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You need more than a website to sell online

Person writing on a blackboard in a conference room full of people
For B2B e-commerce to work, companies need operational alignment, foundational business tools and a culture of innovation.
Person writing on a blackboard in a conference room full of people
June 12, 2023

Businesses are consumers too

B2B ecommerce is expected to reach nearly $2 trillion in sales in 2023 according to the 2023 U.S. B2B Ecommerce Market Report. That’s a significant chunk of a roughly $14 trillion market.

Companies are adding online sales channels to keep up with digital-first consumers. In “real life,” shoppers can buy coffee on their phones or a car through a vending machine. So, why should the B2B experience be any different?

One reason: It’s a lot harder than it sounds to stand up an e-commerce channel.

Manufacturers need real-time visibility into complex processes, pricing dynamics and configurations to operate an online storefront. That requires process alignment, foundational business tools and a culture of innovation.

 

1. Process alignment

E-commerce is an opportunity for B2B companies to scale and meet aggressive growth targets. But before they can sell more, they need to understand how to price products.

To sell products online without sales team intervention, manufacturers need to understand what their products cost — at that exact moment. They also need insight into discounting practices, customer credit history, product availability and other variables.

In most manufacturing companies, the current sales process can’t just be digitized. Sales reps don’t sell the same way, even within the same company, division or region. Organizations need to map out all the processes and inputs that go into a quote — and standardize them — before they can automate pricing online.

Historical knowledge about pricing, inputs and customers needs to be collected and organized. Then, companies need to create company-wide alignment on a fundamental, repeatable pricing structure.

 

2. Foundational business tools

Repeatable pricing doesn’t mean static. Quoting tools can (and should) pull in business rules and dynamic data, such as material costs, interest rates or customer buying history. That means data can’t live in Excel files or notepads.

Companies need a technology stack — and critical integrations — to power e-commerce capabilities. It’s unlikely that any out-of-the-box product will match the business processes and pricing rules you create. Instead, you need to find ways to connect systems and inject decisioning tools with the right data. For example, a CRM could connect to a third-party pricing system, current inventory data, your financial system or production schedules.

Figure out the data you need to make instant decisions about pricing and availability and present them to customers in real time. Customers need to see your quote in simple, unambiguous terms so they can make decisions and move on. So, tools need to come together in a customer-friendly, digitally engaging e-commerce platform.

Here’s the good news: The digital experience has a payoff for companies too. The tools that enable B2B e-commerce also inform process improvements. If you collect, store and analyze B2B sales data, you’ll get feedback on what wins business and how far you can expand margins.

 

3. A culture of innovation

E-commerce brings everything together: your business model, sales model, manufacturing, logistics, financing and customer experience. It’s not just a website. To engage in B2B e-commerce, companies need to embrace technology, innovation and change.

B2B technology is only effective if it’s adopted, embraced and continually updated to match business priorities. Just digitizing paper sales processes won’t transform the business. Someone needs to be passionate about selling to customers in new and unique ways. And employees need to accept and support change.

 

How Wipfli can help

Wipfli helps companies compete for new B2B sales opportunities online. Our organizational consultants and technology professionals can help you align business processes and technology around your sales goals — and help you find new ways to grow. 

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