B2B trade has undergone massive changes over the last few years driven by digitisation and rising buyer expectations for consumer-like experiences. Today, roughly 80% of B2B buyers expect the same buying experience as B2C customers. However, the vast majority of B2B online shops are failing to deliver this and are now in a race to close the gap as buyers become accustomed to Amazon-like payment simplicity and increasingly intolerant of cumbersome B2B buying experiences.
According to a study by PYMNTS and American Express, 67% of B2B buyers report switching to purchasing from merchants offering a more consumer-like experience. Among millennial B2B trade buyers surveyed, 74% said they had swapped merchants because a new business offered B2B experiences that are more similar to consumer payments.
In a recent 2022 SANA B2B Buyer Report, 94% of B2B buyers reported experiencing issues with the online buying experience when it comes to payment terms and ease of checkout. Notably, the report also found that 50% of B2B e-commerce sites do not meet buyers’ expectations.
These findings clearly illustrate that B2B buyer expectations aren’t being met, but also present a significant opportunity. B2B online shops that can “consumerise” their payment experiences while solving the complexities associated with B2B transactions have a massive opportunity to drive higher retention, loyalty and become market leaders.
Who are today’s B2B buyers and what do they want?
The differences between trade customers and individual consumers may seem significant, but they’re not so different in reality. Every trade customer is also an online shopper that uses B2C e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Zalando or Bol.com to do their shopping. These personal buying experiences impact expectations for trade purchases.
Today, millennials – the digitally native generation – make up a large percentage of B2B buying teams with 73% of them now lead buyers. They have grown up online and are used to the simplicity and convenience offered by consumer e-commerce sites. They have been spoiled for choice when it comes to payment methods and expect nothing less than a fast and frictionless payment experience with multiple payment options and flexible terms – regardless of whether they are purchasing as a consumer or in a business context.
For B2B businesses, the days of getting by with bare minimum payment offerings and tedious payment experiences are over. The payments experience is now a determining factor for today’s B2B buyers and, as such, a potential driver of retention, loyalty and growth for online shops that get payments right.
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How B2B online shops can mirror the B2C payment experience
While today’s B2B buyers expect a payment experience similar to what they enjoy when shopping as consumers, the complexities of B2B transactions and payment flows mean that these two experiences cannot be identical.
B2C online shops usually only have to deal directly with one customer, whereas in B2B, multiple parties and departments are involved before purchasing. The risks involved in transactions are also significantly higher for B2B businesses than for B2C online shops due to substantially higher order amounts. Comprehensive risk checks before purchasing that effectively serve up to 14 different types of company structures adds further complexity, especially when it comes to new customers or guest orders.
Despite these added complexities, there are still key areas where B2B online shops can optimise their checkout and mirror the B2C payments experience.
Bringing B2C efficiency to the B2B checkout
Most e-commerce checkout processes follow the same steps regardless of whether the shopper is an individual consumer or a trade customer. Generally – after a buyer visits a product page and chooses their items, they move to the checkout where they review their choices, fill in shipping and payment information and confirm their order.
Many B2C online shops have spent over a decade refining this experience to make it as easy and frictionless as possible for customers to complete their purchases. B2B e-commerce, on the other hand, is still in its infancy. Most B2B online shops don't yet provide the same rapid, intuitive and seamless checkout experience offered by even small B2C web stores.
To mirror the B2C checkout experience, B2B online shops need to be laser-focused on simplifying and minimising the number of steps, clicks and information buyers provide. The faster the checkout process takes and the fewer distractions, the greater the likelihood that buyers will return to make future purchases and stay loyal.
1. One page vs. multiple page:
There is no one size fits all checkout flow for online shops. In B2C, one-page checkouts are common and widely considered the most optimal checkout flow. B2B online shops should test whether they can deliver a one-page checkout experience like in B2C, but remain mindful of not overwhelming trade customers with a single form featuring endless fields to fill out. For B2B online shops more suited to a multi-page checkout, providing a progression bar to show buyers their progress is key to keeping customers motivated to finish the checkout process.
