In the US, e-commerce spending grew from 11.8 percent in the first quarter to 16.1 percent in the second quarter. In Germany showed the e-commerce trade also in the third quarter of 2020 above-average growth with an increase of 13.3 percent. These figures show that companies that were already predominantly online and followed an e-commerce strategy were able to survive the stormy times more easily than those that primarily rely on conventional sales channels with personal customer relationships.
E-commerce strategy: focus on customer channels and supply chains
The results of a global study by McKinsey on the diverse effects of Covid-19 underscore the need for companies to consider both customer channels and supply chains in their digitization strategies. In Europe, 40 percent of respondents said that Covid-19 was the Digitize your supply chain accelerated, 21 percent said they had driven the digitization of customer channels. In North America, those numbers were 31 and 13 percent, respectively.
It is true that these results include the development of e-commerce both with end users and with B2B companies. Nevertheless, it is becoming clear that manufacturers, wholesalers and other B2B organizations can benefit from a shift towards online sales. However, that requires B2B trade a completely different approach to the customer journey than B2C: What counts here above all is that the online solution is functional and suitable for everyday use. So what approach should companies take when embarking on the path of digitization?
Choosing the right e-commerce system
In times of increasing uncertainty, companies are challenged to make quick decisions about their e-commerce strategy. Everything is about the rapid market launch – Bringing a business online can make all the difference in whether or not business continues. And customers want to be sure that they are dealing with a reliable company that values them, understands their specific requirements and also offers them personalized approaches.
Most companies now quickly need a solution that will help them meet the increased needs in online sales – in other words: an e-commerce solution that works simply and reliably. For those who have not yet had any experience with e-commerce, the solution must be easy to implement and operate without great effort – for example through cloud-based, automatic updates in order to be able to serve existing markets as easily as possible. For companies with an already more mature e-commerce offering, the aim is to refine the customer journey in order to make shopping as convenient as possible.
E-commerce strategy: rely on personalization
The ability of companies to focus on relationships with their customers is critical to business success. Covid-19 has taught us that customers expect reliability above all from their business partners. That means: a website that is completely self-service needs customers such a compelling buying experience offer so that they do not miss the personal contact they are used to.
People want trustworthy business partners. This can be supported, for example, by a platform that enables personalization for the end user using a flexible design that can be quickly implemented and quickly adapted to specific requirements. Personalization also enables companies to address target customers more specifically, for example by offering special discounts for certain customer groups or products that are in high demand.
Personalization also means showing payment options and delivery options that apply to a specific segment or even to individual customers. Or the previous purchasing behavior of a customer is included in order to make individual suggestions, recommendations and advice. SaaS solutions enable accelerated commissioning of web shops in order to meet these challenges. A web shop can be set up within a few days and integrated into the existing ERP system.
E-commerce strategy: watch out for speed
Customers expect quick response times, even in the B2B world. Those who cannot offer this will lose customers to competitors – a responsive webshop solution is therefore advisable. Single-Page-Applications (SPA) designed for B2B load pages dynamically and do not have to be rebuilt each time users navigate to another page. This improves the overall customer experience and makes it possible to get to the desired destination on the website faster – the time to the shopping cart is reduced.
Headless e-commerce: integrating the ERP system into the online shop
The integration with a company’s ERP system is of crucial importance here, as this means that existing data, such as the availability of stock levels, personalized price options and the order history, is displayed directly in the online shop – this avoids errors and delays and ensures a reliable online experience . Companies should look for a solution that offers maximum flexibility.
Headless e-commerce systems are a preferred approach here, as they can be integrated with the ERP system in the backend, while other platforms can also be used for the customer frontend. This opens up possibilities to easily integrate applications such as voice or barcode scanners later. This kind of convenience helps create a seamless, personalized customer experience – and enables companies to build long-term relationships, even beyond the global pandemic.
The current economic climate affects every company, regardless of the industry. The days of “face-to-face” buying and selling could be a thing of the past – the ability to offer personal service through e-commerce is becoming increasingly important. While it may be tempting to rush to find a solution, especially when there is a risk of losing customers, it is crucial to carefully consider the best possible solutions available. With a well thought-out approach, companies will succeed in securing their current customer base and at the same time equipping themselves for a successful e-commerce future.
About the author: Michiel Schipperus is CEO of Sana Commerce. The solution provider enables B2B companies the direct route to e-commerce through seamless integration with SAP and Microsoft Dynamics. The e-commerce solution uses existing business logic and data in powerful and user-friendly web shops. This enables e-commerce providers to improve their customer experience, make sales processes efficient and increase sales.
Also read: Online shops: How retailers and brands can benefit from e-commerce