Your B2B e-commerce site can offer customers the ability to order products and services, contact your customer assistance team, and find detailed information about your industry and unique contributions to it with ease. However, there are some best practices regarding your site’s functionality, navigation and overall content strategy that are specific to B2B sellers. Here are four simple tips for maximizing the effectiveness of your B2B e-commerce site.
Customized user experience. Though the customer in a B2B relationship may be a group of users as opposed to an individual, personalizing your e-commerce experience to the customer is critical to your success. In fact, research firm Gartner predicts that nearly 70 percent of B2B sellers will make personalization part of their e-commerce tactics by 2018. Leverage data about a buyer’s company, your history with it, and its past search and purchase history to predict which messages and products the buyer group will most likely find relevant. For example, customized landing pages that feature products and services relevant to a user group’s search history upon login can expedite the order process and overall user experience.
Relevant content. According to Gene Alvarez, Analyst at Gartner, the ultimate goal of B2B e-commerce sellers should be to offer tools, insights and experiences that help their customers be more effective at their jobs. This may include suggesting “like” products; accessories that enhance a product they’ve put in their online shopping cart; short videos demonstrating how a product is to be installed or used; or the ability to click through to more detailed product pages.
As you design your content, consider the audience: Google research on B2B buyer behavior recently revealed that B2B decision makers are increasingly not part of C-suite leadership. Relevant content helps your buyers feel like you’re a company that understands what they do, and wants to help them do it better. You may accomplish this on your B2B e-commerce site with targeted promotions that invite the customer to be among the first to try a new product or service; weekly digital newsletters highlighting important industry events and happenings; podcasts with thought leaders in your industry; or short video broadcasts of the “need-to-know” news in your industry.
Transparency. Customers need to understand: what they get with a product, how it differs from alternative options, what it will cost them, why it benefits them, and when it will be ready for use. You significantly hinder customers if you don’t divulge the “all-in” shipping and fulfillment costs that an item presents, or don’t provide customers with real-time inventory data about which products are available in stock or negotiated pricing.
Invest in tools that ensure transparency — including shipping and handling calculators that update costs as customers add and remove items from their carts. Equip your site with real-time inventory updates that tell customers whether a product is in stock in the quantity they need, and when it will arrive based on when they complete their order.
Seamless payment options. Cloud-based tools and mobile devices have allowed B2B customers to conduct business from anywhere, but your e-commerce site must be just as easy for them to navigate on a mobile device as it is from their desktop computer — from start to finish. The Google study noted above reveals that nearly half of all B2B researchers are millennials; a consumer group that relies on mobile devices. Present customers with the option to complete a secure purchase from your B2B e-commerce site at any hour of the day or night — on any device they choose — with secure tools like mobile payments.
The customer relationship and sales cycle may be different in B2B e-commerce compared to B2C sales, but the most important aspects of a successful relationship are the same: Know who your customers are, why they buy from you, and how to give them what they want on your e-commerce site — to position yourself as a trusted partner.
4 Tips For Your E-Commerce Site, B2B Style
Author bio: Marty Acks is a technologist, e-commerce and payments specialist with a software development and product management background. Mr. Acks has published numerous articles in the technical press and presented at dozens of local, national, and international conferences. Mr. Acks is the Senior Director of Product Management at CDI Technology.