Business March 1, 2020 Last updated March 13th, 2020 243 Reads share

E-Commerce: Imminent Challenges for B2B Businesses and How to Overcome Them

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When eCommerce is the subject of discussion, not many people bear the B2B perspective in mind. Discussions mostly center around B2C. That does not, however, make the B2B eCommerce market any less significant. According to data from Google, B2B eCommerce has been receiving rising interest over the last five years with no sign of decline.

Additionally, according to B2B News Network, the US B2B eCommerce market size would be approximately $2 trillion by 2023. The market research giant Forrester has projected a similar number.

If you need a perspective, well, this number is about six times the valuation of VISA and about twice the valuation of Alphabet Inc.

Globally, the sales revenue from B2B eCommerce is projected to reach a staggering $3.6 trillion by 2024, which happens to be over half of its B2C counterpart. However, such enormous growth projections are accompanied by a number of challenges for b2b sellers.

Before discussing those, let us address the core question regarding b2b eCommerce.

What is B2B eCommerce?

B2B eCommerce is the transaction that occurs between two businesses. For instance, Tesla asks the TYB Growth and Marketing team for inbound marketing services over the internet. Both parties reach an agreement about the fees for the services which are to be paid through a payment gateway. This transaction would comprise a B2B eCommerce.

Similarly, if a company sells server bandwidth or cloud storage to TYB and receives the fees digitally, that would be another example of b2b eCommerce as well.

So in a nutshell, any online transaction between two businesses with monetary transactions happing online is a B2B eCommerce transaction. With that covered, let us now discuss three crucial challenges b2b sellers are facing in the eCommerce domain and how they can overcome those.

#1st Challenge of B2B eCommerce

B2b buying cycles are getting longer and more complex:

When shopping online, people usually check around five pieces of content before they make a decision. Such buyers’ journey behavior is observed in brick-and-mortar shopping as well.

For b2b business owners, the buyers’ journey is a lot more complex. The reason is, they consider a larger number of factors before finalizing a purchase decision.

These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Potential ROI

How much would the new purchase contribute to the efficiency of the business?

  • Ease of acquiring and adoption

How easy is it for a business to get a new product/service and adopt it into the current system?

  • Capacity of scaling

Would the new purchase be able to adjust to business growth?

  • The present financial condition of the business

Can a business afford a new product/service at this moment?

  • The current user base of the product/service

Are the existing users of the product/service similar to the business willing to make a purchase?

Stat data that corroborates this challenge

The following data have led to the deduction stated above.

  • 9 out of every 10 b2b businesses perform online searches before they make a purchase.

This behavior is classic for B2C. It is an indication that B2C and B2B buying behaviors are overlapping. This data also indicates the availability of B2B product/service review posts.

  • On average, a b2b person responsible for vetting a purchase decision performs over ten searches before deciding.

Since a B2B purchase decision-maker is accountable for every purchase, this person would try to get a well-rounded idea or user-opinion about the product/service in question. This stat also indicates the insufficiency of material that addresses the needs of b2b buyers.

  • Over 8 out of every 10 businesses have reported that most content detailing a product or service irritated them.

There can be no clearer indication of the shortage of quality review content! Such a shortage makes it difficult for b2b businesses to choose products/services. Such a shortage makes selling to these businesses significantly tougher.

How can B2B sellers overcome this challenge?

What b2b sellers need to do are:

  • Get more details about the business operation and buying behavior of their target customers.                       

This information would enable them to locate unique pain-points of customers which competition has missed.

  • Produce greater quantity and variety of helpful content for every stage of the buyers’ journey.

B2B buyers, according to statistics, are going to perform extensive research before purchase. It is paramount that they find the right content at the right time and in the right format from the seller on the web to address their information need.

  • Perform an empathy test for every piece of content.

For b2b buyers, this is crucial that they step into their customers’ shoes and analyze every aspect of the awareness, consideration, and decision stage (the entire buyers’ journey) content.

#2nd Challenge of B2B eCommerce

Measuring the ROI of content marketing is getting increasingly difficult.

Measuring ROI is not an exact science. For B2B content marketers, it gets additionally complex because of various factors ranging from convoluted buyers’ journey to higher demand of data-driven addressing of customers’ pain points.

Since B2B buyers would review over 10 pieces of content before making up their minds, measuring the impact of one single content on the lead generation process is a challenge for the sellers.

Stat data that corroborates this challenge

The following stat data indicate that measuring ROI is a tough challenge for B2B content marketers:

  • About 7 out of every 10 marketers are not confident about content performance measurement strategy and ROI.
  • Over 6 out of every 10 B2B content marketers don’t measure their marketing ROI.
  • About half of the content marketers cannot measure ROI.
  • Over 40% of businesses would like to have an ROI calculator to augment their pre-purchase research.

