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7 best practices for B2B ecommerce success

by Greg Gatherer. B2B sellers must craft their digital commerce strategy to the needs of their buyers.

by Greg Gatherer. As B2B buyers grow more accustomed to shopping online, they increasingly expect the same experience that they get from online retailers. However, B2B is not the same as B2C, and B2B sellers must craft their digital commerce strategy with a careful eye to the needs of their buyers. The best way to stand out from your competitors and make sure customers stay with you for the long-term is to provide effortless buying experiences that make customers’ lives easier.

B2B buyers definitely want to spend less time and energy on researching and completing purchases, compared to retail buyers who are shopping for themselves. There are many things that B2B sellers can learn from the B2C ecommerce space. The trick is to take those tactics and tailor them for the unique needs of B2B, creating a new set of best practices that match B2B buyers’ expectations. By using these points as a guide, companies can create online buying experiences that help them stand out, winning new customers and growing their acquisition over time.

1. Simplify catalogue navigation

Most B2B sellers have massive catalogues that are hard to navigate. Naming conventions can also be obscure, especially when product development chooses names that make sense to them but don’t mean anything for the customers. By creating categories and product names based on how customers identify products, B2B sellers can improve discovery and make searching a catalogue more intuitive.

2. Offer rich product content

B2B buyers increasingly do the majority of their research online, without talking to a sales representative. Make this easier with detailed product information, related content, technical specifications, how-to documents, and tools like exploded product views and pathfinders. However, don’t overload buyers with information. The solution is to curate information through personalised content and recommendations. It’s your responsibility as the seller to help buyers find the right product, rather than leaving them to sort through the research themselves.

3. Make reordering easy

B2B buyers have many tasks that they need to do every month, such as reordering or restocking certain products. If they have to go through the search process every month, you create opportunities for them to switch to a competitor. For instance, if they need to search resources outside of your site to help them decide what to reorder, they could easily come across a competitor’s site and decide to switch.

Instead, offer one-click reordering or subscriptions to common products. By automating this common task, you make it easier for them to stick with your services. Some ecommerce platforms offer additional tools, such as demand forecasting to further help customers  know when they need to reorder.

4. Optimise for B2B complexity 

There are a number of 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 should be configured within your digital commerce site so that buyers never have to think about it. When they log in, they should only see products and pricing applicable 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 ecommerce platforms aren’t equipped to handle this level of complexity, which is why sellers will benefit from a platform that is B2B-first.

5. Activate 24/7 self service

One of the major benefits of digital commerce is being able to offer 24/7 self-service. This frees buyers to manage orders on their own schedule and relieves the burden on sales to answer the unexpected questions. Buyers have what they need at the moment they need it, removing friction from their experience. Self-service also provides new opportunities to scale the number of accounts a seller can reach. Customers that don’t have a sales rep (either because they’re a lower-value account or they’re in a limited territory) can now get the same quality of information and access to products as any top-tier customer.

6. Empower your sales reps

Don’t neglect the direct sales channel. Self-service is great, but you may want to provide a more personal touch for higher-value accounts, especially if you have very complex products or a broad catalogue of products. 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 ecommerce 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

7. Leverage customer insights

We’ve already seen that pulling in customer data through search and feedback channels is key to optimising 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 can uncover smarter ways to merchandise their products online. Purchasing history can be used to decide on new product bundles, page elements can be reorganised to drive sales, content searches can inform the creation of new service offerings, and so much more. The possibilities are endless, but they begin with creating a comprehensive, unified view of your customer data.

Effective B2B selling is about understanding the problems your buyers may have and solving them before they ask you to. To achieve this, B2B sellers need to work to understand the full customer purchase journey and solve the biggest challenges at each buying stage, whether that’s answering questions, explaining pricing or responding to different buyer roles within a team.

 

Main image credit: Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels.

 

 

Greg Gatherer is an Account Manager at Liferay. Liferay makes software that helps companies create digital experiences on web, mobile and connected devices. Our platform is open source, and we try to leave a positive mark on the world through business and technology.

 

 

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