CloudCraze research forecasts growing shift towards e-commerce in B2B sales

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Nearly 90 per cent of those making B2B purchases believe they’ll be offering products by 2022 that customers will mainly buy through e-commerce rather than a traditional sales rep, according to a research report from CloudCraze.

In a look at how e-commerce will drive revenue growth outside of the consumer segment, Chicago-based CloudCraze, which offers a way to sell online via native integration with Salesforce, conducted a survey of more than 400 decision-makers. The responses, which came largely from those working in consumer packaged goods, manufacturing and software-as-a-service firms, showed 48 per cent already sell their entire line of products and services online. Self-service options to conduct e-commerce is also growing quickly, among 56 per cent of those surveyed.

CloudCraze COO and president Ray Grady told B2B News Network that despite the potential benefits, there are still firms struggling to overcome some concerns that moving to e-commerce will stir a revolt among sales reps who largely reach out to buying teams through cold calls, e-mails and in-person meetings.

“A lot of them will way, ‘Our business is so complex, our pricing is unique,’” he said. “There’s sort of an internal perception issue.”

What may need to happen in some cases, Grady said, is for firms to make sure they incentivize the right behavior among reps by compensating them for transactions that happen on digital channels.

“It’s about showing the rep that this isn’t being done to take their job — there are certain transactions that customers will want to handle on their own,” he said. “It lets them be more strategic and broad about making a more complex solution sale and not a commodity sale.”

Besides offering a way to launch new product lines, 52 per cent said e-commerce could be a way to offer more tailored offerings to customers. Only one per cent said selling digitally offered no value.

“Oftentimes the customer will start with e-commerce as a cost-avoidance play,” Grady said. “Then they discover it means the customer that buys online will buy more product — the frequency of purchase will go up.” This is a big issue given how long sales cycles in B2B can be, he added.

There are still hurdles, of course. Of those who aren’t seeing growth in e-commerce, 53 per cent said they lack insight into customer data. Legacy issues with older technology such were other pain points. Among those that make the move, on the other hand, 42 per cent said it means their service team has gotten more involved in commerce, whether it be cross-selling or upselling.

“They want to replicate the best offline experience — an easy way to engage, consume content, communicate, collaborate and buy,” Grady said. “If you look at the power of us and Salesforce, they can have one view of activities in the call centre, the field, and when they buy. It’s taking the best of account management, call centre, direct commerce sales and replicating that in a digital format.”

As with so many other areas, of B2B, 24 per cent of those surveyed said digital transformation (DX) is critical to changing the way they sell.

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.