By 2020, B2B eCommerce sales will surpass B2C sales and reach $6.6 trillion. However, not all sellers are ready to capture their share of the growing market. To maximize opportunities companies should be providing potential customers with a multimedia experience. This is because buyers want all the background information they can get when it comes to major purchases. From images and videos to purchase reviews, potential customers are scouring the web for background information before contacting a salesperson.
To really get ahead, B2B sellers should utilize a 3D configurator to market personalized products and boost customer interaction.
Digital Journal: How big are B2B eCommerce sales expected to become?
Kris Goldhair: B2B eCommerce sales are growing immensely. In 2018, the industry surpassed $1 trillion and we can expect that number to be even higher as we approach the end of 2019. KBMax’s enterprise customers are hoping that ecommerce will account for 50 percent of their market shares in the near future. Since B2B products can be very expensive and highly specialized, it is unlikely that any B2B company will have 100 percent of its sales channeled through ecommerce, but a goal of 50 percent is the trend across industries. For example, KBMax’s customer Tuff Shed is now generating 10 percent of its sales from eCommerce and they are hoping to reach 50 percent in the next couple years.
DJ: What next-gen strategies should enterprises be adopting in order to attract new business?
Goldhair: Focus on the customer journey and customer experience. If the sales plan is to put products on the company website, then they have to make sure this is executed with the user experience in mind. B2B companies are notoriously not user-friendly with their websites and we see these problems all the time. Having a user experience that feels more B2C and presents products in a very visual and engaging way where you’re not putting up a wall to product info and data.
Traditionally, B2B companies have shied away from giving out product information until prospective customers give their contact information. But in the present day, people want to research products on their own and experience the product through something like visualization. This research phase is conducted before customers are ready to talk to a salesperson or give away contact information. B2B brands need to adapt their sales processes to account for customers’ changing preferences.
DJ: How important is it to develop an interactive sales experience for the customer?
Goldhair: Interactive sales can help generate more leads and close more deals, especially with custom products that don’t physically exist in a store or showroom. Visualization is especially important with manufactured products because it allows customers to see the final product and experience the customized elements. But the most important factor is offering a transparency with the customer by offering a user-friendly way to access product information.
DJ: How is the role of the salesperson changing in the digital age?
Goldhair: Customers don’t want to experience hardcore sales anymore, but still want support throughout the sales process. Today’s salesperson stays out of the way while giving the right level of detail and making sure to not be overly aggressive with traditional sales tactics. This approach will make sure customers have everything they need while salespeople stay more hands off. Marketing also needs to play a role in the sales process by offering the right and robust information on the website. Sales is now a cross-team effort and requires the alignment of sales and marketing more than ever before.
DJ: How can websites utilize 3D visualization?
Goldhair: There are a few different ways. There are examples, like our client Tuff Shed, where customers are configuring the whole product and will see everything they’re going to get. You can also use visualization as a lead generation tool by giving a virtual product tour. With B2B products, someone may not be comfortable buying a half a million dollar custom product by just using virtualization. But by giving a virtual tour, customers can get to know the product more and then enter into a more traditional B2B sales pipeline. So, companies can use the tool to directly lead to orders or to generate more leads. Both are strong ways to get customers to understand the product more and offer a more B2C-like experience.
DJ: How important is social media and eCommerce for B2B sales?
Goldhair: Facebook and Twitter aren’t very important for B2B. LinkedIn provides the most value when companies are looking for B2B providers, they’re going to look to their professional peers to see if the product is highly regarded in the professional community. B2B brands should focus on more thought-leadership style content through LinkedIn to promote trust in their product or service.
DJ: What strategies can be used for a custom product that don’t yet exist?
Goldhair: A custom product can mean different things. For some companies, you can build something that has literally never been built before, but that isn’t the case for most companies. Because of the product rules integrated into a CPQ software, the configurator can still allow it to happen and show what it will look like and cost and configure seemingly custom products.
In the manufacturing and engineering world, companies can create a one off — something that has never been built before, but won’t be able to use a configurator. Building a completely new product is still a good idea because it could lead to a core offering, these requests should be treated as part of the product development process. The idea with a configurator is mass customization where companies customize on a mass level to make customers feel like they have a lot of options to make a custom product, but with the rules built into the configurator on the back-end it will still be handled like a standard product.