These stat data indicate several issues B2B content marketers are facing.

Three of those are:

  • They are facing difficulty with fixing and defining content marketing KPIs.
  • They haven’t formed a well-rounded and scalable marketing strategy.
  • They are not adequately informed of their own challenges in their conversion process.

How can B2B sellers overcome this challenge?

The most crucial step to overcoming the challenge of measuring ROI is defining content marketing success.

For example, at WebAlive, a leading Australian web development company, the KPIs of awareness stage content are the following:

  • Number of unique monthly visitors
  • Percentage of visitors who have consumed at least 65% of a piece of content
  • Percentage of visitors who have moved to a consideration-stage content that builds on the awareness-stage one.

Apart from determining content KPIs, it is also paramount that content marketers know how much of their marketing effort is translating into revenue. Since the ultimate goal of content marketing is to boost consumer base and revenue, this metric should be at the core of every B2B content marketing strategy.

#3rd Challenge of B2B eCommerce

Sales funnel identification is getting complex and costly.

B2B sellers are facing enormous difficulty identifying their sales funnel. As a result, they are having a hard time figuring out the exact journey through which a prospect converts into a paid customer.

This journey tells volumes about the pain points, source of information and research behavior of a b2b buyer. Thus having a detailed idea of this path is crucial to sellers.

Stat data that corroborates this challenge

Data that led to the above inference are:

This data indicates the sheer volume of content generation. The more data there are, the more would be the consumption. Thus putting the b2b buyer in the desired frame of mind would be a challenge for most sellers.

  • About 2 out of every 5 b2b professionals have acknowledged the inability to reach the right person at the right time as their biggest obstacle.

When reaching the right person is difficult, forming a funnel for this person gets more time-consuming and costs more money.

  • About half a billion people (more than the population of the USA) view over twenty billion blog posts each month.

This data led to the inference that content consumption is on the rise. As a result, the attention span of the prospect would get even shorter. Furthermore, a b2b seller would need to overcome greater competition to get in front of its potential customer.

  • The percentage of useful data would jump to about 40%.

The colossal volume of data being generated is evident from this stat. This information also means that b2b sellers must allocate more funds and resources to analyze data to extract valuable insights about their customer behavior and relevant pain-points.

How can B2B sellers overcome this challenge?

B2B sellers can do the following to prepare better for this challenge:

  • Enhance omnichannel presence.

When b2b buyers find content from a seller on many social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn) addressing a diverse range of pain-points, they would find it easier to trust that seller.

  • Inclusive product/service development.

A b2b seller would benefit from including 3-4 of their target customers in the product/service development process right from the beginning. When the product/service is finally ready, these customers do not have to be convinced to buy.

Furthermore, the seller would have data from their own customers for the purpose of conversion rate hike in the future.

As the data set from these customers would be concentrated, analysis of it would not be overly expensive.

Last but not least, the content marketing strategy of the seller would be purely case-study based which would lead to greater credibility for their content.

Some Additional Takeaways for B2B Sellers

The following information would help you chisel your business strategy a better fit for your customers’ needs:

  • LinkedIn is about four times more effective for lead generation than Facebook.

LinkedIn is a rich source of leads for B2B businesses. Thus optimizing presence and engagement on this platform should be a top priority for b2b sellers.

  • Over 7 out of every 10 b2b executives say that customer expectation for personalization is greater than ever.

This data indicates the importance of optimization of all marketing and sales content for user experience.

  • Businesses that maintain a blog are twice as likely to convert their email traffic as those that do not.

Having a blog helps a business exhibit its expertise, accomplishments and provide helpful content to its site visitors. As a result, prospects who email a business are already down the conversion funnel. Thus it would take less effort to convert them.

Programmatic advertising is the automated buying and selling of online ads. Instead of manually targeting the audience and paying for every impression, businesses only pay for ads delivered to the right people at the right time.

  • A thorough market research coupled with effective testing of any campaign can save a fortune after the launch of a product or service.

Wrapping Up

Since most of the b2b transactions are going to take place online, b2b sellers must acquire greater information on customer behavior in the digital space. No amount of emphasis on this point would ever be enough! As customer expectation for personalization is spiking, the challenges stated above would aggravate further.

As stated above, a carefully planned and data-driven method of service delivery would help b2b sellers not only acquire new customers but also retain existing ones. So if you want to serve your customers better, do stay informed and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Do let me know which challenge you can relate to or are currently facing with your b2b sales or marketing strategy in the comments section.

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Mohsin Ahmad

Mohsin Ahmad

I am a senior content strategist at WebAlive, a leading Australian ecommerce solution and web development company. My responsibility ranges from preparing buyer personas, formulating the brand voice, writing articles and performance tracking. My hobbies are: table tennis (I am heavily passionate about it), abstract sketching and enjoying the lake-view through my cabin window.

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