B2B sales have gone digital, according to McKinsey. The research firm called B2B digital sales “the next normal,” with more than three-quarters of buyers and sellers saying they prefer digital self-service and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions.

Interestingly, this sentiment has increased even after lockdowns ended.

“The shift to digital and remote engagement has been embraced by decision makers in all countries surveyed worldwide,” the article stated. “B2B sales leaders have moved from being ‘forced’ to adopt digital in reaction to the widespread shutdowns in the early stages of COVID-19 to a growing conviction that digital is the way to go.”

Below are four ways to maximize the benefits of this shift to B2B digital commerce.

1. Offer Informational Recommendations

As the digitalization of B2B commerce and the generational shift continues to shape how companies do business with each other, the gap between B2C and B2B is increasing — but in a different direction than in the past, said Johan Liljeros, Avensia general manager and senior commerce advisor, North America.

“Digital commerce for B2B used to be a purely transactional (non) experience with no investments made in the actual customer experience,” said Liljeros. “As the B2C experience grew into a vital part of surviving online, it spilled over to B2B. Why accept a bad experience when executing your business transactions when I have such a great experience otherwise?”

He added, “Transactions are not driven by inspiration in the same way within B2B as B2C — here it is more about being informative and ensuring that your delivery will have everything you need.”

For instance, Liljeros recommended features like offering recommendations for products based on other shoppers’ habits or sending reminders for when to reorder products. Tap into experiences that make life easier for your customers and deter them from having to look elsewhere.

Related Article: What's the Best B2B Social Media Marketing Strategy for Your Brand?

2. Understand Payment Differences

"The two key differences between B2B and B2C are buying cycle and payment terms,” said Justin Schmidt, Compt vice president of marketing.

B2B, he said, focuses on purchase orders, payment terms, invoices and account-specific discounts. And as such, you need a platform to support these features. Fortunately, most major ecommerce solutions in this space cater to these needs.

Marketers need to be aware of and act on these differences, Schmidt added. “For example, if you offer net 30 terms, be sure to include that in the ad copy. If you have scale, use tailored audience or customer targeting lists to ensure you are marketing offers that match what those accounts have negotiated. You wouldn't want to run a campaign touting new wholesale pricing to an account that doesn't have a wholesale discount setup in your system.”

3. Look to Frictionless Experiences

B2B ecommerce buyers expect the same frictionless experience they have with B2C sites — from browsing, checking product reviews and ordering through payment and delivery, said Lindy Singer, Nautical Commerce head of marketing.

“However,” she added, “there are complexities in B2B not found in B2C that need to be addressed when setting up or expanding an ecommerce site beyond the graphics layout of the storefront and promotion of the site.”

Learning Opportunities

Most B2B ecommerce vendors want to include products on their site from related or affiliated vendors that will give the site operator incremental income while increasing product depth, according to Singer.

“The bulk volumes and broad product catalogs offered in B2B ecommerce create more complexity than a B2C site,” she explained. “A B2B platform often needs to be able to handle hundreds of thousands of SKUs with detailed and highly technical product descriptions. It should also allow for easy onboarding and payments to multiple sellers, possibly in different currencies with different regulatory requirements.”

In addition to ensuring that strategies account for payment differences, including net 30 payment terms and leasing and factoring options, companies should also review the capabilities of their B2B commerce platform technology to ensure all of these functionalities are incorporated in a way that is easy for operations to manage and create a frictionless experience for buyers, Singer said.

Related Article: Today's B2B Customers Don't Want to Talk to You. Is That OK?

4. Formulate a Channel Schema

B2B sales used to involve an intermediary — and in some verticals it still does. But most of these middlemen in two-tier distribution have been replaced by B2B marketplaces like Cloud Blue by Ingram Micro and AWS Marketplace ONE Platform, said Bob Bilbruck Captjur CEO.

“Now businesses can easily sell to each other through these B2B marketplaces,” Bilbruck explained. “Many firms help these companies transition their business models to more of an as-a-service business, utilizing these new marketplaces and tools to help streamline their operations and in the process lower pricing for the businesses they sell to and increasing their own profits.”

To take advantage of this shift in B2B ecommerce, Bilbruck recommended formulating a channel schema and applying it to all areas where they can generate revenue. For example, a wellness company could generate money from monitoring, activations, wellness program management, deployment and tracking.

Final Thoughts

Though a large number of B2B companies have already embraced digital business, the transition is far from over, the McKinsey article pointed out. “B2B leaders that commit to further digitizing their go-to-market models should derive competitive advantage in the form of more — and more loyal — customers than their slower-moving peers.”

As firms continue with the digital transition process, it should be seen as something that will continue to evolve, not something that will be “finished.” Using the four recommendations above will help companies embrace and maximize the benefits of this digital transformation.