According to the Centre for Retail Research, the average share of online purchases in Europe is estimated at 7% and the fastest growing retail market in Europe and North America. We buy our books on Amazon, our clothes on Asos, and we do our weekly grocery shop from the comfort of our sofa in Tesco’s online shop. We are used to finding what we are looking for in no time at all. With just a few clicks we have the purchase confirmation in our digital mailbox. We are used to tracking our parcels all around the world, reading reviews about products from people that are just like us that do not have an interest in selling things to us. We are used to being able to compare different products and prices easily, and we are used to a variety of payment options.
This is the consumer world, but is it different in the B2B world? No, it is not. By now, clients in the B2B market also expect a manufacturer’s homepage to be more than just a digital marketing pamphlet. While acting in the B2B world, we are still the private consumer we are at home. We know what is possible and remember the good experience we had when we last did some private online shopping. Thus, we build the same expectations towards a manufacturer’s website, as we have for retail websites. Reliable search functions, tracking options, product information and reviews, or a service that helps us find just the right product for our needs – these are just a selection of offerings that B2B customers value when visiting a manufacturer’s website.
In our studies we regularly find that the price is often not the deciding criterion, when it comes to choosing a supplier. Besides good quality, a good customer service, reliable deliveries and the “ease of doing business with” can be reasons to choose one supplier over another. A manufacturer’s digital presence can add value to all of these touch points, if the customer’s needs and desires are given priority.
The reality within the B2B world, however, is often a lot different. This is not to say that manufacturers have missed the opportunity to engage in digitisation. Not at all. Especially in the back-office, B2B companies are often far ahead of FMCG companies. Processes are connected and automated and as such, are often highly efficient. But at the front end, where it is possible to create a unique selling point and an excellent customer experience, a lot of B2B companies are still behind. And while this mind-set change has already started a few years ago, it is expected to only spread further over the next years and thus, making it imperative for B2B manufacturers to upholster their digital presence.