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How Amazon Can Help B2B Sellers Put the Customer First (Part 1)

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In case you haven’t been paying attention, there’s a huge revolution in B2B Ecommerce that’s happening as we speak. It’s not just the adoption of digital technologies (though that’s certainly part of it). It’s that Amazon Business, which caters to B2B buyers and sellers, is exploding. Just last year, the company announced its millions of B2B buyers had done $35 billion in annualized sales with hundreds of thousands B2B sellers. This is a direct result of Amazon heavily investing in B2B Ecommerce over the past few years, and as a result, it’s one of the firm’s fastest growing business units.

How did Amazon get so big so quickly? Aside from already having a significantly developed delivery infrastructure (that also continues to grow), Amazon does one thing extremely well: Putting the customer first.

The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be earth’s most customer-centric company.
—Jeff Bezos, CEO and President of Amazon

Interestingly, what’s worked so well for Amazon over its 25-year history is almost a foreign concept for many B2B merchants. Too often, my conversations with executives at firms don’t even include the word customer (at least until we bring it up). Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that many B2B manufacturers, brands, and distributors are finding out that they need to adapt to a new, customer-centered business environment that relies on digital tools for moving customers through the sales funnel.

Amazon, of course, is playing a huge part in this. Here are a few key things that Amazon has done to put the B2B buyer at the center of Amazon Business’ operations, and a few features that your business can take advantage of by selling there.

Understanding B2B Workflows

B2B buying is often far more complicated than its B2C counterpart, and it can vary widely by industry and product category. To gain a better understanding of how different industries work, Amazon smartly hired people right from the industries it was looking to serve—distribution, medical, maintenance, repair, operations (MRO), etc. These key hires were able to give Amazon instant insight into how the Ecommerce giant could formulate its B2B tools and services to fit how these industries worked. But their expertise alone wasn’t enough.

Amazon also spent a significant amount of time talking to buyers in these industries. They wanted to understand what buyers needed from the buying process, what their pain points were in both online and offline purchasing channels, and what they expected from a digital buying experience.

The result is that Amazon adapted its own technology and processes to serve the industries it wanted to enter, rather than forcing B2B buyers to conform to something they may not be familiar with or comfortable using.

Developing Unique B2B Feature Sets

So what features does Amazon Business offer that are unique to the B2B buying experience? Essentially, they’re all features that either recreate common B2B buying processes or mimic the consumer-like experience that even B2B buyers have come to expect. Let’s take a look at a couple specific examples.

Product Presentation: By talking with buyers, Amazon Business is able to understand what information a buyer needs and then presents products in an intuitive way with the data that’s important to buyers in that specific category. This means detailed product specifications, sizes, applications, compatibility information, etc.

Financial Tools: Amazon Business offers a variety of financial tools to make B2B buyers’ life easier. These include its Pay By Invoice service that offers the choice of a Net 45 payment in full or revolving credit, as well as tools for buyers to proactively manage their procurement budgets. They also allow businesses to pay through purchase orders, an incredibly useful tool for B2B buyers. Lastly, Amazon Business offers buyer-specific pricing, allowing merchants to create pricing for specific customers that no other customers can see, such as when pricing is built into a long-term purchasing contract.

User Management: Amazon recognizes that large organizations often have more than one buyer, and that not every buyer has the same role or function. As such, Amazon gives organizations the ability to authorize different buyers, manage their capabilities on the site, and ensure that only those with the right level of access can make or authorize purchases. What’s more, Amazon is now allowing buyers to qualify as “certified buyers” in specific industries, such as some medical industries. This enables purchases of some products that are only sold to buyers with those certifications, and has significantly expanded the number of products Amazon can sell.

ERP/Procurement Integrations: This is probably one of the most significant things Amazon Business has done to attract and retain new buyers. Amazon is now integrated with more than 80 of the top ERP systems on the market, enabling buyers to make purchases on Amazon but through their procurement system. That means that B2B sellers on Amazon can participate in the procurement process for universities, large organizations, government agencies, and more without having to worry about integrating directly with those buyers’ systems.

Testing Everything All the Time

Amazon is a wizard at testing, and it should be no surprise that they’ve applied the same methodology to Amazon Business. This approach essentially allows buyers to “vote” for new capabilities simply by interacting with their site. Just as it does on the B2C side, Amazon uses user engagement data to understand if features help—or hinder—buyers from accomplishing their goals quickly and easily.

The result is that Amazon Business offers a large number of features that make it easier for B2B sellers to get a lot out of the platform. If you want a more complete discussion of these features and how to strategically sell on Amazon, check out our managing partner’s book Billion Dollar B2B Ecommerce. Or reach out to us directly on our Contact page.

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