By Michael Kiruba-Raja, VP of product management at FPX

Business buyers expect easy and convenient sales experiences. To meet these demands, many B2Bs have embraced ecommerce. While the inclination to go digital is a smart one, B2B businesses often approach ecommerce with the assumption that the B2B digital experience should mimic the B2C experience.

But B2B sales processes are much more complex than a simple Amazon transaction. It’s true that business buyers want self-service research and buying options, but that’s where the similarities to B2C ecommerce end.

B2Bs hoping to grow their digital sales must embrace complex technology that meets the needs of today’s business buyers. For many, that means enterprise configure-price-quote (CPQ) solutions that streamline and digitize the often complicated process of delivering accurate configuration options and price quotes to prospects.

Demand for B2B ecommerce is high

Largely driven by their experiences as consumers, modern B2B buyers want to research, configure and purchase products on behalf of their business online without ever engaging a sales representative. And they’ll gravitate towards the businesses that offer this degree of convenience.

According to a recent report from Forrester and FPX, B2B businesses understand how important ecommerce is to their buyers. Seventy percent of B2Bs say their customers have higher expectations for the experiences they have in the buying process, and 62 percent say their customers want a more convenient purchasing channel.

And many B2B companies seek to gain a competitive edge and boost revenue by addressing heightened customer expectations for digital. More than half of the survey respondents listed customer loyalty and improving CX among their top five sales goals. What’s more, most B2Bs hope to drive more than 50 percent of their sales from ecommerce in the next year.

The inherent complexity of B2B sales

B2B businesses are right to prioritize digital, but they can’t simply copy the ecommerce experiences of the B2C world. The problem with this approach is that B2B products typically require multiple configurations and customized price quotes, making the entire purchase journey — from discovery to conversion — incredibly complex.

Consider a buyer looking to order multiple airplanes. Each of those planes has thousands of different parts and options, ranging from cosmetic options to essential equipment. And there are various regulations and engineering rules that have to be considered as well, making the configuration process both time-consuming and complicated.

Many B2C ecommerce sites are essentially digitized product catalogs. This works great for consumer businesses selling high-volume, low-margin commotized items like clothing, office supplies or home goods. But most B2Bs don’t sell simple products, and the strategies and technologies they use to enable ecommerce must reflect that.

Why the right CPQ solution can help

Given the complexity of the B2B buying process, many B2Bs resort to implementing siloed technologies to address individual issues as they arise. But quick fix approaches like these are not effective long term, and ultimately deliver poor customer experiences.

B2B sales reps are already selling inherently complex products and services, so if they’re asked to work across disjointed technologies, their jobs become exponentially more difficult. And this fragmented approach also negatively impacts the end customer’s ability to research, configure and purchase products with ease. According to the study, 51 percent of B2Bs say their direct sales team struggles to leverage disparate systems to find the right information, and 39 percent say they’re frustrated by too many touchpoints in the sales process.

That’s where enterprise CPQ software can be a game changer. Effective CPQ solutions are designed to digitally streamline complex B2B sales processes. The right CPQ solution can deliver accurate order configurations, offer real-time price optimization, enable guided buying and selling, and enhance the end user’s experience.

But before you make a CPQ investment, consider the following questions:

  • Does the CPQ solution integrate with your required existing platforms?
  • Can the CPQ system support the sales process across all sales channels, including direct, indirect and B2B ecommerce?
  • Which deployment methods are available? Is there on-premise, hosted (managed services) and on-demand (SaaS)?
  • Is the solution mobile and offline capable?
  • Does the vendor offer training courses for maintenance to enable ownership of the solution?

The right solution should streamline your unique selling process, integrate with current technologies and allow you to scale. Taking time to get answers to questions like these now can save you headaches down the road.

Ecommerce is no longer negotiable for B2B businesses. But given the intricate nature of B2B sales processes, a simple digitized storefront will not cut it. B2Bs need an enterprise CPQ solution that can simplify the complex sales processes and grow a customer base that is both happy and loyal.

Embracing E-Commerce, Industry Today
Michael Raja, VP of product management at FPX
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