B2B Firms Must Embrace CRM-Based E-Commerce

It’s an exciting time for B2B businesses. The global B2B market today is four times the size of the B2C market overall. What’s more, a 2015 Forrester report estimated that B2B e-commerce sales will top $1.13 trillion by 2020.

These numbers indicate a significant opportunity for B2B companies to improve e-commerce experiences and remain competitive in the rapidly growing B2B online market. However, while digital has become a critical channel in commerce for both B2B and B2C brands, organizations continue to struggle to meet the changing needs of buyers. 

The 2016 State of Digital Commerce Report, which surveyed 340 marketing and IT professionals about their challenges and expectations in today’s commerce landscape, found that while B2B companies spend big money on digital commerce implementations, they do not reap the anticipated benefits. Most respondents report that their site prevents them from maximizing profits and gaining a holistic view of the customer.

So how can B2B businesses leverage the rapidly growing digital space while minimizing spend and maximizing profits? The answer lies with CRM-based e-commerce platforms that integrate all customer data into their systems, which gives the business insight into the customer’s history, status, transactions, and other important information at all times.

The Proof Is in the Data

According to the CloudCraze study, 70 percent of digital companies spent more than $1 million on their current digital commerce site, and 30 percent spent more than $2 million. However, only half of survey respondents believe their current commerce site allows them to be as profitable as possible.

Even worse, the study found that despite spending big money on their sites, most brands still struggle to keep up with customers’ needs:

  • Forty-nine percent of respondents currently face challenges quickly updating their commerce platforms based on the organization’s or customers’ changing needs.
  • Forty-five percent struggle to scale quickly to the changing needs of the market.
  • Forty percent are unable to get a holistic view of the customer.

Brands with more than $25 million in annual revenue reported experiencing these pain points on a magnified level as their legacy systems are plagued with inefficiencies.

The study also found that respondents viewed CRM-based systems more favorably than on-premises, ERP-based systems. Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) said CRM-based systems are more innovative than ERP systems, and 43 percent said they find CRM systems to have a higher level of usability.

CRM Benefits Explained

CRM-based systems, or those built on top of a CRM system and closely tied to customer data, reduce many of the above pain points because they provide businesses with a 360-degree view of the customer. This gives them the power to upsell, cross-sell and significantly improve customer service.

Building commerce on top of a CRM system streamlines customer engagement and data sharing, eliminating duplicate customer data and inefficiencies or extra steps required to integrate commerce, sales, and marketing data.

What’s more, these systems are incredibly agile and user friendly. While an on-premises, ERP-based system requires constant IT support and a complex update process, CRM systems make it easy for sales and marketing teams to make updates and provide personalized customer experiences with very little technical training. This flexibility allows companies to adjust and scale quickly in response to changing customer or market needs.

CRM-based systems also tend to be much less expensive than ERP-based systems. This is especially true if they are built on the cloud rather than hosted on premises because it reduces upfront implementation and long-term maintenance costs. They also require less time to implement, allowing businesses to generate sales right away.

As the digital B2B market becomes more competitive, businesses can no longer afford to spend millions on clunky, back-end systems that fail to meet customer needs. B2B businesses today will be smart to invest in CRM-based systems that put the customer at the center of their commerce business model.

ChrisDalton(@cjdalton) is the CEO of CloudCraze, where he leads as an evangelist in enterprise digital commerce. Dalton offers a seasoned background in entrepreneurial successes, having founded and invested in a multitude of digital marketing and cloud-based technology companies.

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