B2B suppliers are consistently failing to fulfill the needs of their customers. While e-commerce in the B2B space has boomed, just 17% of B2B sales in 2023 are expected to come from that channel.
Statistics like these highlight the tremendous e-commerce supply chain challenges within the sector, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take advantage of this growing space through supply chain technology and cultural change. Yet failing to adapt to the next generation of commerce is the heart of why B2B suppliers aren’t fulfilling the needs of their customers. Further, analyses of buyer behaviors indicate that businesses aren't shy about switching to other suppliers.
Despite these many failures, there is a silver lining: Global B2B e-commerce has yet to reach even a fraction of its potential. In 2020, the global market was valued at $6.64 trillion, with a predicted annual growth rate of 18.7%. These numbers indicate that the industry has a way to go before reaching critical mass.
If B2B suppliers modernize and undergo cultural transformation, they can establish market dominance. But they face numerous challenges along the way. Following are five big hurdles to be overcome.
Not meeting buyer needs. In the B2B space, suppliers must fulfill the needs of their buyers. However, approximately 50% of e-commerce sites fail to meet buyers' expectations. Suppliers must recognize this fatal design flaw and take the time to simplify or revamp their e-commerce operations. This includes making the ordering process more accessible and matching the standards set by B2C giants such as Amazon, Walmart and Target.
Additionally, successful suppliers know that meaningful dialogue with buyers is essential to understanding where to improve and developing a genuinely seller-focused business. After all, a streamlined ordering process enables businesses to find what they want and place orders quickly — ultimately enabling them to purchase your products or services time and time again.
Failing to balance technology with human interaction. For B2B buyers, salespeople add value across the entire customer relationship. Almost all buyers (94%) report that salespeople generally improve their experience when making purchases on behalf of their companies — to the extent that 69% say they couldn’t complete these purchases without a salesperson.
These findings demonstrate the importance of continuing to offer human support, even amid technological innovation. Remember: Your buyers want to feel as valued in the B2B space as they do in the B2C space.
Technology has the potential to improve productivity within any B2B supplier, but adopting automation must not come at the expense of relationship building. The focus needs to be on improving the productivity and efficiency of human support teams, instead of attempting to replace them.
Running into organizational disconnect. The B2B landscape is changing at a breakneck pace, meaning that internal disconnections only serve to emphasize and magnify existing problems. Cultural disconnects between high-level board members and the rest of the business act as obstacles to change, whether you're adopting supply chain optimization technologies or augmenting supplier performance metrics.
Without total buy-in from all levels of a B2B operation, overcoming e-commerce supply chain challenges becomes impossible. As estimated 70% of B2B digital transformations fail because of a lack of buy-in from employees.
B2B suppliers must ensure everyone is on board before embarking on any improvement project. You must also work with all levels of your organization to achieve e-commerce modernization buy-in.
Making continuous mistakes or process errors. The top five challenges when researching purchases are as follows:
These simple errors damage professional credibility and encourage customers to go elsewhere. Without ensuring accuracy, relevant products and streamlined communication channels across the supply chain, suppliers can’t expect to provide customers with the experience they expect.
Speaking to your long-time customers to discover their biggest pain points can help point you in the right direction to mitigate these issues. Once you have the necessary data, make alterations that prioritize your buyer and its buying experience. Doing so will leave less room for mistakes or further errors.
Using inefficient supply chains. Successful B2B suppliers must build a highly functional warehousing and shipping infrastructure to provide five-star service. Three key components must be in place to meet the modern buyer's needs: visibility, mobility and flexibility.
Visibility involves utilizing software to track inventory levels, warehouse activities and current distribution and delivery statuses. Mobility includes ensuring that incoming and outgoing inventory is effectively managed to prevent unnecessary delays in order fulfillment. And flexibility refers to a system that adapts and adjusts according to known and unknown changes.
Upholding these three tenets is essential for ensuring that e-commerce supply chain challenges don't derail your organization. You can even go one step further and incorporate state-of-the-art supply chain technology, to keep customers updated and reduce errors in the supply chain.
Poorly executed transformations will only worsen existing problems. Suppliers must opt for a true customer-focused perspective and concentrate on the things they do well. Using analytics to review supplier performance metrics, and adopting a collaborative approach to every aspect of your organization, will lead to better results.
Dan Neiweem is principal and co-founder of Avionos.
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