B2B Mobile Commerce: Everything You Need to Know

B2B Mobile Commerce: Everything You Need to Know

There’s a new B2B buyer in town …

According to Google, that buyer is younger — typically under the age of 35 — and has been granted decision-making powers that used to be reserved for senior executives.

In addition, 59% of all B2B buyers now prefer to research online instead of interacting with a sales rep, and the typical B2B decision-making process is 57% complete before a customer even thinks to reach out directly to B2B providers.

Having a transactional B2B site is not enough. To remain competitive, you must have a mobile-first B2B presence.

With mobile commerce sales growing 200% faster than ecommerce overall, let’s explore the B2B mobile commerce opportunity and run down everything you need to know …

What Is B2B Mobile Commerce?

Mobile internet usage has exploded over the past few years, and people are spending more time on their phones or tablets than desktops and laptops.

Mobile search has grown exponentially as well. Google reported last year that more than 50% of all searches are from mobile devices. And where there are searches, there is purchase intent.

Mobile commerce is a natural extension of that trend, which accounts for 33% of all B2B ecommerce sales. Fully 78% of B2B companies believe that it is the future of their industry.

More importantly, mobile ecommerce continues to eat away at its share of the ecommerce pie. It’s actively taking sales away from PC-based expressions.

Mobile share of ecommerce

Image via Business Insider

As more and more transactions happen on mobile devices, there is an amazing opportunity to be seized in the B2B mobile commerce space. That is, if the industry is willing to make a few changes.

A slow, five-step checkout process for thousand-dollar-plus products isn’t going to cut it. Nor is a poor user experience on a tiny screen that doesn’t cater to big fingers and a spotty Wi-Fi connection.

The savviest retailers and wholesalers are already shifting to a mobile-first strategy. They’re adopting the biggest benefits of on-the-go devices while ditching the legacy infrastructure problems to leap ahead of the pack.

The Pros and Cons of Using Native Mobile Apps

According to Clickz, “people with access to a smartphone or tablet now spend an average of three hours on them per day and 84 percent of all smartphone time is spent in-app.”

So, if you’re going to create an app, you must provide an exceptional buyer experience. After the initial user download, Alibaba’s native app brings up a simple screen that helps immediately segment which type of B2B buyer you are:

  1. Online retailer
  2. Offline retailer
  3. Wholesaler
  4. Import/Exporter
  5. Manufacturer
  6. Sourcing Agent

B2B mobile commerce buyer type

A simple tap of the screen then helps to customize the rest of the user experience. The app can pre-plan which options the user specifically needs, or which products they’re most likely interested in, based on this initial selection.

Next, you’re presented with a personalized homepage to start browsing products or suppliers.

Alibaba personalized screen

Alibaba even has a section on the homepage which offers the user-specific recommendations based on past purchases, plus previously identified interests.

So far, the B2B user experience feels very similar to a B2C app. And that’s the point. You’re offering a seamless experience between the mobile apps they use for work and their personal lives.

But the application starts to feel more like a B2B mobile commerce platform when it allows you to make custom product requests and negotiate offers with suppliers directly.

This is why a native app is so powerful. You’re able to take a complex process (e.g., finding products, customizing features, and receiving quotes – all from multiple suppliers) and make it painless with just a few taps.

Trying to replicate the same experience on a mobile responsive website is an uphill battle you don’t want to fight.

Instead of having to bounce around between a customer’s email client and your website, all supplier interactions are hosted directly under a simple “Messages” tab.

Alibaba even allows buyers to request customizations and approve suppliers’ offers within the app itself. Purchase information can be saved, and all transactions are encrypted under digital lock and key.

Grainger’s app takes a few pages from the same playbook.

First, the app uses your mobile GPS to locate specific products at the branches closest to your immediate physical location.

Next, it scans your fingerprint to provide full access to all of your account information, transaction history, and purchase data.

There is no need to memorize a long, complex password full of capitalizations and special characters.

The Risks Involved with Building a Native App

A better shopping experience typically leads to happier customers. That sounds awesome in theory, but there are two huge reasons why companies shouldn’t dive headfirst into building a native app.

First and foremost is the retention issue illustrated in this very sobering chart:

Image via Andrew Chen

Apps might lose almost 80% of their active users within just a few days after the initial installation. Without implementing a host of engagement tactics, that number could reach 95% within just a few months.

There is also a deluge of mobile apps on the market, and most don’t offer compelling features to continue using over the long haul.

That’s a huge investment on just one line item gone straight down the drain – especially when you consider that a Kinvey report estimates the average mobile app development cost to be $270K.

It gets even worse when your app requires more than a year to build.

Even relatively simplistic business apps that have everything needed to enable B2B mobile commerce still cost around $130,000 on the low end, plus months and months of development time.

When you add it all up ...

Yes, the payoff could be huge, but there is also an immense financial risk.

Fortunately, you don’t need a native app to still have a strong B2B mobile commerce presence. You can start by speeding up your mobile site’s user experience and overall performance.

A Faster Website Speed Increases Sales

The human attention span is quickly deteriorating to a level dangerously close to goldfish. Wait, what was I saying? Oh yeah …

Can you blame us?

With access to the world’s information at our fingertips and seemingly infinite entertainment platforms and content vying for our already time-starved attention, it’s no wonder we have a hard time fixating on anything for more than a few seconds.

