What Is Frictionless B2B eCommerce?

What is frictionless commerce? Is it yet another fancy come-and-go buzzword or something you need to pay close attention to?

B2B customers are increasingly expecting a frictionless ecommerce experience that is similar to what they experience in the comfort of their own homes when they shop for their families. To remain competitive, B2B companies have to evolve with customer demands; otherwise, they risk losing their business to competitors who do. But what does frictionless B2B ecommerce actually imply? How do we achieve it? Is it worth it? We’ll try to find out below.

What Is Frictionless Commerce?

Frictionless commerce refers to a set of practices aiming to eliminate bottlenecks in the customer journey and to craft a seamless and convenient shopping experience.

However, because business processes are interconnected, friction can be hiding past the consumer-facing business facets, presenting serious challenges. Therefore, eliminating friction and optimizing the interrelated elements in all business areas should become businesses’ top priority – it helps companies to achieve consistency and cohesion across channels that will potentially have an effect on customer relationships.

Speaking of the shopping journey in B2B, customers often highlight the friction points that are frequently connected with the lack of real-time inventory, payment, and fulfillment options, and overall poor website user experience, which makes self-service difficult or close to impossible.

Forrester recognizes the following dimensions of frictionless commerce:

  • Fulfillment
  • Security
  • Payment options
  • Accessibility and user experience design
  • Personalization
  • Positive friction
  • Customer experience

We’ll cover each in more detail later in this article.

Good Practices to Eradicate Friction

Fulfillment

To make every step behind the ‘buy’ button as seamless as possible, shipping and fulfillment processes need to be optimized and automated. A good starting point is to invest in systems integration. To avoid working in silos, companies should either re-platform to a flexible ecommerce solution that offers a joined-up approach for all business processes, or extend the existing B2B ecommerce platform to include different third-party systems, such as shipment and fulfillment providers.

B2B customers expect fast and efficient shipments, the ability to track the fulfillment, after-sales support, and quick reordering options. Companies, therefore, need to deliver on those expectations by either leveraging their existing technological solutions or switching to the platform that’s capable of addressing those friction points.

Security

Security goes beyond safeguarding customer data, which is undoubtedly the number-one priority for establishing an ecommerce business, and includes providing customers with controls over their own security. Granular user and account management, as well as formalized segregation of duties, will assure B2B customers that they are in control of their own data and can protect themselves by limiting user access to sensitive information that’s outside the user’s immediate job responsibilities.

Payment options

Integrating a B2B ecommerce platform with different payment systems and providing multiple B2B-relevant payment options, including trade financing, can greatly facilitate the payment process for B2B customers, thus contributing to an overall frictionless experience.

Accessibility and user experience design

B2B customers are looking for a shopping experience that will ultimately help them accomplish their jobs faster and more efficiently. A clean and organized website design that features an easily searched catalog, labeled products, and product descriptions with images is an outright necessity. Since the search function is particularly critical, the integration of a B2B ecommerce platform with an efficient search engine (like Azure Cognitive Search or Elastic) should top the decision makers’ agenda.

Personalization

There’s a huge difference between personalization in B2B and B2C, something we have addressed in our earlier articles. Unlike B2C customers, customers in B2B won’t appreciate an unrelated suggestion; however, they will surely welcome recommendations that are aimed to make the order assembly easier, such as suggestions of accessories, complementary products, substitutes (for out-of-stock SKUs), or products that work together.

Positive friction

Positive friction is an unexpected interruption in a customer journey that brings positive (rather than negative) emotions – it could be anything from an earlier delivery to a surprise discount. Even product recommendations, provided they are relevant, can create positive friction.

Customer service

Although B2B ecommerce customers are now increasingly demanding a self-service experience, no one can deny that some issues require human intervention, and this is where the company’s salespeople can truly shine. Positive interaction with the sales team and customer service representatives is typically described as actionable, insightful, and accessible. B2B customers need to have easy access to important product (and technical) information, as well as company representatives, in case written information proves insufficient.

Download to learn why customer experience offers the greatest potential to lead in modern ecommerce

Key Barriers to Frictionless B2B eCommerce

While addressing key friction points, companies typically encounter the following barriers: technical debt, data management issues, and cultural resistance.

If legacy systems can no longer work together to create a seamless experience across multiple channels, companies have two options: either try and upgrade their existing B2B ecommerce platforms or replatform to a new, more flexible solution.

6 Principles for Successful Replatforming in 2021: Way to Composable Commerce

Data management tools help to not only keep data clean and accurate, but also transformable (with AI and predictive analytics) into actionable insights that can be further leveraged to craft a better and richer customer experience.

Finally, keeping everyone on the team on the same page regarding the company’s goals will help overcome negative cultural impact and resistance from skeptical employees.

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Marina Vorontsova
Technical author and eCommerce advocate