The COVID-19 pandemic forced buyers and sellers in the B2B space to seek out an e-commerce solution, triggering what looks to become a permanent alteration in the way B2B business is conducted.
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The COVID-19 pandemic brought about massive disruptions in people’s lives, affecting some areas more than others. The business world was one of the hardest hit. Total lockdowns forced the permanent closure of thousands of small businesses. Other businesses had to scale back their operations for months on end, and millions of American workers lost their jobs. People found ways to stay physically distant, for fear of contracting or spreading the virus.
One of the areas most affected was the B2B space. There, buyers and sellers were forced to go digital and find a B2B e-commerce solution. What was at first a crisis response has now become the new normal.
The Digital Shift Is Here to Stay
Recent research by McKinsey & Company on decision-makers’ behavior across industries around the world since the onset of the pandemic reveals that the big digital shift is here to stay. More than three-quarters of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-service and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions. This sentiment continues to grow even though most lockdowns have ended.
Safety continues to be a big reason. However, business leaders and customers alike have come to prefer self-service and remote interactions. Buyers say they find it easier to get information, place orders, and arrange services. They enjoy the speed and convenience that come with this way of operating. According to the McKinsey study, only about 20% of B2B buyers hope to return to in-person sales, even in sectors traditionally dominated by field sales models, such as pharma and medical products.
Moreover, the shift to digital and remote engagement is a global phenomenon. Business leaders around the world and in multiple industries demonstrate a growing conviction that digital is the way to go.
What are some of the new trends we see within this space?
Manufacturers Now Cater to Existing B2B Customers First
In the past, marketers on B2B e-commerce platforms tended to focus on reaching new customers. However, this no longer appears to be the case.
Instead, organizations choose an incremental approach, launching their online activities first by catering to their existing B2B customers. This gives them an early win and quickly proves the viability of B2B e-commerce to their internal stakeholders.
Organizations that choose a scalable solution are then primed to grow their market footprint by extending services to new B2B customers as well.
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B2B Organizations Are Now More Efficient
So far, there have been three factors that have pushed B2B organizations to adopt the e-commerce model. These include the need to improve customer experience, a desire to grow revenue, and the necessity of cutting costs by becoming more efficient. Even though these three drivers coexist in any organization, there is an increase in the number of organizations looking to become more efficient. Manufacturers that still rely on phone, fax, and email to attract customers are increasingly falling behind.
Millennials Push Organizations to Deliver a Great Customer Experience
Millennials’ chief priority for choosing B2B vendors is the ease, or lack thereof, of doing business with them. This is in stark contrast to Gen X, whose members favor quality of service and high-end products, and baby boomers, who prioritize getting things fast. These factors account for many of the recent changes in the B2B e-commerce space.
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Digital Self-Service Has Become the New Normal
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed B2B sales away from direct human interaction and toward online self-service. Some analysts predicted the shift would become the new normal at the height of the pandemic, but many organizations weren’t ready to make the necessary changes. In fact, some are still grappling with the repercussions of failing to have a self-service digital channel.
The world moves fast, and the digital world moves even faster. Nonetheless, there has never been a more exciting time for organizations to explore B2B e-commerce. To prepare your company for this brave new world, be sure to conduct diligent market research and obtain a deep understanding of your customers’ needs. This foundation will allow your B2B organization to find new opportunities to win with e-commerce.