So when a landing page takes forever to load, or product images don’t render fast enough on your mobile site, your customer will quickly bail on you – likely to go check out your competitor’s site.

According to Google’s latest mobile benchmark report, “The probability of someone bouncing from your site increases by 113 percent if it takes seven seconds to load.” The bad news is that almost every website they reviewed took longer than seven seconds to load.

Nearly every other statistic out there shows a similar inverse correlation between speed and sales: The slower the site, the lower the sales. Kinsta compiled page speed data that revealed the following:

Don’t ignore this vital tactic for providing a better B2B mobile commerce experience.

To start optimizing your site, read: 15 Ways to Improve Ecommerce Site Performance for Faster Page Speed and Better Sales.

Customer Engagement Eases Conversion Friction

Your single greatest opponent isn’t necessarily a competitor, but conversion friction on your own mobile website.

More than 37 studies found that, on average, 70% of shopping carts are abandoned before purchase. There are many reasons why this happens, like a checkout form being too long, or poorly designed. The trick is to isolate each friction point and remove them one by one.

Even adding something as simple as Google’s autocomplete to your site search functionality can help remove potential barriers to purchase.

This seemingly insignificant feature can reduce enough errors on mobile devices to save customers 20% of the time it usually takes to fill out long, complex forms.

Another option is SMS Notifications. You can create custom messages to go out instantly when someone expresses interest (e.g., adds a product to cart) but doesn’t buy.

This same feature allows you to send confirmation updates so that you can continue managing expectations long after the first purchase.

Why not just use the regular email campaign you’re used to seeing?

Trillions of emails are already being sent daily; it’s no wonder why open rates continue to fall into the teens. Meanwhile, SMS open rates are closer to 99%, and more than a third of business people reported that they “couldn’t go 10 minutes without responding to a text.”

Not only are more and more people buying on mobile; it’s also a lot easier to re-engage them to buy again.

Mobile Payments Streamline the Buying Process

B2B ecommerce adds additional wrinkles to the mobile conversion friction fold:

  • Larger than average transaction sizes
  • Much higher order quantities
  • Advanced customizations to both product and pricing

Rather than paying upfront, often B2B buyers require quotes, which means there are often different payment arrangements needed.

Within the Shopify Plus wholesale ecommerce channel, you can

  • Create custom price catalogs for individual customers or groups
  • Enable fixed-price lists, percentage off, or volume-based discounts
  • Automatically receive and review Draft Orders before invoicing for negotiated deals

On the other end of the spectrum — and especially on mobile — are one-click purchasing options for routine items. Gateways like PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Shopify Pay all dramatically shorted the purchase process.

That means no entering a credit card, no creating an account, and no filling in a long, complex address. Even shipping is a simple drop-down, so the order takes seconds, instead of minutes.

Mobile Payment Analysis Enhances Your Current Strategy

Data from over 100,000 Shopify stores reveals that mobile accounts for over 50% of ecommerce traffic.

But how does that traffic impact your bottom line?

Are we talking new visits that turn into repeat customers? Or visits that bounce immediately after hitting the first page of your site?

Likewise, site performance tweaks and changes that result in more visits are useless if your sales (and order values) don’t improve first.

Making a few of the changes outlined in this post can result in top-line lifts. You can go inside Shopify or Google Analytics to compare performance before and after the changes were made.

For starters, keep an eye on the mobile conversion rate you see for purchases. This performance metric tells you about efficiency, or how well you’re converting strangers into new, loyal customers.

For example, Black Claw sells clean, reputable tattoo needles to other tattoo artists online. Relaunching its website on Shopify Plus and optimizing its website based on conversion data resulted in 123.94% more transactions. But just as importantly, the company also saw a 13.5% increase in average order values.

So not only were more people checking out; they were adding more to their carts.

Simple tweaks can often make all the difference. For example, V-Belt Guys integrates a text link on its site to redirect commercial accounts to a PDF order form.

If they’re using a desktop or laptop, a customer can simply print it out or use Adobe to quickly fill in the details.

But on a mobile device, this process forces customers to take additional steps before being able to complete the action, which means more room for conversion friction.

This is a perfect conversion-based metric to test and refine how to make it easier for mobile visitors to fill out the form.

Also, one reason shopping cart abandonment is so high is that people add something to their cart and then forget about it.

Dormify solves this common merchant complaint with a simple drop-down notification bar on the top of a user’s screen. It subtly pushes people forward to complete the transaction.

It makes a small difference, but incremental improvements add up across thousands of visitors, or thousand dollar average order values.

Put yourself in a position to monitor, analyze, and test based on sales, not vanity metrics that could go either way.

Final Thoughts on B2B Mobile Commerce

B2B mobile commerce converges two trends which present a tremendous opportunity when combined:

First, more B2B buyers want control over a simple, transparent purchase process. Second, more people are buying online via mobile devices.

Today’s B2B buyers are digital savvy and are doing their research online before they make a purchase decision. They are also less price-conscious than the typical B2C consumer.

That levels the playing field to compete on one thing alone: value.

But providing “value” today doesn’t just mean offering additional features or a lower price tag. It involves optimizing the entire experience someone has when purchasing products and services on your B2B mobile commerce site.

To win and keep more customers, you must deliver more value, faster, and easier than the competition via a mobile-first B2B buyer experience.

About the Author

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who writes about Canadian SMEs, marketing, and digital media trends. Follow her on Twitter.