The Top Three B2B E-Commerce Trends for 2013

Customer-facing front-end business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce is poised to reach $559 billion in US sales by the end of 2013 says Forrester Research in a recent report. To capitalize on this growing market, companies must invest in B2B e-commerce sites that can maintain channel harmony, optimize distribution, and profit from opportunities. Their report outlines the landscape and some key trends that eBusiness and channel strategy professionals will see in the world of B2B eCommerce over the next 12 to 18 months. b2sb 

In today's broader B2B eCommerce landscape, the challenge for companies, is knowing exactly where to focus energy and investment dollars, especially in a market that is seeing accelerated growth. Forrester believes that B2B eCommerce organizations must address three key trends in 2013, three places you can start:

The B2B Customer Experience.

Today’s B2B customers shop in the B2C online marketplace. And they expect and anticipate the same, smooth B2C-like experience when visiting B2B sites. Successful B2B sites use B2C techniques to deliver online experiences that “transcend the transaction” — including personalization, breadth and depth of product selection, a simplified login experience, and compelling deals and offers. An example from B2B Staples Advantage website employs B2C-like personalization. staples

Get Creative about sourcing B2B eCommerce Talent. 

Recruit and empower leaders who have B2C eCommerce experience. Because more companies are diving into B2B e-commerce, the pool of skilled talent is shrinking. Many businesses will have to accept some salary sticker shock when hiring existing talent. Others may have to get creative, recruiting B2C talent or cherry picking internal talent, converting promising internal employees into B2B assets. 

Harmonizing Channel Conflict.

As attractive as B2B online sales are, channel conflict remains a big concern for many companies. However, it should not be a roadblock. Top companies are leading the way by using e-commerce to benefit the direct business buyer experience — from enabling specific customer segments, to arming sales reps with online sales portals.

Accelerate the development of a self-service model and begin migrating customers online. B2B companies can now profitably merchandise and market to, as well as transact with, these customers entirely online. By digitizing sales qualifying via product configurators and do-it-yourself online support — as Dell has done — B2B companies with self-service portals can drive down the cost of acquiring and keeping a customer. dell

Visit Digital River to learn more about 2013 B2B trends, download a complimentary copy of the Forrester Research report, Key Trends in B2B E-Commerce for 2013. (Please note that this download is available for a limited time.)


The Year of the First Impression

B2B Social Media Comes of Age

For marketers, advances in social media are simultaneously forcing and enabling us to look beneath the surface of our businesses. A recent eConsultancy survey found that 67% of marketing decision makers agreed that social media is integral to their marketing mix (and only 11% disagreed). But when I speak to B2B marketing and PR leaders, the received opinion is that social media is a “consumer thing.” Why is this?b2b

2013 is the year that B2B social media will start to see its potential. But to do so, we need to overcome a few objection points. Here are the top three: 

“Hardly anyone watches/reads my content.”
First up, with B2B social media you have to get over the numbers barrier because the universe is smaller. We’re not trying to make a “Gangnam Style” viral effect with B2B content. And that’s not a bad thing. Success in B2B looks different—if it helps to create a lead, it’s worth more than getting a bucketful of views. The key is not to create content for the sake of it and (it has to tie in to the marketing mix) measure its effectiveness.

“The purchasing lifecycles are too long for social media.”
Yes, you’re going to spend a longer time selecting a new piece of accounting software to roll out in 50 countries than you are to buy a new digital camera. But to me, that means that an organization needs to spend more time building up trust. You can’t spend all that time face-to-face with your prospects, but social is an excellent way of building on the relationship that you begin offline. And as the lines between personal and professional lives blur, social media can add to the client relationship.

“People aren’t using social media for business.”
Why would business people only want to get their news in print or via traditional broadcast channels? The answer is, they don’t. And why are videos, blogs, infographics and podcasts increasingly popular? Because they’re interesting (ok, maybe not in all cases) and easily consumed in bite-sized portions.

Social is Getting Infused in the Business World

"Smart organizations will start taking a close, hard look at their existing cultures and begin considering some different ideas of what ‘leadership’ means."

We’re in a transitional period in which companies are struggling to integrate social into their business processes, and it goes way beyond marketing. Those that confine social activity to specific sales or marketing “channels” will soon be at a huge disadvantage to those that can incorporate the human-powered principles of social media throughout their organization.

Employees expect more transparency, more change, more experimentation, and more clarity. Smart organizations should start taking a close, hard look at their existing cultures and begin considering some different (less hierarchical) ideas of what “leadership” means if they are going to successfully adapt to this disruption. So why is this important for marketers? Because marketers understand story. Infusing social media into an organization requires communicating those core value messages and the authentic brand story throughout the organization—which is a challenge for traditional leaders, as evidenced by their hesitance around social media.

Marketers know how to tell the stories—and they also know how to experiment, test, and learn from different kinds of messaging. It’s time we started applying those skills to building leadership capacity, rather than just marketing. For leadership to spread through an organization—as social media demands—we need to change our culture, and marketing can play a vital role. 

This article was taken from a collection of predictions from ExactTarget clients, partners, employees, and friends. Download the full report "Inspired Predictions for SOCIAL 2013" 

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