As businesses emerge from the economic downturn, they have increased their focus on making the most of customer insights and digital channels to transform the customer experience, open up new markets and reduce organizational complexities.
Traditionally, B2B firms have used the Internet “in silo” to expose their product catalog for order taking. But the successes in the business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce world—and the rapid adoption of Internet technologies like Rich Internet Applications and Web 2.0—has prompted B2B firms to rethink e-business strategy. As a result, many of the leading B2B firms are embracing the Internet as foundation platform for all sales and marketing efforts by following the best practices from the B2C world.
On the other hand, B2B buyers are consumers too; the buyers also expect B2B sites to provide the similar experience, content and community collaboration that they get in a B2C site. The desire by the B2B firms to adopt B2C-like techniques and an increase in customer expectations has started driving a B2C/B2B convergence phenomenon.
This article highlights B2B e-commerce market drivers, strategies and best practices for adopting the Internet and web channel for sales and marketing efforts.
Defining B2B e-commerce
B2B e-commerce is an overloaded term. It could mean different things to different people. For the purposes of this article, I define B2B e-commerce as the use of the Internet technologies by the seller to market and sell products and/or services to other businesses while the buyer uses the Internet to research, browse, compare and buy those products or services. In other words, from the seller’s point of view, B2B e-commerce is the automation and replacement of face-to-face sales and marketing processes with a self-service solution that makes it possible for sales personnel to focus on high-value selling.