The current bout of inflation is putting strain on purchasing power, and B2B e-commerce is no exception. E-commerce sales slowed significantly in Q1, dropping 3.7% between January and March and causing ripples of worry among merchants. Fortunately, there’s a way through inflation-related challenges for these sellers: to prioritize transparency and fair prices as a means of building up B2B buyers’ trust. The more buyers understand price transparency and believe your business has fair pricing, the more likely they’ll be to purchase and remain brand loyal.
When considering inflation’s impact on e-commerce, it’s worth noting that inflation may have first inflated B2B e-commerce growth numbers before cutting them back. Last year alone, $22 billion worth of e-commerce sales growth came from inflation.
Still, while inflation may have bolstered e-commerce sales numbers initially, the fact that sales are now slowing as household purchasing power diminishes poses a concern for B2B merchants. We know trust is a major factor in determining where B2B buyers choose to do business. Inflation ups the ante even more on trust. With supply chain issues and rising prices happening as a result of inflation, B2B buyers have to place even more trust in their suppliers. Whether buyers connect with their suppliers through a specific sales rep or a digital channel, it’s critical they feel supported and know that they are in good hands. If their supply chains are threatened, so is their entire business, and that’s not a risk they’re willing to take in tough economic markets.
One of the best ways to build B2B buyer trust is to prioritize price transparency. Here’s how to lead the charge in your own company so that you can gain and maintain buyer trust when it matters most.
1. Decide what pricing to make available.In general, the more price transparency you can maintain, the better. Still, in certain verticals, public contractual price display is a nonstarter. Many B2B organizations negotiate their contractual pricing directly with their suppliers. While external conditions are tumultuous and changing rapidly, it’s critical that you honor your negotiated price and communicate any changes early and often.
2. Show prices for commoditized, available-to-order products. Not every product you make needs a public price tag. It makes sense to share pricing details for commoditized offerings, but manufacture-to-order or configurable prime product prices are often too dependent on the customization for you to confidently publicize. For configurable products, shift the prospect to a configure-price-quote (CPQ) or sales rep-enabled flow. This will help your team streamline their selling process by eliminating cumbersome manual processes, while still allowing them the flexibility they require to price and sell effectively.
3. Tailor transparency to engagement level. Only customers and serious prospects need to see your full pricing. Perhaps you show a public user an indicative range but only share contracted prices, list prices, or request-a-quote options with logged-in users. Not only will you avoid unwittingly giving away pricing data to competitors, but you’ll also incentivize users to log in, thus giving you valuable, first-party user data about how they behave on your site such as search terms and information downloaded.
4. Cleanse pricing data as required and establish the pricing integration. This is an obvious and self-explanatory step, but it’s also the one that companies struggle with the most. Create repeatable, scalable, measurable processes within your organization to maintain data hygiene. For instance, evaluate annually if the right fields are mandatory in your CRM for new client accounts, and make sure sales reps understand how critical it is that they fill out new client profiles accurately and thoroughly. This will ensure all sales reps are working with clean data and precise, up-to-date numbers.
5. Make your team available to discuss pricing. Many brands incorrectly believe that B2B buyers don’t want to talk to a person due to generational differences and user experience trends. However, the reality is much more nuanced. The data tells us that, yes, a vast majority of B2B buyers want to do their own research at their own pace—initially. But when they’re ready to interact with a person, they want to have the option to do so, whether through a digital chat, call or email. By making your team available to buyers, you have a chance to communicate your own pricing narrative to them when they’re ready. That maximizes the interaction and chance of a conversion.
Every brand is different, but this is the basic process for establishing price transparency and lasting trust with B2B buyers. The more you focus on building trust with customers, the more confidence they’ll have in their relationship with you—and in the value of your product after reading through this list. Focus on determining what steps you can take to improve your own brand’s price transparency in a way that establishes and maintains buyer trust, and you’ll build a firm foundation.