How to meet rising digital expectations for B2B commerce

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The past two years brought important transformations to sales channel strategies, permanently reshaping the B2B payments landscape. During the pandemic, 66% of B2B decision makers said digital sales options became more important to customers according to a McKinsey & Co. study. This is a whopping 18% increase from pre-pandemic times. Rather than replacing B2B offline channels, rising online sales complemented and augmented the purchasing experience, providing buyers with more flexible options.

With the intensifying demand for revenue-driving and loyalty-building payment solutions, B2B retailers need to exceed customer expectations to break through the marketing noise. In the least, B2B buyers expect a standardized, seamless payments experience across all channels. To differentiate, B2B sellers can leverage omnichannel selling as part of the customer experience. According to McKinsey & Co, omnichannel selling has also become a more lucrative way to prospect and acquire new business than traditional “face-to-face only” sales approaches.

Merchants need to ensure their offline and online payment processes deliver the best possible customer experience to meet these rapidly changing preferences. Here are four areas that will help:

1. Diversify payment offerings: This gives business buyers the freedom and choice to pay in their preferred method. More than 90% of merchants expect that improving payment options for B2B customers will improve customer satisfaction, speed up transactions, free up internal resources, and increase business success, according to research conducted with Forrester Consulting. This demonstrates an essential need for B2B sellers to adapt payments processes. A recent industry example includes this one-click mobile app solution for B2B commerce which allows buyers to access their trade financing in-store via an intuitive mobile app, eliminating the need and fraud risk of issuing multiple credit cards to numerous purchasers within the organization. Without any need for POS hardware upgrades, this has allowed Staples’ authorized purchasers to shop seconds after credit approval rather than waiting on a physical card to arrive in the mail.

2. Automate AP and AR processes: The cost of payments is being driven up by a lack of accurate, real-time data on payment flows. According to PYMNTS, 96% of CFOs surveyed said they are digitizing AP and AR processes to benefit customers and vendors. Automating a manual process, as well as providing a more efficient and more transparent process to build lifetime customer value were other digitization benefits cited from the survey. For accounts receivable, this could include automated onboarding to save a merchant time and cost by eliminating the need to email forms, lengthy credit decisions and inefficient procedures such as creating PDF invoices or performing manual bank reconciliations.

3. Provide a buy-now-pay-later option to B2B buyers: The BNPL trend has gained large traction amongst B2C consumers, especially for those who are interested in stretching their buying power and/or personal budgets. Business buyers have long required BNPL-like solutions – such as trade credit and payment terms – for their large enterprise purchases. Now, B2B retailers must modernize those BNPL transaction experiences with digital and mobile purchasing options for B2B shoppers, or risk losing them. We can also expect growth opportunities in sales, cart size, conversion and loyalty for B2B sellers who adopt BNPL offerings.

4. Defend against digital identity theft: Customers are more frequently being acquired online because of the pandemic and a shift to eCommerce preferences. Generally, more online customer acquisition is positive, but it can be difficult to manually onboard customers that you’ve never interacted with before. And a recent survey showed that 46% of organizations using manual anti-fraud solutions reported that fraud concerns made it difficult to work with them. This can lead to unsatisfied customers and lost new business. Supporting safe and secure payments remains a key priority in payments innovation as B2B companies continue to expand their online offerings in 2022. Leveraging data to offer instant decisioning and credit can strengthen the relationship between buyers and sellers by providing sophisticated fraud detection processes and maintaining a strong track record for risk decisioning.

While accelerated by COVID-19, the digital generation is officially here to stay. To thrive in this revolutionized environment, B2B merchants must have an intimate understanding of customer experience, engagement, and convenience preferences. Providing a better customer experience in the new normal requires that sellers embrace digital expectations and implement supportive payments solutions. This can create stickiness and loyalty with customers, and provide cost savings, greater revenue potential and improved cash flow.

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