After the significant growth of B2C e-commerce platforms, established retail players were preparing for their grandeur entry into B2B. While it took B2C players decades to gain popularity, B2B players have achieved impressive traction and are likely to hit $12 trillion in sales in 2020.
Despite being slow with technological adoption, B2B retail players have gained impressively in the past decade. Today, 17% of B2B sales in the US are carried out through e-commerce platforms.
Significant trends that have led to such widespread adoption of B2B players include:
Changing priorities of customers: A Google study in 2015 revealed that 50% of B2B customers were millennials while another study suggests that 73% of decision-making positions at B2B organizations are now filled with millennials. Since millennials love to shop online because of the unique user experience and instant gratification that online shopping provides, B2B e-commerce players are gaining from it.
Flexibility to choose from the best: Be it logistics, payment, or sellers, today customers are spoilt with choices. Earlier, businesses had limited options, which affected the price of the final product and the overall customer experience offered. Today, B2B platforms are taking a cue from the popular B2C e-commerce players and are offering multiple payment options to choose from. These online stores are now spoiling customers with the facility to choose from a pool of vendors and carry out negotiations digitally. These time-saving and cost-effective measures are adding to the popularity and wide-spread adoption of B2B e-commerce.
Better post-sale services: B2B platforms have facilitated payment on credit options along with policies that support organizations who acquire product/raw-material in bulk. With policies favoring the customers, the reliance on such platforms increased which reflects positively in B2B e-commerce’s popularity.
Customer Experience Challenges faced on B2B E-commerce Platforms
In the B2B environment, big corporate houses are the customers and they procure raw-material in enormous quantities, which requires substantial research, negotiation, and payment flexibility. Since B2B customers are always functioning with tight timelines, they need to be provided with the best customer experience or they will look at other viable options. By ensuring a quality experience, B2B online stores can gain loyal customers.
Some of the prime customer experience challenges on B2B e-commerce platforms are related to:
Brand Interference & Fake Products: Online stores allow both reputed brands and local businesses to upload their catalogs online. The opportunity is being misused by varied sellers for personal gains. Sellers are often adding fake products and are labeling them as genuine, which affects the sales of genuine sellers and impacts the overall reputation of the online portal.
Brand interference is when random products start appearing for branded keywords like “Nike shoes”, this is very common on B2C portals but with B2B stores gaining momentum, thugs have started abusing it too.
Here’s an example of brand interference, in the image below, Lakhani shoe shows up when searched for “Nike Shoes”. Here Lakhani shoe is a genuine product but it impacts the overall customer experience.
Compromised User Experience: As mentioned earlier, millennials are contributing heavily to the growth of B2B portals, we must keep in mind that they are looking for an experience similar to the one on B2C online portals. Players like Amazon and Flipkart have mastered the art of offering a quality customer experience. They work on the nitty-gritty details to ensure a better experience is provided.
Some of the UX related factors that affect customer experience are:
- Lack of progress bar that keep customers from abandoning carts
- Extremely slow websites that take forever to load
- Excessive upselling: filling all pages with product recommendations
- Lack of search bar on all pages that makes customers go back to the home page just to search for a new product
Lack of Customer Specific offerings/ Packages: B2B e-commerce industry is on the rise because it is cost-effective and time-efficient. It allows key stakeholders to make evaluated decisions from the comfort of their workplaces, which itself is a rewarding experience. B2B players are having a tough time creating a system that allows customers to find the perfect cost opportunity and finalize deals online while B2C players have created “theme-based buckets” like “$10 Store” and “50% off Products” to help customers make the most of cost opportunities.
The attached image is an example from Flipkart, it showcases varied theme-based buckets, which makes it easier for users to find the right product.
How Catalog Management Impacts Customer Experience?
The catalog makes for the base upon which successful e-commerce stores are made. It is the unique combination of the well-written product description, high-quality images, and immaculately attributed values that makes it easier for customers to find the right product and make informed decisions, almost instantly.
