As a regular online shopper, when we think about Online Shopping or eCommerce, we mostly picture B2C eCommerce like Amazon. But, a huge part of Online eCommerce is B2B eCommerce. According to Forrester Research, in 2014 the B2B sales in US was $692 billion and that was a very conservative number. This year the prediction is that, it will reach $780 billion and sales will reach more than a trillion dollars by 2020.
So, what is the role that Content Management Systems like Sitecore can play to influence the sales of a B2B eCommerce company? Both B2B and B2C eCommerce need some sort of CMS for managing content, media, digital assets etc. for an eCommerce Site. Those are mostly similar in functionalities. The real difference is how Digital Marketing or in case of Sitecore, how the Experience Platform will be used to drive the B2B sales. But, before diving into that discussion, let’s look at what B2B businesses think about the importance and effectiveness of Content Management Systems. Below is a survey result I picked up from a Salesforce blog.
As per this survey, Marketing Analytics (Experience Analytics in Sitecore), Content Management (Sitecore), Marketing Automation (Engagement Planning in Sitecore) and Predictive Intelligence (Personalization in Sitecore) are very critical and effective. The good thing is Sitecore is one of the Market Leaders on these areas and Sitecore is capable of putting B2B businesses in advantageous position if used effectively.
For the last few years, I have been working mainly in the area of integrating eCommerce with Sitecore and spent a lot of time understanding B2B clients’ business and requirements. The B2B commerce is different and the most important difference is that, a Business buys products from B2B site for reselling or running it’s business. Where as in B2C an individual buys products for his/her use. In both cases, a user buys products, but in B2B, user buys it for his/her company. That’s why in B2B the buying is less impulsive and that makes a huge difference on how the Personalization features should be used. For example, based on what a B2B user has bought or looked at in the past, a Quick List can be recommended instead of a Product. A Quick List is a list of Products that can be added all together to the Cart. It’s effective because it speeds up the buying process for the customer.
Lots of times the B2B user is a Customer Service Representative (CSR) and buys products for the Customers he/she is assigned to serve. A CSR not only buys products for the customer, they also educates them, answers their questions and creates a long term relationship with them. The B2B site can be and should be personalized for the CSR. For example, it will be helpful for CSRs if they can quickly find the documentation of the products. Based on what customer he/she is helping at that time and customer’s past buying data, documents, articles etc. can be made available to CSRs in the personalized website. The CSRs are knowledgeable people and they usually use Quick Order tools to buy products. The Quick Order Tool should be made more accessible to CSRs than regular users. These are just a few examples of how personalization can be used in a B2B eCommerce site.
More and more B2B businesses are entering the digital market. B2B businesses are going from printed catalog to Email Marketing. Most of our clients see the power of Personalized Email Marketing and the return of investing on Intelligent Targeted Marketing campaigns using software like Sitecore. The user base is changing too. More and more people from the younger generation are entering the B2B space. On their personal time they are online shoppers and they expect similar experiences from B2B business too. B2B businesses must change to satisfy this generation.
Software like Sitecore will make a huge impact on the B2B market in the coming years because of their capability to make businesses reach more customers, using less resources and in less time. Furthermore it will make the shopping experience intriguing and satisfying for the user and thus will attract more customers. I am looking forward to integrating more and more B2B businesses with Sitecore.