3 Ways to Overcome Struggle in Adopting B2B Ecommerce

As the market continues to evolve, your customers will want to start interacting with your brand digitally until they’re ready to interact face to face.

Building a commerce foundation within your business is critical. It has to work.

Many companies in the B2B space begin an e-commerce initiative that focuses on their existing customers.

It’s very common for B2B companies to start there, and this could be responsible for a portion of the companies that fall within that 51.4%—it’s just the stage they are at within their digital transformation journey.

However, as companies get that foundation built, they must quickly expand the capabilities of their digital commerce platform to be able to focus on engaging new customers, growing business with existing customers through cross-selling and upselling, offering promotions, and using any unique ways to drive conversions.

3 Ways to Increase B2B E-commerce Adoption

1. Lay the Strategic Groundwork

Aside from companies that are in the early stages of their journey, the main reason companies fail at digital commerce is because they didn’t make it a strategic priority within the organization.

Keep in mind that e-commerce is not something you just try out; it is an investment in your future success.

When companies don’t look at e-commerce as a strategic initiative and fail to focus on getting their leadership and other stakeholders invested, involved, and on the same page, it’s not going to work as well.

A company might say, “We tried e-commerce, but it didn’t work for our market,” and “Our customers don’t like e-commerce, so they’re not going to utilize it.”

The reality is that maybe they don’t today, but sooner or later, they will. If you wait until they’re ready, it’s going to be too late. You want to get the foundation in place today.

So how do you make e-commerce a strategic initiative? It’s mostly about getting stakeholders across your organization—your leadership team, your sales leaders and maybe your CEO—involved and looking at how this impacts your business.

Remember, it’s about thinking differently. Think about how your customers interact with your business from the outside in.

It’s not an inside-out approach. You need to understand what your customers are asking for today and what they will be asking down the road.

If they’re not using your current e-commerce site, it’s probably for a specific reason. In order to fix what’s broken, you have to make digital commerce a strategic priority.

2. Engage Your Sales Organization

Successful adoption of an e-commerce initiative is going to require some changes in management throughout your organization. You especially need your sales team to get behind this.

You may say, “I’m never going to get behind this e-commerce initiative because it’s intended to replace me.” It’s not intended to replace your sales. It’s intended to augment them—to support them and help them out to be more successful.

It’s designed to take some of those low-value customer tasks off their plates so they can focus on helping the customer succeed, which is what the role of sales is all about.

You need to do your part in reassuring and supporting the sales team. Executives may ask, “Why should I pay my sales staff if they didn’t help me with this order?”

The reality is that even with an effective e-commerce site in place, your salespeople are a crucial part of the process. They’re meeting with your customers and providing the face of your organization.

If you want them to help you onboard your customers to your e-commerce site, they will need to feel confident as well as comfortable that the experience their customers will have with the site will match the level of service they provide face to face.

3. Implement the Right Technology for Your Needs

The third reason B2B e-commerce initiatives fail is the technology itself. If you select a solution that is not able to handle your complex catalogs, multi-tier pricing, inventory across multiple warehouses, or any of the other complexities that come with B2B, your e-commerce site cannot provide the benefits you need.

If the user experience does not meet the expectations of the various roles involved in your buyer journey, they will bypass it, which means they will either contact your sales and customer service teams directly or move on to a competitor with a better e-commerce site.

Maybe the researcher is struggling to find what they need because your search functionality is not up to their expectations, or your SEO efforts are lacking. Or maybe the product descriptions and images are missing important details.

It could be because your technology is not capable of doing all those things. Some of the more basic, entry-level e-commerce platforms are not designed to support all those B2B complexities.

If you’re in that situation, it may be time to evaluate the capabilities of the current platform and compare them to what your organization truly need or wants.

When you invest in e-commerce, it’s not just about putting up a website. It’s also about the future of your business. What would you invest in a physical location, or expanding into a totally new area?

There are lots of investments you make to grow your business and you should think of your digital channel as one of these. So, look at your technology and how you are currently utilizing it. Ask yourself:

  • Are you using your platform to market existing customers?
  • Are you doing all the promotions?
  • Are you cross-selling as well as upselling?
  • Are you enabling your customers to do what they must do?
  • Are you making all of it about them?

It might be that your technology is part of the problem, or maybe it’s the platform itself, or maybe it’s just the way it was implemented.

In order for you to really know the answer to this, you need to assess what you’re trying to accomplish and evaluate whether your platform is aligned with your goals.

A disconnect between the two can negatively impact your customer experience and cause them to see elsewhere.

If they’re not buying from you, they’re buying from someone else, so your investment in—and commitment to—getting this right is paramount.