More consumers are expecting businesses to maintain an online presence and offer products and services to online markets, leading traditional B2B businesses to shift some or all their business to ecommerce to keep up with demand.
Though the D2C model seems like it should be exclusive to B2C brands, many B2B brands can add new revenue streams, discover new customer segments, and build loyalty with current customers.
While this has a tremendous impact on sales opportunities, it also increases the competition for B2B companies. Moving toward a D2C model isn’t as simple as opening an ecommerce store – it takes new strategies, technologies, and a shift to a customer focus to get ahead.
Digital Transition: More than an Ecommerce Website
Successful D2C implementation comes with many challenges. Ecommerce is more than a “set it and forget it” channel. Before transitioning to D2C, B2B companies need to develop new organizational processes, integrate new technologies, create consistent content, and manage data.
Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform
One of the biggest challenges for B2B companies shifting to D2C is a lack of agility. Often bogged down by legacy systems, processes, and operations, or leadership that insists on a traditional approach, B2B companies struggle with adopting new technical setups and an integrated ecommerce platform that streamlines the process.
If your company has historically sold thousands of products to retailers in bulk, switching to selling thousands of products directly to customers requires a different set of systems and processes. This should not only be factored into the business model, but the logistics to fulfil orders.
You can develop a clear, consistent strategy around the customer journey and implement an end-to-end ecommerce system that supports each aspect of your business. Ideally, you should look for a solution that spans ecommerce, order management, and integration with your current logistics, payment processing, and CRM for the most painless transition possible.
Adopt New Technologies
In D2C, the focus is on fast, seamless buying experiences for your customers. Moving to a D2C model means a significant shift in procedures and new thinking in terms of managing returns and exchanges.
New technologies, and automation specifically, are your lifeline. Ecommerce automation used to be reserved for huge companies, but it’s now an attainable option for businesses of all sizes. Automation can streamline and simplify the routine processes, creating a better customer experience and less hassle for your team.
With automation, you can spend more time focusing on the mission-critical, revenue-driving aspects of D2C, such as marketing strategy and brand awareness campaigns, while the rest of the business runs efficiently.
Collect and Manage Customer Data
Successful D2C strategies have customers at the core, and there’s no better way to get in-depth understanding of your customers than with data-driven insights.
Consider aspects of your customer base like:
- Purchasing behavior
- Social media behaviors
These personas can help you tailored your new D2C strategy to provide a better user experience.
In addition, selling directly to your customers gives you even more insights as you go. You’ll collect rich customer data to inform your future strategy and campaigns to provide an intuitive, tailored experience across every touchpoint. As you make things better for the customer, you’ll be rewarded with better loyalty and higher customer lifetime value.
Create Engaging Content
Young, agile ecommerce brands have a lot of advantages in the space, but you have something unique to your company – in-depth product knowledge and expertise. You can add value to the retail experience with compelling content that offers advice and guidance. This can be done with blogs, videos, customer reviews, infographics, web chat, and social media.
Social media is incredibly important for an online audience. Most consumers expect companies to have a strong online presence. You should develop your accounts on the social media accounts your audience uses most, so you can deliver content to them and get suggestions and feedback.
Plenty of other content opportunities exist with social media, such as influencer marketing campaigns that increase your reach, online communities that develop camaraderie among customers, and user-generated content, which builds customer trust.
Put the Customer at the Heart of the B2B Digital Experience
One of the biggest factors in buying decisions is customer experience. For ecommerce businesses, the customer experience is especially important and can determine a company’s competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Though many B2B companies are transitioning to ecommerce, the ones getting ahead keep the focus on the customer. This should be considered in every touch point, from the first interaction with your company online to the product delivery.
B2B customers are expecting to make purchases at any time, across any channel, just like D2C customers. As a result, B2B companies need to adopt an omnichannel approach to reach their customers where they want to be.
An omnichannel experience is composed of individual touchpoints over a variety of channels, all connected, so customers can leave one channel and continue the experience on another seamlessly. Instead of focusing on unique strategies for each channel, focus on creating a consistent, integrated experience in real time.
Make the Leap
Transitioning to D2C is a big decision, but well worth the effort. Opening a D2C channel requires planning, a solid understanding of the new customer needs, solid data, and dedication to creating consistent, engaging experiences. As the D2C model gains popularity and more B2B customers expect automated, personalized buying experiences, adopting ecommerce early on can give you a competitive edge in the market.
With ideas for leading brands, Patrick solves real-world business problems for enterprise organizations, startups, and everything in between. Prior to C2 Creative, Patrick developed marketing campaigns at several leading advertising agencies and hybrid digital organizations. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from Illinois State University.