The B2B (Business-to-Business) world is steadily growing every year. In the past, B2B construction businesses relied heavily on in-person collaboration through trade shows and conferences. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, a shift towards digital collaboration pushed many B2B businesses out of their comfort zones. This gave the B2B world more incentive than ever to pivot to using digital platforms. Furthermore, the pandemic exposed problems that can occur when a business does not have streamlined communication within these digital platforms.
Imagine this scenario: a home supply store wants to buy flooring from a supplier. They will likely want to shop around and be able to instantly gain answers about pricing and inventory levels. While trade shows might have worked as a one-stop-shop in the past, the COVID-19 pandemic brought these to a halt. Now it’s on the home supply store to start researching flooring prices, and these are often kept in a paper price book, requiring another salesman’s time and effort on the other end of the transaction.
The Problem with Relying on Paper
Oftentimes, B2B buyers need answers fast and want to be able to quickly compare pricing between competitors. Forrester analyst Stephen Casey noted that B2B buyers who are put in immediate contact with a live salesperson (which is necessary when prices are kept in a paper/PDF price book) could be put off by that experience. Instead, buyers want to do their own element of shopping around and becoming informed on their own before being put on the spot. Creating digital elements to a company website that include company pricing and other frequently updated information can make B2B buyers feel more in control of the experience. Furthermore, it would save both companies time and resources in the long-run, since the supply company needs to staff someone to flip through the book and look up prices for each inquiry.
Chatbots and Virtual Assistants
Chatbots are becoming increasingly useful for this very purpose. These are bots that can pop up once a buyer has been browsing a site for a certain number of minutes. By proactively offering pricing, these chatbots can give the buyer the answers the home supply store needs in a timely manner without having to communicate with a real person. Better yet, once the chatbot has been programmed to do this, it frees up more time for the workers on the supplier end, allowing them to be more efficient. These bots can also be updated to include the most up-to-date pricing.
Implementing Social Media
Social media can also help streamline communication and boost sales–but only when it is being used efficiently. In a study conducted last year out of Sweden’s University West, researchers examined how social media could be effectively implemented in B2B construction businesses. The primary use of social media should be to distribute product information. Beyond that, its usage seemed to help B2B businesses immensely when there was managerial involvement to promote consistency and follow-through. In the example of the home supply store and the flooring supplier, having a presence on social media to show off available products and encourage engagement could help the flooring supplier make more contacts. The home supply store could easily connect with the flooring supplier and receive pricing information, or the flooring supplier could even post this information proactively on social media.
Working Towards a Better Future for the B2B Industry
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been increased interest in how B2B businesses can better integrate digitally. Last year, a study out of Finland examined B2B construction companies in the eCommerce world. This study worked to identify what factors drove quality when it came to an emerging online presence for B2B businesses, and currently, there is even more research trying to look into what makes a B2B business an online success. As many aspects of the world have been forced to pivot to a digital space, B2B businesses must find ways to adapt as well. By streamlining communication to proactively offer more of the pricing and inventory online, B2B businesses can set themselves up for success in this new sphere.
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