Got B2B2C eCommerce? Why Printers Should Rethink Their eCommerce Strategy

April 11, 2016

Dating back over a decade, print distributors have been early adopters of B2B eCommerce.  They embraced the technology to provide ready access to customized products, address high transaction volumes and to make it easier to do business with their customers.  They also implemented eCommerce to lower their cost to serve, to reduce order errors and to enable their web-to-print strategy.  As a result, they drove significant change in the way they serve their customers.  Ok, so tell me something I don’t already know.  

Well, you may not know that it’s time to rethink your B2B eCommerce strategy. The world is changing rapidly in this area with huge growth opportunities predicted over the next several years.  And unlike the past decade when print distributors deployed eCommerce primarily to make it easier to receive customer orders, the next decade will be about making it easier for customers to buy the way they want to buy.  And not just at the customer or department level, but much more granular – to the customer of one; the individual.  Think “Amazon-like” buying experience, because that’s what your customers are expecting.  They expect you to know them and their buying behavior, their likes and dislikes and to allow them to engage with you using their device of choice – can you say mobile?  In other words, a B2C shopping experience in their B2B business environment.

Given these changes, the time is now for printers to rethink their eCommerce strategy.

Need more motivation to embrace this change?  Industry analyst, Forrester predicts that B2B eCommerce will be 2X B2C and grow at 4X the pace.  By 2020, they predict the industry will be at $1T.  Yes, I said trillion!  B2B businesses are rapidly following the example set by B2C companies by moving complex operations to the cloud, so they can:

  • Provide a better customer buying experience
  • Make it ”easier to do business” by providing Omni-channel and mobile connectivity
  • Understand customer buying habits and shopping preferences more thoroughly
  • Drive greater brand awareness for their products and services
  • Go to market more rapidly and reach more of their addressable market
  • Cut costs and streamline processes

What’s driving this change?

  • Customer desire to better understand their customers (360-degree view of the customer)
  • The rise in prominence of the millennial in B2B and the need to address this “digital-first” generation
  • An overall shift in buying behavior.  More than ever, customers expect a B2C like shopping experience (personalized, Omni-channel, mobile responsive and merchandising)
  • A rise of cloud, mobile and social computing (“there’s an app for that”) point of view has increased customer expectations of what is possible and has accelerated the need to put flexible software in place

So what can I do to take advantages of these changes?  

  1. Ask your customers about their plans to implement an online solution to address their B2B customer’s needs.  Chances are they either have plans or are thinking about it.  And don’t forget to ask if they have a mobile strategy incorporated in those plans.  Most do.
  2. Then ask yourself if you’re prepared to help your customer make these changes in their business.  If your eCommerce solution is not mobile responsive, capable of driving a personalized shopping experience and adaptable to all types of end customers (Omni-channel), then align yourself with a technology that is.
  3. Get started now.  The beauty of cloud based B2B eCommerce solutions it that it is extremely adaptable and scalable.  Working with the right partner, you can implement this solution to one good customer to get started.  You don’t need to disrupt your entire technology approach to be effective in providing this solution.