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While smartphone usage, social media and the consumerisation of IT are driving up business-to-business (B2B) customer expectations, half of B2B organisations surveyed feel it is difficult to provide intuitive and user-friendly interfaces, according to the 2013 E-Commerce Report from Intershop. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

When it comes to selling online, B2B organisations have to adapt to changing customer expectations. Across the board, respondents from B2B companies agreed that the world of B2B commerce is undergoing a radical transformation, and B2C trends are reflected in the B2B environment.

But almost all organisations (96%) said they are facing serious challenges. Half said they find it difficult to provide intuitive and user-friendly interfaces for multiple touch points such as B2B online stores and mobile apps. A similar number (48%) said it is difficult to manage complex organisational structures such as different user roles, multiple business models, multiple commerce touch points and multiple data domains.

A big challenge comes from how this change is being driven by multiple factors, from customer demand and expectations (81%), to developing technologies (74%), to the fact that business buyers engage through various offline and online touch points with their peers and use multiple information sources to make decisions (73%).

Despite this, almost half (49%) agreed that bringing business buyers from offline to online could result in a higher overall bottom line. Some 44% expect higher average basket values and 43% said bringing buyers online could result in more return customers and higher brand loyalty.

"Where there is complexity, there is also opportunity. Organisations that can develop their B2B commerce channels now and offer a consumer-like approach will be well placed to capture market share. They will need to understand how to manage the complexities around their new channels, but the effort will pay off," explained Jochen Moll, a board member for Intershop.

Of the 400 B2B organisations surveyed in Europe and the USA, 92% already sell online, and the remaining 8% have plans to. Almost one quarter of these organisations (23%) are planning to increase the percentage they sell online by a further 40% or more.

When it comes to the features their customers expect, intuitive search and navigation are understood to be important by more than three quarters (77%) of B2B organisations, followed by online order approval (75%), self-service account management (74%), category and product pages (73%) and online store analytics / monitoring in real time (72%).

Organisations also realise how important search engine optimisation and search engine marketing are (70%). Two thirds (63%) are trying to encourage ranking or scoring of their organisations' products on social media sites.

Conquering mobile commerce was the top business challenge facing B2C retailers. In the near future, mobile channels will gain in importance in B2B too. When asked what new touch points organisations plan to use in the next 12 months, online marketplaces (25%), mobile apps (24%) and mobile stores (22%) were the most popular choices.