There’s so much talk about B2B ecommerce these days, one could get annoyed.
Especially if, like most business owners and managers, you don’t really know what the heck it means.
So just what is this B2B e-commerce buzz-phrase, and why should you care? Let’s cover just the nuts and bolts.
The term “ecommerce” used to mean one thing; buying something online. You find a vendor, select a product, put in your credit card, hit the Order button. Done. But oh, how times have changed.
As technology and the internet have become interwoven into nearly every waking moment of our personal lives, so too have their places in our workaday worlds.
That’s because, the heart and soul of B2B e-commerce is the same as it is for our B2C forays online: convenience.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Easy Street: businesses learned that convenience could actually have a positive impact on their bottom line. Read; it could save them money.
If time is money, then saving time means saving money. And the more convenient something is, the less time it takes.
Take purchasing for instance; many buyers still pore through dozens of supplier catalogs, write up a purchasing slip, then make 8 different phone calls to 6 different suppliers or fax machines to place their orders (that’s the easy version of the old way). Now, compare that to going to one webpage, pointing and clicking the mouse a few times, and getting exactly what you need from exactly who you need it from in minutes.
It doesn’t take a PhD in accounting to realize that the latter method can save you significant money over time, especially when you factor in the restocking fees and labor hours it takes to return and correct the ordering mistakes that often go hand in hand with the former method.
The same goes for sellers… if you can provide a convenient way for your customers to find what they need, even on custom items, that means spending less time managing particulars and fielding phone calls. And that means more time you can spend on getting new clients, or nurturing and protecting your key accounts. Not to mention the competitive advantage that offering more convenience to your customers provides.
So, how does all this help you understand the concept of B2B ecommerce? Well, we have a pretty simple way of defining it around here: B2B e-commerce is a strategy that makes you more money.
How? With an equally simple idea; by improving the way you do business with your customers and your suppliers online. And how is that accomplished? Yep, that’s simple too; by adapting your online environments to suit your unique business relationships.
Rather than a “one size fits all” online environment, a strategic approach to B2B ecommerce allows you create an ideal environment that works according to the business practices and requirements defined by the relationships you have with your customers and/or suppliers.
Need all your supplier catalogs to reflect the way you categorize products/services? Done. Need multiple payment options like p-cards, credit cards, or purchase orders? Easy. Want to offer points programs, prices, or a limited selection of products that reflect a specific contract? Simple. Want to interface with e-procurement or other back-end systems? Piece of cake.
Those are all just drops in the ocean of online convenience that adaptable, strategic, B2B ecommerce provides. Is it any wonder why more and more companies, large and small, are embracing B2B ecommerce?
We hope this sheds a little clarity on all the online ruckus out there. If you are still a little foggy, or think that seeing real world examples of B2B e-commerce in action might help, just let us know by requesting a free private tour on the right. You’ll be amazed by what’s going on out there.