June 17, 2014, 12:48 PM

B2B e-commerce is ‘not a race to a finish line’

Companies that want to succeed in selling online to other businesses need to first establish a culture of innovation, Forrester Research analyst Andy Hoar says.

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It’s important to set performance goals when conducting business-to-business e-commerce, but it’s best to first establish an innovative culture that focuses on how best to engage customers.

That was among the advice from Andy Hoar, B2B e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in the first session of the B2B track at last week’s 10th annual Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

“B2B e-commerce has no finish line—it’s an ongoing process,” Hoar said. With business customers increasing their expectations of buying on user-friendly e-commerce sites that make their jobs easier, B2B sellers are being forced to constantly develop better ways to let customers quickly find and buy what they need—such as through mobile sites and apps that let building contractors quickly order tools and materials from their job sites, he added. “The most important metric is, ‘Are we innovating effectively?’” Hoar said.

If not, he added, B2B companies will get left behind by sellers like Amazon.com Inc. that never stop innovating.

Hoar listed the following six questions that all B2B e-commerce companies should ask themselves as “key metrics” to drive their business:

● Acquiring leads cost-efficiently?

● Converting customers effectively?

● Retaining profitable relationships?

● How does our customer experience compare to world-class customer experiences?

● Where does our level of technology investment stand?  (Hoar noted that a survey last year by Forrester and Internet Retailer found that B2B companies planned to spend close to 7% of online sales in 2014 on technology.)

● Are we innovating effectively?

“When you’re really good at the bottom three, then you can concentrate on the top three,” he said.

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