Can you believe that Amazon.com is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year?! When exploring e-commerce information for inspiration for this blog post, I came across some interesting historical facts about online commerce that date back into the early 1990s. In 1992 the first online credit card purchase (which was NOT a secure purchase, by the way) was made on a predecessor to Amazon called www.books.com. The first secured credit card transaction was the CD “Ten Summoner’s Tales” by Sting in 1994. EBay rolled out a year after Amazon, and together the two companies paved the way into the world of online transactions that we know today.
At Two Rivers Marketing we deal with many B2B manufacturers and service providers that on the surface would not appear to be candidates for e-commerce business models. In fact, our agency does work with clients that have implemented e-commerce successfully and are continuing to grow their online revenue opportunities year over year. The distributor channel is still, and likely will always be, the primary channel for most B2B manufacturer sales. But, the idea of having an e-commerce option to grow market share has been adopted by many B2B manufacturers across the globe.
Companies are adapting to a growing demand among business buyers who want to streamline their own purchasing behavior in the digital age. Recent reporting released from Gartner Group and Forrester Research forecasts B2B e-commerce sales to top $1 trillion (with a “t”) annually in the United States alone this year. That is two times the estimated B2C e-commerce sales in the U.S. Although companies would not expect a customer to purchase a large, capital investment online, they will buy other ancillary goods. The Forrester Research indicates growing demand among businesses for online purchasing in categories such as supplies, tools, replacement parts, technologies, components and services to keep their operations running day to day.
B2B e-tailers need to apply the same kind of approach and logic to the online purchasing experience as consumer brands. Internet Retailer just released the first research publication based on B2B e-commerce trends, which is the 224-page 2015 Guide to B2B E-Commerce. It reveals that B2B buyers desire essentially the same features that they find on B2C sites: on-site search functionality, detailed product information, product comparisons, high quality photography, reviews from other buyers and social media integrations.
There are also a multitude of marketing technologies that are available to support and enhance the e-customer experience. These include platforms that work in conjunction with your website such as Marketo, Eloqua or Pardot among others. These technologies help capture and manage data so you are serving the buyer with a personalized experience. The e-commerce site will identify the returning buyer and can present them with products or special offers that align with their profile and buying habits.
This approach has been used for several years by Amazon.com. If you purchase a product on Amazon, you will always be presented with related products that were also reviewed or purchased by people who have purchased your selected product. Another example is that if you have a buyer that has researched a product on the website but didn’t purchase, they can be presented with a special offer on that product on their next visit to the site. All these tactics support product trial and nurture additional sales opportunities.
E-commerce will continue to grow its percentage of overall sales for the foreseeable future. B2B e-commerce growth will continue to be a priority among manufacturers that recognize the opportunity that lies before them. E-commerce: It’s not just for B2C anymore!