Attention, B2B Manufacturers: “Ecommerce” Doesn’t Just Mean Online Sales Transactions

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An ecommerce website can be about way more than just online sales transactions. In fact, more and more B2B manufacturers today are using ecommerce sites, and yet they’re not accepting payment for products online.

So, if you’re a plucky B2B manufacturer who makes a great product that you’d like to sell more of, take notice: Ecommerce isn’t just for B2C companies anymore.

Below, we’ll show you why a more expansive (and accurate) notion of ecommerce can be transformative for your digital presence. We’ll even provide real-life examples of B2B manufacturers who are thriving with an ecommerce website—with nary an online sales transaction in sight. 

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Why your notion of ecommerce matters (and probably needs to change)

B2B manufacturers who equate ecommerce solely with online payment are short-changing themselves. More specifically, they’re limiting how their website can benefit their bottom line.

Meanwhile, B2B manufacturers who view their online presence through an ecommerce lens are getting increasingly strategic as they devote more attention to helping people get to their website and do things like:

  • Find exactly what they’re looking for, fast, with an effective site-wide search tool.
  • View highly informative product imagery and specifications.
  • Initiate the product sales cycle online—even when that doesn’t involve a credit card transaction.

The bottom line is this: An ecommerce site is any website that facilitates the transaction of goods. 

And here’s the kicker: The transaction does not need to include actual payment.

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B2B buyer expectations are evolving—are you?

Let’s take a moment to focus more on your buyers. A PROS-Hanover Research study, What B2B Buyers Want: A Survey of 1053 Purchasing Professionals, “confirmed three key trends” for B2B buyers:

  • They want more ability to self-serve.
  • They want personalized experiences.
  • They expect to get online quotes fast—even choosing more digitally sophisticated competitors over lower cost alternatives.

One specific note on that last point: The study indicated that half of B2B buyers expect an online quote turnaround within two hours.

Then there’s this: The B2B Millennial Buyer Survey Report put out by Demand Gen Report found that 88% of millennial B2B buyers said that a great digital buying experience was either “extremely important” or “very important” to their vendor selection.

What do data like the above suggest? Regardless of your buyers’ ages, no one will be coming to your website without being influenced by their B2C buying experiences.

Sure, they’ll understand that buying from you isn’t exactly the same as buying from some B2C goliath. But don’t expect that understanding to engender a ton of patience, especially when your competitors begin to offer a smoother, more B2C-like experience.

B2B ecommerce in action: Two real-life examples

Consider the ecommerce sites of two different types of B2B manufacturers, neither of which take payment online.

1. Gressco: Handling the complexities of the bureaucratic buying process

Gressco manufactures and distributes commercial-grade children’s furniture and related products commonly used by school districts and other public institutions.

The buying cycle of public entities is different from typical business buyers. But that doesn’t stop Gressco from providing an exceptional online buying experience that enables those customers to budget for future projects.

Along with a convenient quote request tool that any website visitor can use, manufacturing reps, as well as architects and designers, can sign into their Gressco account and easily find products and specs with a site-wide search tool.

They can then request a price quote on behalf of a public entity customer through a user-friendly online form and get a price proposal back quickly. As a result, that customer now has a documented price proposal, one that’s valid for a certain period of time and can be included in the approval and budgeting process.

2. Bock Water Heaters: Helping manufacturing reps sell smarter to developers

Bock Water Heaters manufactures a wide range of water heaters for customers such as property developers. The manufacturer sells most of their products through a network of regionally based manufacturing reps.

Bock’s ecommerce site allows visitors to search products and their specifications—and to initiate a quote request process that puts them in touch with a rep in their region. (They also have a handy Find a Rep map.)

Meanwhile, those manufacturing reps have login rights to Bock’s ecommerce site. They can search efficiently through thousands of models and SKUs to find the correct products. On top of that, they can easily select from the dozens of pricing groups that Bock has predesignated based on volume discounts and other factors. 

All of this makes for faster quote response. And once an order is confirmed, it doesn’t 

require extensive back-and-forth communication with Bock staff. That means customers can ultimately receive shipments faster.

Your next move: Walk before you fly

If any of the points above hit home, just know this isn’t about going from zero to Amazon overnight. Your first step should be to simply start thinking about how your website can improve the experience of your buyers.

One easy thing you can do is this: Whenever you’re inclined to think, “That’s just not how we do it,” imagine your buyers using your site. What simple steps can you take that will help give them the kind of experience you would want if you were them? 

Want to learn more about how your manufacturing company could streamline the sales process and reap the rewards of B2B ecommerce?