5 insights on why and how B2Bs can capitalize on composable commerce

5 insights on why and how B2Bs can capitalize on composable commerce

Manuela Tchoe
Manuela Tchoe
Senior Content Writer, commercetools
Published 02 August 2023
Estimated reading time minutes

How can B2B organizations succeed in digital commerce while navigating the complex and fast-moving world we live in? And what’s the role that composable commerce can play for B2Bs digitally transforming their businesses? In the webinar “Blueprints for B2B eCommerce Success,” industry experts delved deeper into the opportunities in B2B commerce during recession times, the need to digitize quickly to keep up with market changes and how B2B organizations (even new-to-digital ones) can start enjoying the benefits of composable commerce.

5 insights on why and how B2Bs can capitalize on composable commerce

Despite the current risk of recession and the exponential rise in consumer expectations, B2B digital commerce is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy in recent years and is projected to keep climbing exponentially. The increase in B2B eCommerce is a development catapulted by an unlikely combination of factors: The COVID-19 pandemic prompted hesitant B2Bs to digitize, the change in customer behavior toward digital experiences, and the need for automated and self-service B2B sales to move away from manual and inefficient processes that inflate overhead costs. 

In a thought-provoking webinar in collaboration with the Executive Leaders Network (ELN), B2B thought leaders Nick Purdon, Director at Deloitte Digital, as well as Julia Rabkin, Senior B2B Product Marketing Manager and Sam Palfreyman, Principal Solutions Engineer at commercetools, shared the opportunities B2Bs can tap into and debunked myths surrounding composability. Here are the five top insights of this get-together. 

1. Rising consumer expectations affect the B2B buying experience

Consumers’ expectations and demands have risen exponentially in recent years, and affect not only the companies that directly serve them (aka, B2C/D2C) but also the B2B space. First and foremost, a B2B buyer is also a consumer who appreciates engaging digital experiences, convenience and the ability to research and purchase across a wide range of channels. 

What’s specifically affecting B2B is that customer expectations have changed. Your B2B customer is the same as any B2C customer because they are a B2C customer in their day-to-day lives. So just because I’m purchasing on behalf of my company doesn't mean that I don’t also purchase on behalf of myself or my family. And I think the advancements in technology from the B2C sector have bled over into B2B. That means the B2B space really needs to catch up with those expectations but in a different buying context.
Julia Rabkin

Senior B2B Product Marketing Manager, commercetools

Moreover, omnichannel for B2B is not optional anymore: Across the buying journey, B2B customers, who are increasingly millennials, research products on the potential supplier’s website, social media and Google Reviews before a conversation or a transaction. 

But something unique to B2B is the personal, truly one-to-one relationships with long-standing customers, which are huge assets organizations can use to create frictionless digital experiences. For example, if a B2B firm provides products purchased by engineers deep underground in a mine, such as in the case of Normet, the customer experience will be fundamentally different from a procurement manager sitting in an office. 

It’s crucial to leverage the existing knowledge from long-term relationships and real data to understand how customers operate and their buying flows, so B2Bs can carry over those interactions to a digital interface across all channels.

2. A digital self-service helps optimize sales conversations

To remain successful, B2B companies must constantly interact with their downstream supply chain customers, such as retailers on the frontline, so that they can adapt to new consumer expectations on the fly. For example, what are the right promotions that can be presented in-store? What’s the price elasticity of consumers within their local demographic? What does the perfect shopper experience look like? So, in addition to frictionless commerce, there should be frequent iterations that help the entire ecosystem grow. 

Most organizations are interested in not just executing on a transaction, but having a real conversation with their customers — with the people responsible for delivering experiences to consumers about how they can grow.
Nick Purdon

Director, Deloitte Digital

That impacts how the sales force within B2B companies is organized and the possibilities of omnichannel selling. For instance, B2B sales reps still spend 80% of their time — and, according to Nick, this is not an exaggeration — taking orders or dealing with retailer queries. So, it’s crucial for B2Bs to automate certain parts of the order process, enabling sales reps to become more efficient and consultative, and to focus on advising customers. 

As part of this journey, B2Bs can also make low-value interactions like reorders as frictionless as possible, while liberating time for salespeople to talk about growth, how to deliver the store experience and what the ideal pricing and promotion strategy should look like. Sales reps should conduct high-value conversations and leave the low-value, repetitive tasks to self-service technology.

3. Modernizing commerce doesn’t have to be complex

There’s a misperception that modernizing commerce with a composable approach is a complex endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. This is because B2Bs can plug in what they need depending on their business requirements via APIs, which is relatively straightforward. Also, relying on partners for the implementation tremendously simplifies and quickens the process, regardless if the B2B is migrating from a legacy platform or digitizing commerce for the first time. 

