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How B2B sellers can succeed in marketplaces despite COVID-19’s disruption

A fast-growing demographic of B2B buyers are sourcing supplies and materials through marketplaces, and sellers that can’t offer flexibility risk being outpaced by competitors. As the competition increases, buyers are becoming increasingly loyal to the best purchasing experience — not necessarily the brands behind them.

While this message isn’t new for B2B sellers navigating omnichannel sales, specifically ecommerce and marketplaces, a recent Digital Commerce 360 panel conversation made it especially easy to understand in the midst of economic uncertainty. As part of a panel of eCommerce experts, MSTS President Brandon Spear provided advice to sellers on what the panel promised: “Connecting with B2B buyers in challenging times.”

The panel began by acknowledging the monumental shifts that have occurred because of COVID-19. Pre-COVID — before shelter-in-place orders and supply chain breakdowns — nearly half of all B2B buyers completed 25% of their transactions through a marketplace, and 80% say the way they bought from business mimics their personal digital shopping experience. While it’s too early to tell exactly how buying behavior has shifted, it’s safe to say buying digitally has seen a huge surge in recent months. As a seller, whether you are making use of existing marketplace giants like Amazon or Alibaba or creating your own marketplace experiences, offering flexibility and ease through the entire buying experience is critical.

As COVID-19 alters supply chains and throws budgets into uncertainty, what this flexibility and ease-of-purchase actually looks like takes many forms. Pandemic or not, it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of the needs of the buyer and the challenges for the seller in digital marketplaces. Key takeaways from this webinar discussion on winning marketplace strategies that can weather disruption and change include:

  • Takeaway #1: Marketplaces attract B2B buyers. Buyers have a number of reasons to desire the more tailored experience a marketplace can provide. For one, B2B buyers often let logistical considerations guide their thinking. What are the logistics of this marketplace? What are their shipping options, and how much product do they typically have on hand? These are all important considerations for the B2B buyer, and marketplaces are far more equipped to meet them.
  • Takeaway #2: Consider tools that create loyalty. Getting the marketplace experience right can enable you to capture a significant portion of your buyers’ wallet. But how do you get it right? Start with a new mantra: Customers aren’t loyal to buying from a B2B brand, they are loyal to the experience. A great place to start is including flexible payment terms as part of the purchasing experience. When you offer payment terms, accessible credit and simple onboarding, you make it easier and faster for buyers to spend.
  • Takeaway #3: Reject a “one-size-fits-all” approach. B2B buyers have different needs, so a uniform buying experience is not what you’re chasing. Instead, sellers need to focus on good customer segmentation practices to find unique ways to capture more share from buyers. For example, a B2B seller that sells on or hosts their own ecommerce marketplace might offer special payment terms or even pricing for one or two of their largest customers. At the same time, they might tailor specific combinations of features (e.g., flexible payment terms, larger credit offerings for specific product sets) and offer them to “rising star” type buyers, who may be poised to become even bigger customers in the future. This kind of flexibility is all the more important in the COVID-19 business world — extending better terms and more forgiving options to buyers now is a recipe for increased loyalty in better times.
  • Takeaway #4: Not all eCommerce marketplaces prioritize B2B seller success. Amazon’s experiment with offering terms to B2B buyers in 2018 had mixed results. While buyers loved the flexibility, many sellers felt blindsided, as there was no way to opt out and they had no control over the terms being offered. Unfortunately, Amazon’s strategy made sellers subservient to its own brand-building. Instead, look for technology partners who give you more control over the entire buying experience, allowing you to set the strategy and reap the benefits.

The ability to provide flexible payment options in the marketplace is already proving valuable. For example, MSTS customers in the retail and manufacturing spaces saw exponential increases in online sales after transforming their accounts receivable processes through our technology. While COVID-19 has all businesses walking a fine line when it comes to how much credit to extend to buyers, MSTS customers are enjoying the reduced risk and resources of operating their accounts receivable operations on their own.

Listen to the full webinar, “Marketplaces and customized commerce: Connecting with B2B buyers in challenging times.”

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