Digital Commerce offering, we bring the experience of successfully driving large scale global B2B commerce transformation programs combined with our commerce accelerators to help you realize value faster.Join me and my team of CX expertsat Oracle OpenWorld, CX Central Commerce, where we discuss the future of commerce and talk to our customers about theirdigital commerce success. Please schedule time to meet with us and share your comments and questions here. I look forward to seeing you in San Francisco!