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B2B online trade and the growth of domestic e-commerce have been popular topics over the past fall and spring. This is not completely unexpected, as research states that the digitalization of B2B trade is one of the most important development objectives of many companies. Why is it then that B2B online trade has become such a popular subject?

Finnish online vendors have been, maybe undeservedly, criticized for weak growth and excessive concentration on only the domestic market. The growth of domestic e-commerce has undeniably been rather modest compared to the growth of international e-commerce. Therefore it is probably not entirely unexpected that new opportunities for growth are being sought after also in B2B e-commerce.

The Finnish Commerce Federation and TNS Gallup published a survey in March according to which the B2C e-commerce in Finland last year was worth 10.5 billion euros.
If Forrester’s estimate of the size of the B2B e-commerce market is accurate, it would amount to four times the value of the B2C e-commerce market. This in turn would mean that the Finnish B2B e-commerce market would be worth approximately 42 billion euros.

No wonder it’s an attractive market.

Almost every self-respecting platform provider has already published their own guides and views on best practices and corner stones in setting up a B2B web store. What all these viewpoints seem to have in common is the consumerization of B2B e-commerce. Frost & Sullivan (Frost & Sullivan in eCommerce & B2B, October 2014) conclude in their survey that 80 % of the companies that participated in the survey believe that their customers’ expectations have changed along with consumer behavior. In reality only 50 % of respondents expect personalization such as in B2C e-commerce from their purchasing experience.

However, there is a point to consumerization. According to a survey by Forrester there is a transition going on in the way in which companies make purchases. Large purchasing organizations have turned out to be costly for many companies and the savings produced may not correspond to the benefits. One significant reason for this is the growth of e-commerce. Because e-commerce is basically always cross-border trade, and the customer has the possibility to get products from anywhere in the world equally fast, the fierce competition between web-stores has resulted in prices going down. Prices have actually gone down so much that even the best of purchasing organizations can’t necessarily guarantee better prices. This has led in some cases to the loosening of purchasing restrictions, or even ignoring them, as well as the emergence of new buyer groups. These buyers, as well as professional buyers, are essentially consumers whose purchasing behavior and expectations are based on purchasing experiences in web stores as consumers.

Why then should you consider making your web store accessible to corporate customers as well?

If your products are suitable for companies as well as consumers there is no reason not to. It is likely that many of your customers are already buying your products or services for their company. As your customers are also consumers, it is important to consider the user friendliness of your web store – how smooth is the purchasing process for your customer, from entry to the web store all the way through to payment to tracking the delivery?


Writer

Magnus Enckell

Director, Partnerships and Customers
Maksuturva Group Ltd

firstname.lastname@maksuturva.fi

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