48% of B2B businesses say that purchasing speed is a priority. Automation can help returning buyers to auto-fill their information based on past data to speed up the checkout process. Drop-down selections also significantly speed things up as does marking mandatory form fields with an asterisk so buyers who don’t want to provide specific details can complete checkout forms faster.
3. Mobile responsiveness:
B2C online shops have been leveraging mobile for many years due to its popularity among consumers when making a purchase. But more trade customers are now using mobile devices to make purchases too. According to BCG research, 60% of B2B buyers reported that mobile played a significant role in a recent purchase. Ensuring the B2B checkout is mobile responsive is essential to mirror the B2C experience and meet rising mobile usage among trade customers.
4. Free or multiple shipping options:
High extra shipping costs are one of the biggest reasons for cart abandonments during checkout and low retention rates. Like many of their B2C counterparts, B2B online shops should consider offering free shipping if viable financially. If not, providing multiple shipping options that deliver added flexibility regarding price and carrier choice and show expected delivery times are a must-have to keep up with buyer expectations.
Provide a wide range of payment options
Payments are a big part of the B2B buyer experience. They have as much of an effect on conversion rates, retention and loyalty as in a B2C online shop.
But up until now, B2B online shops have been offering only a limited number of payment options that are convenient to them but not their customers. This has resulted in many B2B webshops delivering a less-than-ideal payments experience that often ends up driving buyers away. Research by MSTS reported that 48% of B2B buyers did not complete a purchase because their preferred payment method wasn’t an option.
By offering a wide range of popular and local payment methods (credit cards, pay in advance, PayPal and Buy Now Pay Later, etc.), B2B online shops can mirror the same flexible and convenient payment experiences offered by B2C online shops. As a result, they can expect to drive higher customer retention and loyalty.
Offer flexible payment terms
Today's consumers have access to Buy Now Pay Later in a wide variety of B2C online shops. However, trade customers are offered this option much less frequently in B2B online shops despite the popularity of deferred payments offline for decades.
Buy Now Pay Later enables a more seamless purchasing experience whereby buyers enjoy added convenience and flexibility to manage their cash flow better. With BNPL, buyers spend more and do so more frequently.
B2B online shops that offer more flexible payment options can now also enjoy a competitive advantage as most don't currently offer payment by invoice and installment payments (BNPL) in their checkout, despite high demand among B2B buyers for these payment methods.
Link payments to loyalty
When it comes to rewarding customers, B2B online shops can look to their B2C counterparts, which have long-connected payments with loyalty programs to boost retention and keep customers loyal.
In the B2C world, consumers use loyalty programs in their everyday purchasing decisions (both offline and online) whether booking a flight, hotel or shopping for groceries. These programs typically involve earning or using reward points and are offered everywhere because they effectively influence purchasing decisions and drive loyalty.
In B2B trade, loyalty and reward programs are offered far less despite the benefits of providing such programs equal to or potentially greater for B2B businesses. B2B online shops can mirror B2C by rewarding customers when they pay with volume discounts, more flexible credit terms, reduced shipping costs, or any other number of ways they decide.
As B2B e-commerce continues to grow in the coming years and more trade customers move their purchasing online, integrating loyalty programs will become an increasingly important way to increase customer retention and loyalty.
Now is the time
B2B trade is changing rapidly, but significant opportunities await online shops that can adapt to meet the rising expectations of today’s B2B buyers.
As trade customers become accustomed to simplified Amazon-like payment experiences, finding ways to mirror the B2C payment experience is becoming increasingly important to ensure success.
B2B online shops that can provide similar experiences to those found in B2C e-commerce within the constraints of a complex B2B payments environment will benefit from higher retention and loyalty and gain a significant competitive advantage in the coming years.
Mondu’s BNPL solution brings B2B payments up to par with B2C payments, putting customers at the heart of the payment flow to deliver a seamless, modern and flexible payment experience.
Want to learn more?
At Mondu, we believe there’s more to providing an outstanding payments experience than simply going digital. Reach out to our team today for a personal consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or book a demo.