When it comes to ecommerce, there are many differences between the needs of B2B companies and their B2C counterparts. As a result, what works well for B2C may have little impact when it’s applied to the B2B arena.
In this article, we’re going to explore the B2B ecommerce trends that are working for B2B companies, but are still beneath the radar and unlikely to go mainstream until 2018. Implement any of these over the next six months and you’ll be ahead of the game and ahead on profits.
What Not To Do With Your B2B Ecommerce
The challenge for B2B companies when implementing an ecommerce solution is that many of their customers just don’t need rich, immersive, brand-affirming features that are often associated with many mainstream brand-driven consumer environments. In many industries, B2B needs to be a little subtler and focused on your company’s unique selling proposition, whether that’s product benefits, high levels of customer service or your expertise within particular niches.
The challenge is that many of your customers may not be ready for high levels of interaction and a plethora of special offers served up via regular emails. They want to be able to do business with you as easily as possible, finding what they need, when they need it and at the volumes and on the terms that they require. It’s highly likely you’ll still need to take enquiries over the phone and continue to utilise your frontline sales force with face-to-face meetings, but ecommerce provides another route to market, and a highly lucrative one.
Do not underestimate the level of technical and creative requirement to successfully implement what seems like a simplification. It takes a lot of planning and configuration to ensure a seamless online journey for the B2B customer. With many B2B companies operating on a high-value-per-order and repeat business model, if you get it wrong it could cost you heavily. However, doing nothing could be far worse and leaves you wide open to attack from your competitors.
1. What You Need To Do: Dynamic Personalisation
If your business operates across many product lines, has a large catalogue, and serves many different sectors, then dynamic personalisation can significantly increase your online revenues.
Dynamic personalisation allows you to serve up website content that changes based on each visitor’s requirements. For example, you may want to show a customer a different homepage to what you’d show an existing lead, which would also be different to what you’d show a first-time visitor. Dynamic personalisation means you can deliver the right content to the right people, at the right time.
In addition, once people log in, you can serve up a completely different ecommerce experience for each target sector based on their details. Not all visitors who arrive at your site are ready to make a purchase, but those who navigate to your product pages are getting closer to making a decision. Dynamic personalisation can nudge your visitors in the direction that you want them to go, delivering content based on previous actions.
A changing, personalised website experience not only promotes a great user experience, but can create more conversions by transforming your site from a source of static information and a hard sell into a two-way conversation with your audiences.
Dynamic personalisation allows you to deliver timely, relevant content, build trust and tailor your calls to action without overwhelming your audiences with multiple messages. Although it may seem like a daunting challenge, the underlying technology is relatively easy to implement and can make a considerable difference to the revenues your website delivers.
2. What You Need To Do: Integrate Your Sales Team
As mentioned earlier in this article, ecommerce will not replace your sales team, but it will allow them to function more effectively and close more sales for your business. As people become freed up from repetitive administrative tasks, which are more suited to the automated nature of ecommerce, your sales people are better placed to have a greater financial impact on your company.
In the B2B decision-making chain it’s possible your potential customers will need a number of interactions with your company before they reach an agreement to purchase from you. It’s likely there may be several people involved in the purchase decision. This is where your sales team can help to steer the conversations, counter any objections and focus on the key benefits for each individual customer. Depending on the complexity of your product, an ecommerce solution will be able to handle much of the journey. However, workflowing and finding the right place in your customer journey for the sales team is crucial to maximising the positive impact of your ecommerce system.
Integrating your ecommerce function into your sales mix also means that your sales team can refer existing clients into the system. It’s likely that many will welcome the flexibility and convenience of repeat ordering from your website. In addition, if you build a commission element into your ecommerce system for sales team referrals, you’re likely to find the website being promoted more often, pushing it to the forefront of your marketing and sales campaigns, freeing your sales team to pursue incremental new business even more.
3. What You Need To Do: Mobile Commerce & Responsive Design
When it comes to mobile ecommerce, or m-commerce, B2B has always lagged behind the B2C sectors. However, things are beginning to change. Many B2B operators are now focusing on m-commerce as a lucrative route to market, making their services as convenient as possible for their customers.
Research shows that, in some core B2B sectors, a growing percentage of buyers are investigating new products and suppliers from a mobile device. This means that your website has got to be responsive and easily navigable from a mobile phone or tablet. Furthermore, if your customers are likely to make purchases while on the road or if they move from site to site as a requirement of their job, then you need to consider implementing an m-commerce element to your website, before your competitors do. For the right industries, integrating mobile into your sales process can provide a valuable additional revenue stream, delivering additive sales rather than cannibalising from elsewhere.
4. What You Need To Do: Customer-Specific Pricing
Whether you’re selling rubber gloves or complex electronic measuring equipment, you need to treat your B2B customers as individuals with their own specific needs. We’ve covered off some of this under the banner of dynamic personalisation, but as well as providing technical specifications, product benefits and value comparisons, it’s likely you’ll need to offer your customers the option of buying on account, managing a variety of pricing structures and offering a range of shipping options.
The challenges of B2B product complexity can so easily create customer confusion. However, it’s also very easy to get it right at the beginning. You just need to make sure you’re dealing with a specialist B2B ecommerce agency, which will ensure everything on your website is delivered in a format that is accessible and intuitive for your customers.
Making It Work
These are just a few of the ways that you can improve the online experience for your customers and ensure they continue to buy from you. If implemented and maintained correctly, your ecommerce solution will boost your sales dramatically, reduce costs, tie your existing customers into your product offerings for the long-term and attract more new business away from your competitors.
As B2B ecommerce continues to accelerate, you need to be thinking about the overall experience that you can provide to your audiences. What do you think are the most critical elements of B2B ecommerce, when compared with B2C? we’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.