Let’s discuss how catalog management can help B2B players improve customer experience:
Improving Product Discovery: Unlike the B2C audience, which is a mix of people from all age brackets, B2B has a very narrowed audience. On B2B platforms, people are not browsing through products without any intention of buying, which makes faster product discovery an important attribute of the B2B platform.
Lack of properly defined categories is the primary reason why customers are unable to find the right product. With properly defined categories, sellers will be able to list their products without any error assisting customers to find the relevant products instantly.
Creates Cross-Selling Opportunities: When product details are entered without errors and all attributes are added fairly, it gets easier for engines to create the perfect combination of products and present it to customers. Such immaculate use of product details can drive sales, improve customer lifetime value, and generate repetitive sales.
Educated Sellers for better Customer Experience: When an effective catalog management system is placed at the helm, it gets easier for everyone involved. Sellers can master the art of uploading catalogs, which helps them gain visibility and also makes it easier for customers to reach consensus.
How to Improve a B2B Catalog Management?
It is a fact that robust catalog management can alter customer experience and platform efficiency for the better. With so much clamor surrounding catalog management, let’s get to the base of chaos and try to decipher how B2B e-commerce players can improve catalog management:
Proper Labelling and Categorisation
Let’s start with the basic, the first step toward building a vigorous catalog management system, e-commerce players need to define categories effectively. It requires an industry expert to create categories that go beyond semantic errors. Often customers refer to batteries as “cells” and mobile devices as “cell phones” hence, it is necessary to have clearly defined categories.
Three steps through which proper hierarchy can be maintained to offer an incomparable experience:
- Clearly Defined Categories: As mentioned earlier, clearly defined categories will avoid confusion and make it easier for customers to find the desired product within seconds.
- Proper Sorting of Products: When products are sorted based on categories, it gets easier for recommendation engines to rank them for relevant keywords and make products appear in related recommendation tabs.
- Streamlined Listing of Products by Sellers: Sellers must be asked to upload their products within already defined categories and listings and discouraged from creating new listings for every product. When multiple sellers add their products to the same list, it gets easier for customers to view multiple offers and make the wisest decision.
Streamlined Catalog Management Processes
A catalog management process can only be successful when all the internal and international guidelines are adhered to. To have a platform that offers incomparable user experience, best product discovery, and a rewarding shopping experience, B2B players need to streamline their catalog management.
Here’s how to do it correctly:
- Catalog Quality Checks: Once all categories are defined and products are listed by sellers, industry experts should use their expertise to run catalog quality checks. These checks will determine products that need revision and also separate fake ones from the real ones.
- Attribute Value Addition: By adding attribute values, B2B platforms can make it easier for search engines to rank them for relevant keywords. Both the on-site engine and search engines like Google use these values to identify, rank, and recommend products.
- Brand Interference Reduction: To offer a better experience and reduce complaints, platforms need to focus on brand interference reduction. When attribute values are added correctly and removed from fake or imitated products, then those products do not rank for branded keywords, which reduces the chances of products getting returned.
Opportunities for Business Growth
Catalog management not only offers a great customer experience by ranking relevant products faster but it also opens new doors of opportunities. These new doors often lead to opportunities, which can prove to be a game-changer, and here’s how to do it:
- Using attribute values to create theme-based buckets can help platforms maximize cost opportunities. Both B2B and B2C customers use cost as a key decision influencer hence creating cost-based buckets can help platforms make the most of every customer.
- Accurate Product Recommendation: A well-established catalog management system will use the available information to generate perfect product recommendations leading to higher customer lifetime value and per-customer sales. Such recommendations save time and improve user experience by leaps and bounds.
Unlike B2C, the focus here is on customer retention and relationship management because every client on B2B is equivalent to hundreds of B2C clients—in respect of volume and sale price. B2C industry players are taking cues from B2B and are not likely to commit the same mistakes, which explains the mammothlike growth registered by B2C in such a small stint.
The unbeatable combination of mobile commerce and digital transaction facilities that are secure and easier to use has attracted corporate houses. Veterans from every industry are eyeing B2B as a viable option and it is just the beginning of the world’s biggest paradigm shift.