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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : January 12, 2016

Why B2B may be the next B2C

Mobile devices, email, telecommuting. All of these things allow consumers to work from anywhere, and that is causing quite a shift for B2B brands. In fact, one expert believes B2B processes are becoming more like B2C strategies. Here's why.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: How are B2B processes becoming more like B2C?

Glen Coates, CEO & Founder, Handshake: Every B2B buyer is also a consumer, which means they are exposed to a rapidly evolving shopping experience. For the last decade, retailers have been making shopping easier across online and offline channels, and shortening product delivery times as they respond to the on-demand requirements of consumers. To better support and service these retailers, wholesalers have also begun to change their processes and implement technology to increase the speed and ease of ordering and fulfillment.

Kristina: How is this change impacting B2B brands?

Glen: As B2B commerce technology advances, more manufacturers and distributors are taking the steps to provide their buyers access to tailored information and efficient ordering in the manner that is most convenient for them. B2B eCommerce websites and mobile commerce apps deliver intuitive user experiences that resemble what buyers already use. B2B buyers can research products or place orders 24/7 and have access to up-to-date product catalogs, real-time inventory availability, and past order history, just like they do as consumers.

By making it simple to place orders and then process them faster than ever, manufacturers and distributors can set up fulfillment logistics to respond to the on-demand needs of retailers. For instance, we are seeing more manufacturers and distributors offer short turnaround drop-ship terms for small orders that are either sent directly to the store or to the end consumer. With speed and convenience at an all time high, wholesalers are looking to align the delivery of their products with how retailers are doing business.

Kristina: Do you see these changes also affecting sales reps?

Glen: Technology adoption is also changing the role of field sales reps. By providing field sales reps with mobile solutions like Handshake that make it faster and more efficient to write orders, the in-person sales process is no longer focused on simply taking orders. Our customers tell us they see their sales reps as strategic partners to their retail accounts. Handshake helps strengthen that partnership by providing sales reps with critical information on their customers and their products at their fingertips, so they can provide strategic data-driven insights around customer order history, sales performance reporting, and top products that buyers are missing. A more consultative sales process leads sales reps to provide retailers with a product assortment that is right for them, resulting in faster sell through and more sales.

Kristina: Handshake's platform makes it simple to manufacturers and distributers to put the right products before the right buyers. Are you seeing an impact in sales because of these changes?

Glen: Manufacturers and distributors using Handshake Direct are seeing B2B eCommerce improve their sales several ways. First, they are able to do business with customers that their sales reps may not be able to physically reach. Second, by making it really easy and convenient retailers are placing orders more frequently and staying fully stocked. It also gives our customers an opportunity to re-engage with retailers that haven't purchased in 6 months or more and they are seeing these customers start to order again.

The feedback we've received from our Handshake Direct customers was backed up by the results of a recent industry wide-survey we conducted. According to the Handshake Wholesale Technology and Sales report, of the wholesalers surveyed, 44% already have implemented a B2B eCommerce solution, while nearly a quarter (22%) of them have 40% or more of their customer base placing orders online. And 55% of those have seen growth of 10% or more in their B2B eCommerce channel over the last 12 months.

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: advertising, B2B ecommerce, B2C ecommerce, ecommerce, ecommerce trends, Handshake

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  • Apart from shilling for Handshake, this reveals a certain myopia about "the real B2B."

    Companies that recognize that B2B buyers are also B2C consumers is not a new idea. I worked with agencies and B2B clients that all took a very consumer-like approach to their marketing and advertising... in the 1980s... and the results were conclusively positive.

    Though information wasn't as readily available, these companies created collateral (now called content) that was aimed directly as specific people with well-defined roles in the buying cycle, ads that targeted particular segments of an industry, and real time processes that enabled prospective customers to obtain the information they wanted (over the phone or by fax).

    And compared to some of the frothy, feel-good brand experiences that often characterize modern B2C marketing online (especially on social media), the approaches taken by those agencies and clients in the '80s, which I experienced as a judge for the Business Marketing Association's annual awards competition, were so relevant, informative, and targeted that readers (based on actual tests) formed and retained positive impressions which led to a remarkable level of inquiry.

    Today, that same perspective can be found on B2B websites that recognize they're selling to people, not businesses -- people with a sense of humor, an appreciation of good storytelling, and an eagerness to be entertained (or, at the very least, not bored) by their interactions. For some of us, it's a digital evolution from successful analog processes; not the result of an "aha" moment that just occurred.



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