What does a business-to-business company need to survive and thrive in the changing digital market?

If you can understand Maslow’s pyramid, you can begin to understand the priorities of any B2B eCommerce investment.   For a sense of scale, B2B eCommerce in the U.S. will reach $1.13 trillion in 2020.

Really, Maslow?

Just as Maslow identified the hierarchy of needs for human fulfillment, your B2B eCommerce initiatives must also evolve in order to feasibly accelerate your business’ growth.

1. Physiological Needs = Survival / Presence   (The base of the pyramid)

The foundation (base) of the pyramid contains our basic needs. Just as humans need food and water to survive, your company must be present online or it will cease to exist. You don’t want to be your industry’s Blockbuster Video, right?

2. Safety = Order / Re-order / Fulfillment / Retention

Safety from an eCommerce perspective means that your customers are able to find, buy and repurchase your products and services online. No matter how complicated your backend processes, you must simplify the purchase process. By the way, the days of merely putting a product catalogue online are over.

3. Love / Belonging = Simplified Service / Customer Loyalty

Love and belonging in the eCommerce realm arise from how you treat your customers. Are you simplifying access to the information and support that your customer needs from you? If yes, you are fostering loyalty and protecting the lifetime value of that customer.

Hierarchy4. Esteem = Grow Market / Wallet Share

Once you have simplified the core purchase and service experience for your customer, it is time to leverage advanced analytics and deliver customer facing tools that are personalized for the customers you serve. This will lead to higher order values, more conversions and better margins.

5. Self Actualization = Innovation Pace Setter   (The top of the pyramid)

In most industries, there is at least one traditional competitor redefining expectations through a new level of eCommerce execution. On top of that, marketplaces like Amazon are inflicting pain. Once you get your fundamentals in order, you need to continually improve in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Where to begin: your phase 1 eCommerce plan

A typical phase 1 eCommerce build will include the first three levels on the pyramid.

Once you’ve accepted that your B2B company needs to be online, you’ll be able to focus on the many ways that eCommerce can contribute to your growth.

For those who are less familiar with the terminology, business-to-business refers to transactions between businesses, for example between a manufacturer and a wholesaler.  This contrasts with business-to-consumer known as B2C.

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