Because business buyers are accustomed to buying online, they’ve come to expect the same experience that they get from online retailers. However, B2B is not the same as B2C, and B2B sellers need to craft their digital commerce strategy with a careful eye to the needs of the buyers.
If it’s time to take your B2B digital, here are best practices to use to accelerate your B2B e-commerce success, with technology tips to choose the platforms that will work best for your company.
Simplify Catalog Navigation
Most B2B sellers have massive catalogs that are hard to navigate. Adding to the volume confusion, naming conventions are often obscure, especially non-descriptive product names such as M535 or K375s. By creating categories and product names based on how customers identify products, B2B sellers can improve discovery and make searching a catalog more intuitive.
- Select an e-commerce platform with customizable vocabularies and flexible control over the navigation menus. This will let you easily test and improve the way products are organized across the site.
- Look for rich search features that allow you to analyze which terms customers use to look for products.
Offer Rich Product Content
More and more B2B Buyers prefer to research online without talking to a sales representative. Make it easier for your customers to research with detailed product information, related content, technical specifications, how-to documents, and tools like exploded product views and part finders.
However, don’t overload buyers with information. According to research from Harvard Business Review, “the vast majority of sales professionals believe that giving customers more information helps them make better decisions. It is also widely believed that ensuring that customers have all the data, cases, and testimonials needed to guide decision making and laying out a suite of options, while continually adjusting the offering as customer demand evolves, is important. This approach seems like the right one, and it’s in keeping with suppliers’ desire to be more customer-centric. Yet this methodology drives an 18% decrease in purchase ease, according to our survey of more than 600 B2B buyers. Piling on more information and options just makes things harder.”
The solution is to curate information through personalized content and recommendations. As the seller, it’s your responsibility to help buyers find the right product, rather than leaving them to sort through the research themselves.
- Select a platform that includes a customer feedback channel, such as reviews, comments, forums, or feedback forms. This provides a way for customers to ask questions, and you can use that data to figure out what content to create.
- Search for solutions that apply machine learning to make dynamic product and content recommendations to automate the curation process.
Make Reordering Easy
B2B buyers have many repetitive tasks, such as reordering or restocking certain products. If buyers must go through the search process with each order, sellers introduce opportunities for them to switch to a competitor. For instance, if they need to search resources outside of your site to help them decide when to reorder, they could easily come across a competitor’s site and decide to switch.
Instead, offer one-click reordering or subscriptions for common products. By automating this common task, you make it easier for buyers to stick with your services. Some e-commerce platforms offer additional tools such as demand forecasting to help customers know when they need to reorder.
Select a platform that supports flexible subscription management, including being able to customize the subscription term (for example, every week, every month, or every six months).
Ensure your buyers have a way to manage their own subscriptions, including seeing current subscriptions and canceling or making changes.
Find a platform that supports real time notifications based on different rules, such as inventory levels or expiration dates, to dynamically help customers know when to reorder.
Optimize for B2B Complexity
There are many account settings that need to happen in the background for B2B buyers, including:
- Contract products and pricing
- Workflow approvals
- Providing access and permissions to different roles within the buying team
All of this is configured within your digital commerce site and is seamless and invisible to the buyer. When they log in, they should only see products and pricing that apply to them. Purchases should automatically move through the correct approval workflows, and each new user should receive the correct role for their team’s structure. B2C e-commerce platforms aren’t equipped to handle this level of complexity, which is why sellers will benefit from a platform that is B2B-specific.
Select a platform that handles B2B requirements through configuration, not customization. With configuration, you can scale faster and use standard approaches for similar customers, rather than creating something custom for each of them.
Offer 24/7 Service
A major benefit of digital commerce is being able to offer 24/7 self-service. This allows buyers to manage orders on their own schedule and takes the burden off Sales to answer unexpected questions. Buyers have what they need when they need it, removing friction from their experience.
Self-service also provides new opportunities to scale the number of accounts a seller can reach. This gives customers who don’t have a dedicated sales rep (either because they’re a lower-value account or they’re in a limited territory) the same quality of information and access to products as any top tier customer.
Select a platform with capabilities for knowledge management, blogs, or document libraries. There should be an easy way to organize lots of content within wikis, libraries, or similar views so that customers can search, save, and comment on content.
Empower Your Sales Team
Don’t neglect the direct sales channel. Self-service is great, but you may want to provide a more personal touch for high-value accounts, especially if you have complex products or a broad catalog. Many B2B buyers still expect to collaborate with sales reps on orders and value the unique insight their experience can bring. Facilitate this by adding tools to your e-commerce site that give sales reps deep insight into the accounts they manage. Give them an at-a-glance view of recent order history, pending orders and product recommendations based on their buying patterns so that they instantly have context for each account. Automate insights with machine learning to trigger alerts when there might be an issue with an account. This ensures that reps know exactly when to check on an account and take action to save it
Select a platform that allows the Sales rep to log in as each account and see exactly what they see, including the ability to create and edit orders on their behalf.
Identify the customer data that is most valuable to Sales and bring that together on a dashboard or a mobile app for them to easily view. This is where a customer data platform (CDP) adds the most value.
Leverage Customer Insights with a CDP
We’ve seen how pulling in customer data through search and feedback channels is key to optimizing the B2B experience. Most B2B sellers have even more valuable data that lives within the CRM, marketing automation tools, and analytics suites. By bringing this data together, sellers uncover smarter ways to merchandize their products online.
Purchasing history is used to decide on new product bundles, page elements is reorganized to drive sales, content searches inform new service offerings, and so much more. The possibilities are endless, but they begin with creating a comprehensive, unified view of your customer data with a customer data platform.
Select a platform with flexible integration standards. Ensure it is compatible with data from your existing tools.
Look for a platform that applies insights for more than marketing. Customer data has incredible potential to streamline business processes and improve the overall performance of your e-commerce site.
Effective B2B selling is about understanding your buyers’ problems and solving them before they ask you to. To achieve B2B ecommerce success, B2B sellers must strive to understand the full customer purchase journey and solve challenges at each buying stage, whether that’s answering questions, explaining pricing, or responding to different buyer roles within a team.
If your B2B is ready to take the next step to upgrade your customers’ experience with ecommerce and you are wondering how to finance it, contact Allied Financial Corporation for an accounts receivable loan. Get the funds you need to grow without dipping into your cash flow.