Updated: Mar 24
By the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is no denying that the events of the past year have had a transformative effect on businesses that will remain for years to come. Many of these long-term changes have also had a positive effect by revealing innovative ways to increase resilience, enhance workplace flexibility and improve digital capabilities. Looking at B2B trade, buyers can reap great benefits from the constantly increasing digital purchasing landscape. And it is no different for B2B sellers.
Traditionally, transactions in the B2B sector predominantly took place offline, often in person. However, this also meant that vendor onboarding and maintenance from the buyer’s perspective was far from a frictionless experience. Many companies have offered their products and services online for years, but the recent year’s financial uncertainty has pushed late adopters to expand their digital sales capabilities and even find new markets to explore. For companies that have adopted new commercial and go-to-market models during the pandemic, 89% say they are likely to sustain them for more than 12 months. While digital sales has been a necessity for almost all B2B companies over the past year, there are clear long-term benefits of selling B2B products and services online for those sellers that are yet to make the final transformation.
Here are some of the most noteworthy advantages of selling online:
Buying online is the preferred choice for B2B customers
B2B customers had already developed a preference for doing business online long before the pandemic. In fact, a study by Forrester back in 2017 found that about two thirds of B2B buyers preferred to buy online, rather than from a salesperson. The size of the B2B e-commerce sector has grown even more rapidly due to the ongoing disruption caused by Covid-19, and there is no doubt this trend will continue in the future.
While the first B2B e-commerce websites were simply customer portals that would allow clients to place reorders, they often still relied on lengthy purchase processes. Contract and invoicing were typically time-consuming and, together, these factors would hinder the client experience. However, a rapidly increasing percentage of today’s B2B buyers have a strong preference for the B2C-like buying experiences that they’ve been accustomed to for some time already. Which means B2B sellers must be capable of facilitating a fast and seamless purchasing experience for buyer’s that allows them to pay for their purchase with a card payment.
B2B purchases are easier to integrate and automate
Many established B2B companies still use legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) or order management systems. These systems might have served their needs well up until a few years ago, but they are rarely adequate for making the move to e-commerce. Routine operations like order processing and inventory tracking tend to be cumbersome and time-consuming if relying on these systems, and there is always a pervasive risk of costly data entry mistakes. Today’s digital B2B sales and payment solutions present a more scalable and profitable alternative to vendors. Buyers want to buy online, so vendors need to sell online.
Especially when it comes to indirect procurement, buyers are seeing the value in instant purchases as card payments with single-use virtual cards provide a safer and more convenient purchasing process. Traditional processes for vendor onboarding, Purchase Order creation and invoice payments are too inefficient for organisations that want to be agile and simplify workflows instead of making them more complex. Buyers’ B2B procurement needs are best fulfilled with modern software solutions. And as buyers innovate and optimise their B2B procurement capabilities, so will they selectively purchase from vendors that allow their customers to take advantage of those capabilities.
Improve cash-flow and sales visibility
European companies write off an average of 2.3% of yearly revenue because of late payments alone. The gap between buyers and suppliers in the B2B space poses a serious threat to long-term sustainability, especially in a time when B2B clients, much like consumers, expect instant gratification and prompt order fulfilment. By focusing on online sales, sellers can close that gap and, in doing so, reduce risk to their organisations. Being less dependent on invoices payments with long payment terms and instead accept card payments for products and services provides a way for sellers to reduce payment risk and improve cash flow.
Another crucial benefit of e-commerce in the B2B sector is that, like any other digital interaction, activities are recorded. This gives sales professionals and managers complete oversight over their sales. This means they can fulfil orders and manage transactions in a fraction of the time. It allows vendors to base communications and campaigns on customer data, website data and the purchasing behaviours of their customers, thus making them significantly more appealing to today’s B2B customers.