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17 Sep 2013

Pharmaceutical Companies Struggle to Deliver B2C E-commerce Experience Their Customers Expect

When it comes to selling online, pharmaceutical organisations have to adapt to changing customer expectations, driven by trends such as smartphone usage, social media and the consumerisation of IT, according to the 2013 E-commerce Report from Intershop.

Across the board, respondents in a survey of 400 B2B companies, of which 75% of the respondents were from the automotive, high-tech manufacturing, retail, pharmaceutical, and telecoms sectors, agreed that the world of B2B commerce is evolving fast, and B2C trends are reflected in the B2B environment.

Yet, almost all organisations (97%) in the pharmaceutical sector are facing challenges. For more than half (57%), the biggest challenge is delivering responsive and flexible customer service to respond quickly to any customer request. Just over half (53%) say they find it hard to provide intuitive and user-friendly interfaces for multiple touch points such as their B2B online store, mobile apps etc. Just under half (47%) find it difficult to manage complex organisational structures such as different user roles, multiple business models such as B2B, B2C, B2B2C and B2X, multiple commerce touch points and multiple data domains.

One big challenge is how this change is driven by multiple factors an average of eight in this sector. 90% of pharmaceutical companies said change was driven by business buyers engaging through various offline and online touch points with their peers and using multiple information sources to make decisions. Also significant were Web 2.0 technologies enabling new ways of collaboration and relationship building in the B2B environment (87%).

Yet, more than half (57%) agreed that bringing business buyers from offline to online could result in more return customers/higher brand loyalty and 53% said  it could shorten transactions and fulfilment cycles.


Jochen Moll, Member and Spokesman of the Board of Management at Intershop explains: "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.”


Of the pharmaceutical B2B organisations surveyed in Europe and the US that already sell online, the average percentage of B2B revenue from online sales is 40%. Of these, 96% are planning to increase the percentage they sell online, by an average 35%.


When it comes to the features needed in a B2B store to offer B2C-like merchandising, more than four in five (83%)  pharmaceutical organisations understood the importance of online order approval, as well as intuitive management tools (also 83%). This is followed by online store analytics/monitoring in real time (80%), intuitive search and navigation (77%) and self-service account management (77%).


Keen to support their sales representatives and account managers, 80% of the pharmaceutical businesses interviewed would like customised product, price and catalogue management in their e-commerce platform. The same number (80%) would like to be able to view sales reports such as total sales, or sales value by cost centre.


Conquering Mobile

Intershop's 2012 E-commerce Report revealed that conquering mobile commerce was the top business challenge facing B2C retailers. In the near future, mobile channels will gain in importance in B2B too. In the 2013 report, of those pharmaceutical organisations that say mobile commerce will be important in the next 12 months, a total of 68% are planning to create a mobile-optimised store version that allows business buyers to see products, to purchase, to access their account profile and to track orders. 57% plan to create a mobile app that allows business buyers to see products, to negotiate the price, to click and buy and to track orders.

The findings from the survey underline that the transformation of B2B commerce is hitting a tipping point in 2013. The pressure in B2B is to cope with a large number of challenges and fast changing expectations, both from inside and outside their business: Integrating processes and systems, providing consistent cross-channel experiences and embracing mobile and social media, to name but a few.

"B2C has become the test ground for B2B companies to understand how e-commerce technologies can support their sales strategies," adds Moll. "After all, every B2B customer is also a B2C customer so if you want to understand the future of B2B, that is where to look.”

Moll concludes: "Interestingly, there is a noticeable disparity between countries in terms of how sophisticated their B2B e-commerce strategy is. E-commerce really is a global market place and B2B organisations need to raise their game to meet the highest benchmark."

To download the full report, click here

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