How can distributors ride on the B2B digital commerce wave?

B2B Digital Commerce

The pandemic has left most distributors high and dry. Those who have previously invested in B2B digital commerce find themselves relatively buffered as they steer operations online. Those who haven’t yet risk losing quite a sizeable revenue share of this new normal. Needless to say, the current scenario is just a precedent of what the future holds. Investments in direct-to-website commerce are among the top 3 B2B budget allocations for this year. Given the current momentum, estimates suggest the market will reach a valuation of USD 20.9 trillion by 2027. 

As distributors take small but steady steps into this space, inhibitions about custom pricing, contract terms and conditions, and payment complexities are bound to deter them. But with the right technology and e-commerce expertise these barriers can be easily ironed out. Plus, going digital expands the horizon for B2B players to explore newer geographies and untapped demand.

But a mere online presence won’t cut it. Distributors will need a highly intuitive digital commerce platform designed to provide a frictionless buying experience. To help both debutants and existing players get the basics right, especially during this pandemic, we’ve rounded up some key buyer journey aspects to bear in mind:

Simplify the experience

41% of buyers expect an Amazon-like experience; raising the benchmark for B2B players. Moreover, it’s important to note that given the pandemic reality, most buyers will be fairly new to placing orders online. That’s why mirroring the B2C experience is imperative.

Offering faceted search and reducing the clicks it takes to find the relevant information are a few ways of optimizing your website. Access to high-quality product content is a non-negotiable aspect of rich digital experience. Also, focus on winning their confidence with product visuals in rich formats like 360-degree views, buying guides, and videos. These not only aid in delivering a pain-free customer experience, but also accelerate the sales process and increases repeat purchases. In fact, 48% of B2B shoppers expect such features in their shopping experience.

Provide custom quotes

One of the major differences between B2C and distributor websites is the principle that buyers with large order values deserve better price negotiation/discounts. And moving to a digital platform lets you do this digitally. You can make this easy for them with a quick multiple-option online form with built-in algorithms for every combination of a product and its buying options. On submitting it, your buyers can see the price quote before completing their order.

Here’s a quick example. Oasis is a disc manufacturer in the US. Its online quote form offers various permutations and combinations of product types, quantity options, production preferences, and shipping options. Plus the final pricing is well broken down so that buyers know what they are paying for and by when they can expect their orders delivered.

Building the backend for it not too difficult either. Simply enlist the questions your sales rep typically needs answered to offer a quote. Using a flowchart and a spreadsheet you can map various possible choices for each step, and which combinations are valid. This should make it fairly easy for your developers to build a quotation system.

Offer self-service

As more buyers seek online options to fulfill their purchase needs, they are also hard-pressed for time. So, ensure they have full access to in-depth product or service information, chat support, and are able to schedule orders. Use your CRM/ chat support to glean out recurring buyer questions and address them in your FAQs to make the self-service experience as fulfilling as possible.

Furthermore, try to identify areas within their purchase journey that can be automated. Allow them to make stand-alone orders, edit scheduled orders, and request support. Studies suggest more than 60% of B2B buyers prefer accessing product information online, inventory availability, delivery details, as well as paying invoices. Furthermore, 1 in 3 buyers prefer vendors who offer online sales functionalities.

Provide contextual product catalogs

While having a huge product line is great, placing them in the context of your buyer’s needs will make it sellable. In other words, help them perform better by offering task-tailored catalogs when they visit your site. For instance, if you sell glassware, design unique catalogs that help convince everyone from a restaurant manager, a club owner to a cruise in-charge. By showcasing how your offerings fit into their realities you help them convince better up the hierarchy.

While buyers browse for a particular product it doesn’t hurt to display other products that complement it. These could be accessories or backup options. Focus on embedding each product page with the right tags and links to interrelate them.

So if your client lands on a page related to computer monitors, ensure keyboards, mouse, pen drives and other similar items also show up. If you sell ovens and kitchen equipment, pepper these product pages with baking related items, like instant mixes, bakeware, recipe books, etc. Doing this will not just help your buyers realize you understand their needs but also increase their order value.

Be transparent about delivery

Given current supply chain disruptions, proactive communication about out-of-stock events or delays with realistic shipment dates go a long way in maintaining valuable client relationships. Try to get an edge over your rivals by giving your buyers real-time inventory visibility.

Since buyers hunt for budget-friendly deals, simplifying your pricing and shipping costs will help them clearly see the value you offer. Remember to be empathetic in your communications instead of hard selling. It will help you build a lasting brand recall.

Consider PWA to improve mobile experiences

PWAs or Progressive Web Apps are web applications that bring native-app like user experience with offline capabilities, push notifications, and improved speed. This enables a better mobile experience than a typical mobile-optimized website, making them prominent platforms for lead generation within large-sized businesses.

For example, Alibaba, the world’s largest B2B market place wanted to deliver a great user experience for both, its first-time visitors (who often come through the mobile web) and repeat visitors (who often use the native app). It knew that its buyers always debated the idea of downloading their app just to complete a purchase. By adopting PWA the e-commerce giant saw a whopping 76% boost conversions across browsers. Additionally, it recorded 14% more monthly active users on iOS and 30% more on Android.

All in all, distributors will need the right mix of digital and a keen eye on evolving buyer patterns to accelerate growth in the new normal. The future will belong to those who take a digital-first approach, explore new channels, and track buyer shifts proactively.

Netscribes provides research-driven e-commerce solutions to help B2B players better respond to evolving market and customer needs. If you are looking to enhance your B2B e-commerce experience, we can help. Contact us at

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