Borrowing B2C Sensibilities to Build a Better B2B Experience February 1, 2010
By Josef Ruef
It turns out that purchasing agents and other corporate buyers are no more forgiving than their consumer-oriented counterparts when it comes to slow, bulky ecommerce sites. And that frustration is playing a large role in the trend to make the online shopping experience faster, more efficient, and more convenient for B2B buyers.
In the electronic components market, major players are revamping their B2B sites with B2C perspectives. Avnet has gone public with its adoption of best practices from consumer sites like Amazon.com. In doing so, company officials admitted that on its previous ecommerce site, “many of our customers had to either be really patient or simply stubborn to make a successful purchase.”
Avnet’s investments in website upgrades have favorably influenced its bottom line. Since refreshing its B2B site, Avnet has seen a 75 percent annual increase in ecommerce revenue and a 50 percent annual increase in site visitors. Similarly, distributors like Premier Farnell, TTI, RS, and Digi-Key have seen their web sales soar. In fact, Digi-Key reports that 66 percent of its sales were received over the web.
Companies that lead the advances in online commerce do so by optimizing their websites to serve a specific buying audience. In electronic components, that audience is the array of buyers with time-critical requirements that use the web heavily to make purchases. For example, production buyers turn to the web when demand rises in the short term and exceeds planned supply. When this happens, volume buyers immediately become shortage buyers with time critical needs.
Historically, manufacturers and distributors have focused their efforts on forecasted distribution which has meant they have not advanced their online capabilities to optimally meet the demands of buyers with time critical requirements. But that’s starting to change. With the increased emphasis on lean manufacturing and persistent volatility in demand, buyers are facing an ever greater need for “on demand” access to supply.
Now more than ever, buyers want their online shopping experiences at work to be like the B2C experiences they have after hours, at sites like Amazon.com, Priceline.com, and the like. They expect it, and companies like Verical are working to bridge the gap between the online shopping experiences in B2B and B2C ecommerce.
For instance, Verical’s recently-announced Bid Button gives shoppers a way to save extra money by submitting fixed bids on clearance items at prices lower than those published on Verical’s catalog listings. The one-click icon automates price negotiations between buyers and sellers, providing fast, hassle-free negotiations and immediate, definitive results. Buyers get instant confirmation of a bid’s acceptance or rejection.
As end-user demand continues to grow, companies will continue refining their B2B sites to reduce the number of screens, screen refreshes, and steps needed to complete a transaction. By making their sites flatter and faster, these companies reduce abandonment and increase conversion rates. Going forward, buyers can expect more B2C-influenced features like the Bid Button and a better overall B2B online shopping experience.