In the world of B2B, the needs of customers can be both varied and highly complex. Long-term customer relationships are more usual and more crucial than in the B2C arena, so when it comes to planning and implementing a B2B ecommerce solution, you need to be sure your agency knows your requirements and is able to deliver a robust product.
As we’ve said before, the opportunities and revenues that can be achieved by a B2B company when it invests in ecommerce are vast, ranging from capturing new business from direct competitors, saving time for internal sales teams and reducing ordering errors, to bringing in international business. Every day, an increasing number of B2B customers are expecting to be able to interact with their suppliers whenever and wherever they need to. That’s where ecommerce becomes a key differentiator for your business.
However, when you head down the ecommerce path, make sure you’re asking the right questions of your ecommerce agency. Here’s our roundup of some of the key questions you need answers to.
1. What types of B2B companies have you worked with and which one is the closest match to our business?
You need to establish that your potential agency has worked with B2B companies. There is a world of difference between B2C and B2B ecommerce techniques and best practices. Additionally, the agency has to be able to demonstrate that they will understand your company and its environment. That doesn’t necessarily mean they should have worked in your specific B2B industry vertical, but they should have transferable knowledge gained in similar sectors or with similar builds.
2. Who is the biggest client you’ve lost in the last year and why?
All agencies lose clients. It happens. However, as a potential new client you need to dig into the circumstances around any recent client losses and find out why they occurred.
The agency probably won’t be expecting this question, so it’s a good idea to give them as little time as possible to give you an answer. Don’t send this one in an email, ask it in person or over the phone and you’re more likely to get an undiluted response.
3. How much of your work involves ecommerce development rather than website development?
There are complexities found in ecommerce that just don’t exist in more traditional website design and development projects. Once ecommerce is placed into the online mix, the customer journey becomes far more complicated. It’s not just about the coding and development requirements, or the back office functionality and the integration with other systems. It’s ensuring that everything is optimised up front as well. Are the calls to action compelling? Does the complexity of your product require rich product content and datasheets? Are you using dynamic personalisation, to serve up the right content and products to the right people at the right time? These are just a few of the considerations above and beyond a website build.
4. Which ecommerce platforms do you build on and which do you have most expertise in?
It may be self-evident, but If you know what platform you want your ecommerce site to be built on then you should partner with an agency that specialises in that platform and perhaps one or two others. That way, you know your site is going to be built by specialists rather than generalists. However, if your chosen agency has experience of one or two other platforms as well, they will be aware of any shortcomings of your chosen platform and may have developed plugins to improve the experience.
If you’re not sure which platform to use, then talk to ecommerce agencies that work across a range of platforms, but make sure that they’re not spreading themselves too thinly and losing focus. Remember that you’re not just looking for the best match in an agency, you’re also looking for the platform that is best placed to handle your current and future business needs.
5. What’s your perspective on the broader customer journey and how do you think ecommerce plays a role in that journey?
When choosing an ecommerce agency and building your ecommerce footprint, you also need to be thinking about your omnichannel buyers. Your B2B customers won’t just be interacting with your website in isolation. They may transition through a range of communications with your business, from phone calls, emails, face-to-face sales visits and purchases from your website.
A good ecommerce agency will explore how your ecommerce presence slots into your overall customer journey. This bigger picture approach will ensure that your ecommerce website works hard and works right for you from the outset.
Putting It All Together
When it comes to your ecommerce presence, make sure you ask the right questions before taking the plunge. Working with the right agency can make a huge difference to the speed and magnitude of your successes. Indeed, using the wrong agency could cost you money rather than provide you with profits.
We’ve helped clients increase their online revenues by 220% and we can do the same for you. So, if you’re thinking of implementing ecommerce or improving on what you already have in place, just give us a call, we’d love to chat through the detail with you.