We consider 80% of commerce a commodity. Everyone needs a checkout, a product search, a product detail page and to be able to add items to a cart. These are the basics. For B2Bs, it doesn't have to be complex. You don't have to reinvent the wheel: You can start with the basics and then, by understanding what exactly your customers need, move on from there.
Julia Rabkin

Senior B2B Product Marketing Manager, commercetools

The very fact that about 15 to 20% of commercetools’ B2B customer base comes in with little-to-no eCommerce experience speaks volumes and debunks the complexity myth: In fact, a composable architecture enables B2Bs to achieve digital maturity faster and more efficiently than with legacy tech and can scale with them over time as they grow. 

4. Start the digital journey incrementally to achieve faster time-to-value

While there’s no singular formula on how to begin a composable journey, the general rule of thumb is that, if there’s a particular pain point adding unnecessary friction or causing customer dropout, this is a good place to start. 

What we do, and find that works really well, is looking at what areas of your transactional process, whether it be purchasing-led or salesperson-led, are causing issues or are holding you up.
Sam Palfreyman

Principal Solutions Engineer, commercetools

An initial discovery phase is a generic first step, but a pretty good one, and should answer questions like: What makes sense to put online? What product information should be listed? Should there be a public and private version of the website? A common starting point is to take product data in spreadsheets, PDF files or in an ERP, and make it discoverable for customers.

There are also quick wins B2Bs can tap into. For example, if a customer tries to find a replacement widget for a machine that’s broken down, or if recurring orders are a big part of the business, a single-click button is a neat solution to enable easy reordering. Not only does this make customers’ lives easier, but also frees up the sales team’s time for that stage of the purchase process. 

To enable such developments, commercetools recommends an incremental approach (also known as the strangler pattern) that enables bite-size, iterative innovations that are very closely tied to a specific business case, like one-click reordering. Incorporating customer feedback is much easier by testing out ideas and prototypes quickly. With a composable approach, B2B organizations have the flexibility they need to address complex problems and customer expectations on the fly. 

5. Upselling and cross-selling opportunities

B2Bs can maximize opportunities like upselling and cross-selling with digital commerce. For example, a B2B buyer looking at spare parts for a piece of industrial machinery wants answers to questions like: Which machinery does this spare part actually fit into? What are some other spare parts that I might need to think about? What other products is this compatible with? 

Providing such information at their fingertips, instead of relying on a sales rep who may take hours or days to answer an inquiry, helps customers have a full picture of what they’re buying and drives faster decisions on the transaction. 

Digital is a perfect example of where you can present up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, but it's really about understanding your customers — how they buy and what their needs are.
Julia Rabkin

Senior B2B Product Marketing Manager, commercetools

A great example is a commercetools customer that sells toilets to hotels, restaurants and other venues, and whose primary buyers are the building planners, architects and designers. When deciding on the right products for a toilet set at a hotel, they need to know the compatible spare parts, how to order them, if they’re replaceable, interchangeable, etc. So, how can this supplier upsell and cross-sell in that scenario? 

First, our composable, API-first approach enabled this B2B company to integrate its product catalog into the architects’ 3D planning software. From there, their customers can have a full overview of the product information, placement and fit, and order spare parts seamlessly, as well as see related products, such as sinks, which they can select to buy directly from that interface.  

The top lesson: Leveraging flexibility is the key to growth

B2B digital commerce is here to stay, so the real question is: How can manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors create the right foundation for growth now and in the future? 

Composable commerce enables B2Bs to digitize for the first time or modernize their tech stack to unlock the possibilities and changes that the future brings. With ultimate flexibility, organizations can boost product discoverability, streamline checkout and reordering, and serve B2B buyers in an omnichannel way — at scale. 

In addition to a future-proof architecture, B2Bs can reduce total costs of ownership (TCO) with a best-of-breed approach. First, a composable architecture enables organizations to reduce spending on unnecessary upgrades and integrations that are routine in legacy tech. Second, B2Bs become more cost-efficient, paying only for services they actually need, and benefit from the decreased overhead of automating manual and time-consuming processes. 

Finally, there are the hard-to-measure costs of productivity gains of freeing up both development and business teams to focus on innovation and revenue-generating activities instead of maintenance. 

B2Bs that still believe composable commerce is the elite playground of extremely digitally mature companies would be surprised by how many new-to-digital organizations have pulled it off with relatively modest resources and teams. And, with an incremental approach, B2Bs can start with a key pain point and achieve time-to-value quickly, with minimum effort. 

Interested in diving deeper into these insights? Watch the on-demand webinar here

Manuela Tchoe
Manuela Tchoe
Senior Content Writer, commercetools

Manuela Marques Tchoe is a Content Writer at commercetools. She was a Content and Product Marketing Director at conversational commerce provider tyntec. She has written content in partnership with Facebook, Rakuten Viber and other social media platforms.

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