First steps when transforming an existing b2b organization to ecommerce

Lately, it seems like there is no real difference between B2B and B2C anymore. Both industries sell online to consumers directly, they both have small retailers as well as huge corporates. But the task force from Shopping Tomorrow that's focuses on B2B found out that there is however a clear difference between hybrid (B2C and B2B) and pure B2B players.


Between 30 and 40 percent of members from, the biggest Dutch ecommerce association, also sell their products to B2B customers, Inge Demoed, program manager at Shopping Tomorrow, explained earlier to Ecommerce News. These are retailers who also act as wholesaler or who deliver products to small businesses. But there are also organizations that sell mainly to B2B companies and most of the time they sell tens or hundreds of thousands complex articles or uniquely composed products. And their customers order frequently, expect a high level of customer service and are a critical link in the business process. So if an order doesn't get delivered correctly or in time, the (financial) consequences can be huge. A continuous high performance of the total chain is essential!


In addition, it's also the case that the need for digitization of the organization has not dawned on everyone yet. This way, many players are still slow with starting this process of digitization. That's why the workgroup of Shopping Tomorrow presented their recommendations for B2B companies that want to take further steps into digitization of their business.


For success, you will need to take care of four things


The workgroup put together the first steps that retailers should take in order to have a successful transition towards a fully digitized company.


Everyone must see the need of it


B2B companies that have a rich history are often largely automated, but mostly only for the offline world. These processes have sometimes been optimized in the last century and could really use an update. But this means the entire sales process must be reinvented. That's a big step to take and it requires support.


For digitization, the entire company, including the top managers, must see the need of it. It may seem unnecessary to change the current working method if the company performs well at the moment. But there's always the risk that foreign or new entrants to the market will make the switch much faster. So companies shouldn't start digitizing only when new competition arrives, because it may be too late already. Look further beyond your own backyard and check for example what happens in the UK, Scandinavia or even China.


Provide clear KPIs


Large sales with low margins are one of the features of the B2B industry. But there are also many differences between customers, locations, prices, et cetera. This makes it hard to get to the right information. The Shopping Tomorrow workgroup advises companies to work from the beginning with clear metrics that matter. "What do you want to achieve with the transformation and how could you monitor this process?"


Organize the product information


If contact with the customer doesn't happen through a dealer anymore, but through a screen, the content the customer sees should be spot on. For most companies this means a fully new and continuous process of creating content concerning all products. Well, companies with a fixed assortment of a couple hundreds of products can realize this manually in a short period of time. But in the B2B industry, most of the time it's about tens or hundreds of thousands of products and variations. If players with these numbers of products want to digitize, but don't take care of this the proper way, it could become the biggest bottle neck that could slow down the whole business for months or even years.


Make sure you know what information is important to your customer. Good content will make the difference between traffic that bounces immediately and customers who get informed well and who are able to place their orders effortlessly. The work group suggests to take a look at industry-specific standards and how to enable a single infrastructure that's technically and organizationally in place. "Make sure the entire organization understands the urgency of good product information and prevent knowledge to be fragmented per department."


Be a team


At the start of digitization (or any other process), many things are outsourced. But you can ask yourself whether the company will get and retain sufficient knowledge. The workgroup concluded that, in order to make a good digital transformation, all components within the company should work together. This is only possible with the right knowledge and expertise, also internally within the organization. So, the company might have to start with new roles. At the same time it's just as important to continue to work with external parties. This way, knowledge is widely available and gets renewed continuously and in case of larger changes, the development team can be expanded quickly.

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