B2B food and beverages (F&B) businesses face new challenges in a volatile market. As a result, modern commerce has become a must-have for the sector to thrive. Here's how to put it to work to future-proof your business.
Modern commerce capabilities are no longer a nice-to-have for B2B food and beverage (F&B) suppliers – they're a must. With legacy commerce systems no longer meeting the demands of today's constantly changing markets and customer expectations, B2B suppliers that wait too long to invest in modern eCommerce will soon lose their competitive edge to more innovative rivals. After all, the Wunderman Thompson study reveals that 49% of all B2B purchases already originate online and keep growing every year.
In recent years, B2B F&B suppliers have grappled with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. They continue to face cross-border complexities, geopolitical uncertainty, rising energy prices and supply chain disruptions. At the same time, a new generation of millennial buyers now expects the B2B experience to resemble the frictionless, on-demand services that have flourished in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space.
In a severe economic environment, future-proofing your business means leveraging robust, flexible digital commerce infrastructure that delivers on what is essential. Here are five benefits of modern commerce and how to get started.
1. Focus on customer experience-driven growth at scale
Today's B2B buyers have new expectations. They enjoy seamless online consumer journeys in the B2C space in their day-to-day lives, and they have begun to demand the same standard of user experience from B2B. In addition, according to Wunderman Thompson, buyers switching suppliers nearly tripled after the pandemic, reaching a rate of 53% in 2021. As a result, they have begun to vote with their feet in favor of an improved customer experience.
Since upgrading its all-in-one B2B marketplace platform to a faster, more seamless checkout experience with commercetools, Just Eat Takeaway has reported a 70% increase in transaction rates and a 20% increase in average order value.
“Focus on building an end-to-end customer experience that helps you grow and scale versus trying to compete with your competitors on things like price or quality,” Julia Rabkin, Senior B2B Product Expert at commercetools, recommends. “If customers aren't getting that good experience, they will move to a different supplier.”
2. Increase revenue-generating opportunities
The flexibility that comes with modern commerce can empower B2B F&B operators to do bigger and better things with their businesses by breaking down the barriers that have held them back. For example, the power to make the entire product catalog visible online can transform product discovery, increasing average order value and unlocking new revenue streams.
B2B suppliers are also beginning to explore the potential of services that have already made great headway in the B2C space, such as promotions and subscriptions. For example, with the help of commercetools, baked goods manufacturer Dawn Foods has introduced a B2C-style click-to-reorder functionality and has since doubled sales orders.
The direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel has huge value-generating potential for B2B businesses, but it can be daunting to implement. However, a headless model is fully flexible and extensible, meaning that B2Bs can easily expand to new business models. "You can explore new business models and sales channels, and you can do it all on one single portfolio," says Rabkin.
3. Maximize operational efficiency
Many B2B businesses still rely on highly manual processes. Finding new efficiencies in a challenging global market is vital, especially in the F&B industry.
“There's a lot of room for automating processes and parts of the customer journey,” says Rabkin. For example, businesses can digitize existing operations, products and services and replace manual order processes with workflow automation and system integrations, cutting overhead costs and time spent on labor-intensive administrative processes. Instead, that time can be redistributed to more revenue-generating activities. For example, moving sales over the phone to eCommerce self-service can free up sales reps to upsell or handle bigger deals.
Businesses can also reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) by building on a composable and cloud-native architecture with autoscaling that eliminates downtime. In addition, with modern commerce, B2B operators can customize features and touchpoints without the constraints of legacy platforms, gaining operational efficiency – as it's easier to meet your business needs. Finally, with a flexible, extensible, API-based infrastructure, companies can invest in services based only on what their business actually needs.
4. Future-proof your business with MACH™
Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless: this is the foundation of the MACH principles that provide a modular and composable environment for businesses to embrace innovation, so they can respond to change more quickly and with less risk.
With headless, companies decouple the ever-growing number of consumer-facing frontends from the backend, where data such as pricing, products, promotions, orders and fulfilment are stored, enabling businesses to create shopping experiences with maximum flexibility and speed. At a time of economic volatility, this kind of control and agility to meet customers' needs now and in the future are more valuable than ever for B2B businesses.
The even better news is that MACH-certified solutions from different providers can be seamlessly integrated together. “Composable [commerce] is a continued iteration,” explains Rabkin. “Not only are you decoupling the frontend and backend, but you are also choosing best-of-breed components in all layers of your architecture.” This means you have the freedom to integrate and even swap commerce functions like checkout or cart to meet your business's needs, as they are delivered as APIs.
We were stuck in the past, with very monolithic decisions having to be made. So we decided to switch to a MACH architecture, which allows us to be modular, to pull components in and out.
Global Enterprise Solutions Manager, Danone
The B2C segment bought into this kind of future-proofing 10 years ago, and B2B is now beginning to catch up. “Once you move to this infrastructure, you essentially set yourself up for whatever your business needs today, and whatever might come years from now,” explains Rabkin.
5. Leverage a best-in-class partner ecosystem
MACH infrastructure enables businesses to optimize their solutions with the best components and a shorter time-to-market, as well as integrate functionalities and innovations they couldn't handle in-house. This composable commerce approach is key to engaging customer experiences that marry a B2C-like flair with B2B-specific features.
“This is a lot more important for B2Bs than for B2C because their business models are a lot more nuanced,” explains Rabkin. "With the MACH Alliance and certified vendors, it's all composable, so there is likely someone within our network that can help them with whatever they need."
Best practices from a large ecosystem of partner-developed packages, accelerators and a global community of connected developers best support the unique requirements of diverse B2B operating models. commercetools has over 175 implementation partners across EMEA, the US and APAC, which support customers in building high-quality commerce solutions, supporting organization transformation in the absence of internal resources.
Don't wait to get started
With markets rapidly changing, new challenges emerging and consumers expecting more than ever, it's high time for B2B F&B businesses to embrace a more agile, headless future of commerce or get left behind. Those who fail to adapt to modern commerce risk missing out on market share and revenue opportunities like D2C sales and will fall behind competitors and strategic objectives. MACH architecture provides the key to exploring new channels, meeting the market's challenges and thriving in the future of B2B.
Ready to rethink eCommerce? Read the 2023 Food & Beverage B2B Report: How to Future-Proof Business with Headless Commerce.