The pandemic forced us to drop the "e" from ecommerce. Ecommerce is now just an essential staple of sales and marketing. As a result, marketers are learning what digital marketing features to adopt to best match emerging customer behaviors. The education process will impact the choices they make with their analytics strategies.
As with most customer-related things, B2B businesses are following in the footsteps of B2C brands here. So what are the implications for B2B marketers?
Ecommerce has existed for years, but consumer patterns took a while to identify. BOPIS — the acronym for Buy Online Purchase In Store — as well as its sister behavior, BORIS (Buy Online Return In Store) emerged among shoppers even before the pandemic. Click to collect, a cousin of BOPIS and BORIS emerged as yet another option for customers. All of these represent changes in consumer behavior and set up expectations they'll have for future transactions, whatever the brand or service.
The pandemic accelerated certain types of ecommerce behavior. According to eMarketer, worldwide ecommerce sales will reach $5 trillion in 2021. The behaviors established in B2C ecommerce have begun to apply to corporate accounts that rely on online services and order solutions for products. Businesses now need to educate corporate clients and provide features that are tailored to those clients.
Learning from retail segments can benefit B2B firms looking to adjust to a more digital-based economy. Traditional retailers found ways to adapt ecommerce and succeed against their fiercest competitors, the digital natives. They successfully blurred the lines between two experiences: in-store and online. Marketers at companies that serve consumer and corporate accounts will face similar decisions on what services to blend and to keep separate. The starting place for those decisions lies in analytics.
Ecommerce enhances analytic strategies for B2B in two critical ways. First, data from ecommerce creates an opportunity to manage inventory based on real-time customer behavior data. The data footprint from customer purchases requires up-to-date analytics that matches the frequency of retail transactions. Click and collect provides a starting point for developing operations that best align with customer demand for products. Imagine an improved ordering system so that you can shift resources accurately to match customer reception of their product and services according to their preferred choices, and you would have the right idea about the potential inventory management advantage.
Second, the frequency of customer activity from ecommerce behavior provides new training data to support predictive machine learning models. A retailer can establish machine learning models that establish relationship between operation activity to customer choices. Moreover, retailers can develop forecast guidance based on activity, yielding better ordering schedules, fostering metrics for operational efficiency, and raising better communication among managers overseeing a retail operation.
B2B marketers should pay close attention to how companies respond to shifting ecommerce norms. Office Depot announced a strategy to split into two businesses, one that address B2B clients and the other for small business and consumer retail. These kinds of details raise questions on what kinds of analytics best align with accounts while providing a tailored overview and integration features for corporate and consumer data.
Ecommerce also drives a need for analytics that can highlight operational data and eliminate potential workflow bottlenecks such as data silos. B2B marketers should keep up with analytic developments, especially as updates from traditional solutions like Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics are meant to serve commercial and consumers accounts. They should also keep an eye on the cloud platforms that can identify operational performance with data and enhance data management. Microsoft Azure Purview is an example of such a platform.
B2B marketers have long adopted ecommerce tactics downstream from their B2C cousins. But the latest digital commerce expansion has opened the door for B2B marketers to keep clients and partners ahead of the curve.