Investing in e-commerce? Better make it mobile

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It seems that B2B suppliers have noticed that it’s almost 2015 and hey, wouldn’t you know it, the whole buying-online fad is probably here to stay.

A recent report by Forrester Consulting suggests that B2B is getting serious about e-commerce: 80 percent or more of online B2B sellers are planning to invest in, implement, or upgrade their e-commerce platform within the next six months.

What’s fueling this big push? “Legacy systems and platforms are largely inadequate to support omni-channel requirements,” says the report.

In one word: b2b mobile.

Omnipresent demand for e-commerce

Essentially, B2B suppliers are recognizing that their buyers expect a more seamless experience from them when they research products, make purchases or manage their accounts, regardless of channel or device. (The report, “Building The B2B Omni-Channel Commerce Platform Of The Future“, was commissioned by Accenture and the SAP-owned Swiss e-commerce software maker Hybris.)

According to Forrester’s survey of 526 B2B companies in Canada, France, Germany, the US, and the UK, more than 80 percent agree that an omni-channel strategy is critical to driving more sales, profit and long-term success. Eight-five percent said technology investment decisions will be centred on their omni-channel strategy.

Clearly, when four out of every five B2B companies are upgrading platforms, e-commerce is a big priority. It’s great to see B2B finally getting religion on this. For goodness sake, 52 percent of the 930 business buyers surveyed expect that at least half of their purchases will be made online in three years’ time.

But as long as you’re playing catch-up, there is no point thinking about e-commerce like it’s 2005. Today, e-commerce increasingly IS mobile — one and the same. And B2B needs to be ready for the implications.

B2B buyers are people too

As a B2B supplier, you’re selling to other businesses, but the research and buying decision is still made by a flesh-and-blood-person — a person who is in every other aspect of her life a consumer. And she is growing very accustomed to mobile, thank you very much.

In a separate Forrester survey last year of 353 online B2B companies around the world, 54 percent of B2B companies selling online said their customers are using smartphones to research products — 62 percent said customers use tablets — and 52 percent said customers are using smartphones and tablets to make online purchases.

Those are some significant numbers, and they have surely grown over the 12–18 months. The report noted that the more B2B companies sell online, the more likely their customers are using tablets and smartphones to buy products and services.

Get moving on mobile

In their current survey, Forrester says 39 percent of B2B sellers have made providing “access to their website through a mobile app” a top technology initiative over the next 18 months.

Three quick reactions to that statement:

  1. How much will mobile “access” to a website include the full buying and account management experience?
  2. What kind of “app” depends on customer preferences, but creating native mobile app experiences for iOS, Android, etc. should be a lower priority than ensuring the site’s user experience is mobile-ready.
  3. What are the other 61 percent of B2B sellers doing?

In their grand plans for omni-channel and e-commerce strategies, B2B companies need to put mobile front and centre. Yes, B2B buyers are looking for better website search, more personalized product or service recommendations, and even integration with their back-end finance, accounting, OMS, or ERP systems — but the whole experience should now be designed with mobile access in mind.

Fortunately, designing for mobile is good for more than just smartphone and tablet users. Mobile experiences require highly refined user experiences, especially for e-commerce, which ultimately translate well and impress on a laptop as well. The additional focus and care that goes into planning for mobile will pay off well into the future.

Photo via Netmediaplanet

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Andrew Wahl

Andrew Wahl

Senior Content Strategist at Dash Digital Group
Toronto-area writer, editor and digital marketer who creates content with Dash Digital Group. Former senior writer and columnist with Canadian Business magazine.
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