The Internet has created a new dynamic and structure for B2B businesses in which marketing teams, sales teams and e-commerce tools converge to maximize revenue. Some industry studies have painted a bleak future for sales teams, one in which they’ll be phased out entirely and replaced with automated e-commerce stores. The assumption is often backed up with data indicating a shifting consumer preference towards e-commerce. Even though Internet accessibility and overall technological adaption rates are increasing globally, e-commerce and traditional sales roles have integrated together. New studies and industry reports have now suggested B2B businesses can reinforce their existing channels while simultaneously integrating new technology such as e-commerce.
In a Forrester Research study of B2B businesses, 89 percent of businesses surveyed indicated that implementing e-commerce increased their annual revenue. The modern business world is dominated by efficiency: who can attract the most customers, who can capture new markets the fastest and who can get the highest return on their investments. E-commerce websites have allowed sales teams to become more efficient, especially within the B2B market. Sales team members save time and become more productive when an e-commerce website is available for customers to fill out their own orders through a spreadsheet ordering format.
Allowing e-commerce software to take some of the tasks that were previously completed manually by sales teams and digitize them increases productivity. Founder of B2X Partners Justin King analyzed B2B sales from Forst & Sullivan, which are expected to reach $12 trillion by 2020. “If a sales team is looking at e-commerce as a threat or as a hit to their personal income, they won’t get behind an effort like this,” says King. “Bringing them into the fold early and incorporating them into your e-commerce team early is important.”
“In most cases, a few sales reps will naturally latch onto the idea. Bringing them into the fold early and incorporating them into your e-commerce team early is important.” — Justin King, 2017
E-commerce can be used as a tool for B2B sales teams. E-commerce websites can take large amounts of data and condense them into a portable fashion, essentially allowing your sales representatives to access your entire inventory from anywhere. Dirxion online catalogs serve as both a reference tool to sales representatives and a familiar, fully-integrated e-commerce experience for customers. For instance, Dirxion customer Proface America uses spreadsheet ordering functions in their online catalogs, which allows customers to independently place orders, freeing sales representatives from having to complete the process manually. Dirxion online catalogs can also be easily updated, thanks to in-house production and development teams, ensuring all sales representatives, no matter where they are, has access to fully-updated product lines and prices. In doing so, Dirxion customers mitigate production, printing and distribution costs previously associated with constructing print catalogs.
Global B2B e-commerce has already outgrown B2C, with the B2B e-commerce market expected to reach $1.1 trillion in value in 2019 as compared to B2C ($480 billion), according to Forrester. B2B e-commerce on the global scale remains in its infancy, despite the market having some sort of B2B e-commerce for the past two decades. At one point in the late 90s, Gartner estimated B2B e-commerce would reach $7.2 trillion by 2004.
The majority of the business world is now online, but technology adoption has moved at a slower-than-average pace within the B2B e-commerce sector. The technology and systems of the average B2B business fell below rising standards set by larger B2B corporations who could afford to invest in e-commerce technology. According to a 2015 survey conducted by eMarketer, 55 percent of B2B corporations in the “Leader” category of technology adoption considered e-commerce investment critically important for sales.
“We are still fairly early in the maturity. It’s started to accelerate, but adoption has been a little slow. In the next five years, we’ll probably see a significant amount of growth in B2B ecommerce. —Brian Walker, SAP Hybris
The Chinese market for B2B e-commerce has grown at an increasingly rapid rate, netting $2.3 trillion in e-commerce sales in 2015, 80 percent of that being exclusively from B2B sales, according to Cross-border eCommerce. Compared to the U.S.’s B2B e-commerce value, China’s will reach $2.1 trillion by 2020 with companies such as Alibaba (valued at $264 billion) bolstering China’s exports.
Dirxion online catalogs give B2B businesses an opportunity to tap into the developing global e-commerce market. Businesses that fail to include and accommodate for an international market essentially choose to leave sales on the table. Business Wire forecasts English-language exclusive sites will account for only 33 percent of online global purchasing in 2020. Dirxion online catalogs can support a variety of languages or multiple languages at once. For instance, Dirxion customer Kennametal has a language toggle feature on their online catalogs to support languages such as French and Japanese.
The message from manufacturers to distributors is to get your e-commerce up to snuff, according to recent surveys conducted by Modern Distribution Management (MDM). A post earlier this month summarized some of the findings and analyses that pointed toward the importance of online transaction practices.
Dean Mueller and Jonathan Bein of Real Results Marketing are quoted in the MDM article, and they believe manufacturers understand that “the path to sales growth includes offering products in multiple channels, with e-commerce at the forefront.”
Mueller and Bein state that manufactures want to partner with distributors who have a more-established e-commerce channel because they “don’t have time to nurture distributors without solid e-commerce options.” MDM supports this claim with statistics that show manufacturers are actually further along in their e-commerce development than distributors. According to MDM, the percentage of manufacturers who report e-commerce as less than 10 percent of total revenue is lowering (from 57 percent in 2015 to 41 percent in 2016); meanwhile, the number of manufacturers reporting 10-30 percent e-commerce revenue is growing (15 percent increase from 2015-2016).
Distributors, on the other hand, haven’t been as quick to shift from the nascent (fewer than 10 percent revenue) to the mature (10-30 percent of revenue) stage. There has been only a 7 percent drop in the nascent stage and a corresponding 5-percent gain in the mature stage. In other words, distributors aren’t growing their e-commerce revenue as quickly as manufacturers.
MDM also claims that manufacturers are deliberately looking for distributors that will help develop markets and drive traffic to online channels. “They want partners that will help sell product benefits through the online channel, such as adding short videos about the products to their websites,” the article states.
Dirxion has seen an emphasis placed on rich media among its online catalogs customers. This emphasis has resulted in new developments like the “Videos” tab that stores a library of videos within the online catalogs interface. HD Supply showcases 14 different categories in its online catalogs videos tab, which can be found on the left-hand side of its interface.
In linking product numbers to e-commerce pages, Dirxion plays a vital role in strengthening the distributor’s e-commerce results. One of the most notable examples of this is MSC, whose e-commerce revenues continue to climb. Please visit the previous link for more information on Dirxion’s work with MSC.
Many B2B catalog providers do business in a variety of countries, cultures and languages. Without the translated catalog, a lot of business could be lost in translation. That is why we think it is important to support a wide selection of languages in our online catalog product.
Among our customers, one of the best practices is use a toggle to switch between languages supported by the print catalog. Industrial metalworking manufacturer, Kennametal, is a prime example, whose online catalog supports 14 languages under one URL. Canadian industrial tools supplier Acklands Grainger has a drop-down toggle to choose between English or French.
If separate URLs are more desirable, consider YP eDirectories. They needed an option for two languages, French and English, to better serve customers in French or English speaking provinces. Instead of using one landing page with a multi-lingual drop down, they chose to use two different links/landing pages and split their directories using that technique.
A third option was used by KohlerPeople where we created a landing page with their six languages under each cover. It works well because the user knows which language they want and they can easily select it.
In a global economy that requires us to do business in multiple languages, these options are important. The primary goal of the online catalog is to expand the reach of your publications, and ignoring foreign languages is a sure-fire way not to do that.