The B2B chemical industry, like many others, is rushing to adopt ecommerce. Despite the B2B ecommerce market being valued at six times as much as the B2C ecommerce market, many B2B businesses have been lagging behind in digital commerce. However, the digital disruption we have seen due to COVID-19 has forced B2B companies to catch up—we are seeing the B2B ecommerce market growing at unprecedented rates.

B2B ecommerce transactions are expected to account for 17% of all B2B sales in the United States by 2023, reaching $1.8 trillion. It is also predicted that by 2025, 80% of all B2B sales interactions will take place online. The growth rate of chemical ecommerce was 3.7% between 2017 and 2020, reaching $2.7 billion globally in 2020.

McKinsey puts it like this: “In many cases, the strengths enabling some companies to surpass their industry peers—tech-forward and asset-light business models propelled by the tailwinds of growing demand—became even more important” due to the COVID-19 crisis and the change we have seen in consumer behavior as a result.

The chemical industry needs to, and in many cases already is, take advantage of the rapid consumer shift towards online shopping. Investing in B2B ecommerce is a future-proof commerce strategy that will make the most of this digital disruption. In this article, we discuss how B2B consumer behavior is changing, and why B2B businesses in the chemical industry should adopt ecommerce.

Related reading: Anticipate Disruption with a Digital Experience Strategy

Changes in B2B Buying Behavior

The momentum of B2B companies adopting ecommerce is largely driven by the change in B2B purchasing behavior. B2B buyers are also B2C customers and are naturally expecting the same kind of purchasing experience in their professional life. This combined with the fact that digitally native millennials are involved in making 73% of B2B purchasing decisions has led to today’s B2B buyers being increasingly tech-savvy and pressuring the B2B sector to offer new digital and multichannel solutions.

This is highlighted by recent research, where the vast majority of B2B buyers state their preferences for using digital sales channels. 74% of B2B buyers research at least half of their work purchases online. And up to 80% of B2B buyers prefer digital self-service or remote human interaction.

Related reading: Reimagining the B2B Buying Experience

Selling in the chemical industry, as many other B2B industries, has traditionally been built on face-to-face human interaction. The products in the chemical industry are often nuanced, requiring substantial advice and guidance throughout the purchase journey. In addition, the buying process can be somewhat negotiable and sellers set individual prices and payment terms for their customers. All of this makes the chemical industry seemingly better suited for a traditional sales model.

However, these needs can successfully be addressed through ecommerce. And with the B2B buyer behavior changing, it is prime time for chemical companies to consider adopting a digital commerce strategy. But not only can B2B ecommerce meet the specific needs of the chemical industry, it also offers many benefits compared to the traditional sales model.

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Benefits of B2B Chemical Ecommerce

Improve Customer Relationships

Long-term relationships between buyers and sellers in the chemical industry have always been the foundation for successful businesses. Now more than ever, it is crucial to build great customer relationships. According to Accenture, 80% of B2B buyers have switched suppliers over the last two years, highlighting the need to focus on building loyalty. With B2B chemical buyers’ preferences shifting towards digital shopping and away from working with a sales representative, adopting a digital commerce solution is a great way to improve customer relationships.

Recent research by Accenture highlights the underutilized opportunity chemical companies have to improve customer relationships through technology. In their research, they found that chemical buyers place a high value on digital interfaces and experiences that make the buying relationship easier and more intuitive. However, in the same survey, they also found that chemical companies value the importance of digital experiences in relationship building significantly less. This shows how adopting an ecommerce solution is a great way to improve customer relationships.

Increase Efficiency

B2B has traditionally been more labor-intensive than B2C with complex orders, individual pricing, and highly involved sales and marketing strategies. Ecommerce cuts down on much of this labor cost; helping to automate repeated actions while being able to account for individual pricing and payment terms.

Not only does ecommerce cut down on labor costs, it also helps avoid costly human error, especially when combined with an automated stock management system. Adopting an ecommerce solution can therefore significantly reduce costs through improved efficiency.

Expand Reach

With a digital commerce solution, businesses are no longer bound by the availability of sales representatives—your company and products will be available for anyone at any time. Your business can reach a large audience by participating in one of the rapidly growing ecommerce markets.

An alternative ecommerce setup that increases your reach significantly for the chemical industry is B2B marketplaces. Online marketplaces connect buyers and sellers and facilitate transactions between them. Marketplace operators usually handle tasks such as logistics and facilitating payments, allowing sellers to focus on providing customers with a quality product.

B2B marketplaces play a huge role in the overall chemical ecommerce landscape. They have seen a massive boom in the last couple of years, both in terms of the marketplaces available and the number of buyers and sellers on these platforms. Online marketplaces come with a built-in audience and can facilitate tremendous exposure for your company resulting in massive sales.

Related reading: The B2B Ecommerce Marketplace Opportunity

Key Takeaways

Ecommerce has immense potential for B2B businesses in the chemical industry. With ecommerce adoption in the chemical industry booming, now is the time for chemical companies to implement a digital commerce solution.

B2B buyer behavior is changing—the preference for digital commerce is becoming more and more pronounced and driving the adoption of ecommerce in the B2B field. Chemical buyers are no exception—they see technology as a great way to make buying relationships easier and more intuitive.

B2B chemical ecommerce holds many benefits, including

  • Improved customer relationships
  • Increased efficiency
  • Expanded reach

How Can Vaimo Help

At Vaimo, we have experience working with various B2B companies in building their digital commerce solution. We’re a full-service omnichannel partner and can help you with every part of the process—from strategy, design, development, and managed services. If you’re looking for a partner to guide you through the digital transformation journey and help you understand how to make the most of the new ecommerce landscape, we’re here for you. Get in touch to talk to one of our experts.

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At Vaimo we help brands, retailers, and manufacturers all over the world to drive success in digital commerce. Reach out to us if you want to hear more about how we can improve your customer experience strategy, go to market plan or explore how technology can enable success.