In a white paper on how e-commerce is changing business-to-business sales, DHL Express noted that the value of cross-border B2B transactions is expected to reach US$1.2 trillion within the next five years – and companies wishing to grab their share of that value must offer flexible online shopping experiences to do so.
Some features B2B companies will need to adopt those services already expected in the business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce experience, including scalable business models and mobile shopping options. However, as noted in the white paper, the B2B side also requires taking different approaches in certain areas, including adapting some web features like product catalogs and live customer support to better serve B2B customers, as well as better integration of front- and back-end systems and logistics processes for B2B needs.
Ken Allen, DHL Express’ CEO, noted that B2C e-commerce has grown rapidly during recent years, with premium cross-border shipments increasing from about 10 percent to more than 20 percent of DHL Express’s volumes. He added, “there is the same potential for cross-border B2B e-commerce to grow at a dynamic pace, and the DHL Express network will be an enabler of that for businesses around the world.”
In the white paper, DHL Express and its co-publisher, the Cranfield School of Management, recommended important investment areas for B2B business leaders growing their cross-border e-commerce business. Areas to target for improvement include: adapting an omni-channel sales approach, building up the digital infrastructure of front- and back-office operations; adopting customization options to accommodate individual clients’ needs; growing customer service offerings; using data analysis for increase business intelligence; and synchronizing logistics operations through technology.
Some businesses, like fashion and apparel companies, are already well-suited to quickly make these changes, the white paper noted. Some business segments, including the pharmaceutical industry, will take longer to adapt to the new cross-border e-commerce environment.
Transport networks will also need to improve to face the special challenges presented by B2B e-commerce. According to the white paper, “Business customers want speed, reliability, traceability and convenience in delivery, supported by an effective returns and exchange policy for damaged items/products.” To achieve those goals, B2B e-commerce companies should adopt the successful models created by online retailers, providing multiple transport and delivery options that allow customers to select the shipping option that meets their needs, while providing full visibility of the costs.