The modern consumer’s patience for complex buying journeys is waning. In a digital-dominated world, she is accustomed to convenience entrenched in her buying experience – easy access to desired products and information, easy-to-navigate websites, the ability to compare products and pricing, etc.
Although B2C players have been successful in streamlining the ecommerce experience, B2B companies are only beginning to realize that customers make no distinctions between a personal and a business transaction.
B2B commerce may have moved online several years ago, but most companies still don’t offer a smooth, intuitive customer experience that even a small B2C store is able to manage.
While this cannot be entirely blamed on retailers, since the nature of B2B purchase is vastly different from B2C, driving greater customer engagement and delivering a streamlined shopping experience is certainly possible. B2B companies can undoubtedly ditch a sub-par digital experience in favor of streamlined online purchase experience.
B2B Ecommerce in Need of a Rehaul
Yes, B2C and B2B tend to work differently; however, customers want an intuitive shopping experience no matter the product they’re looking to purchase. According to Harvard Business Review, a smooth purchase experience is by far the biggest driver for high-quality sales, as much as 62% when compared to traditional B2B selling.
In B2B buying, the user experience can be quite complex and varied depending on the industry, product, and the buyer’s role itself. Many e-retail outlets are still not designed to meet these buyers’ needs, forcing them to manually search through items through complex taxonomy, or filtering through a huge number of results.
Additionally, though B2B buyers rarely struggle with finding content and marketing information, their needs surrounding a seamless buying experience – product configurations, order placements, quote requests, etc. – often go unfulfilled.
It has become important for B2B businesses to take a leaf out of the B2C ecommerce playbook and give customers the smooth, quick, and easy experience they’re used to.
Welcoming the Age of Self-Service: Taking Cues from B2C Retail
The best digital experience practices have already been laid out by B2C. This is good news for B2B companies – they can bypass the hit-and-trial phase and hit the ground running! Given below are key self-service tools B2B businesses must implement to end shopping agony for your buyers.
1. Product Discovery
Imagine your store houses near-infinity choices and has everything your customers could ever need. Well, that is good news only if your customers can find what they’re looking for. With a great catalogue size comes equally great deliverability problems; most of the time, 80% of your audience discovers only 20% of your product catalogue – an extremely poor product discovery rate.
B2C giants like Amazon use optimized home pages to help their customers discover relevant products at any given instance – The “Recently Viewed” and “You Might Also Like” sections, listing products based on popularity and new arrivals, and educational content that helps in pre-selling products.
Moreover, on-site search engines are highly optimized so that customers can begin their search with a narrower range of products. Even after people are ready to make a purchase, the site integrates product listings into the cart or checkout pages to maximize upsells via secondary product discovery – recommended items, frequently brought together items, “Complete the Look” option, free shipping and extra discounts on getting certain products together, etc.
Merchandising and product discovery tools include such tools that will help you shorten product discovery time for your customers – product categorization, search and filtering, ability to compare between items, cross sell and upsell opportunities, and marketing promos.
Your customers can save a good 15 to 30 minutes on product search!
On the other hand, such tools make it easier for you as a merchandiser to improve inventory planning – by understanding product affinities, you can curate ensembles to highlight the right product at the right time for the right customer.
2. Pricing Tools
Even though there are endless ways to configure pricing options, some strategies may leave revenue on the table and worse, damage your customer’s view of your brand. Unwittingly tanking business due to incorrect pricing strategies is not worth the risk; opt for a pricing strategy that puts your customers first.
The success of your B2B ecommerce store depends upon developing complex pricing tiers. But, how do you streamline this experience? By segmentation!
Now, putting your customers first does not just mean customer-specific pricing (though it is one of the segmentation types). You can segment pricing based on product type, volume, order size, etc.
Also, you can offer your customers exclusive entitlements – a right to access a benefit or service; it could be access to premium content, lifetime free shipping via a one-time fee, etc. This will differentiate you from your competitors and help build customer loyalty to your brand.
Moreover, using different kinds of discounts and special offers via coupon codes can not only encourage hesitant buyers to pull the trigger but even past shoppers to place their second, third, even tenth order.
But, just like the smartest B2C retailers, you need to be selective in your discount distribution – instead of slashing prices across the board, you can offer exclusive targeted discounts via pricing tools to secure more sales.
3. Reorder, Quick Order, Order Lists
Unlike B2C, B2B buyers typically make large-scale ‘repeat’ purchases. Even B2C ecommerce offers customers the ability to easily reorder their regular-use products; then how much more must this feature be available for B2B buyers!
Offering your customers the choice to reorder a previously placed order, preferably with the option to modify item quantity becomes a must. Rapid reorder capabilities of Order Portals will help your customers to instantly recreate a past e-order with a single click of a button.
A new checkout page will be generated with the original order details. The time taken from the product page to the checkout can be shortened to as little as 2 minutes!
Moreover, another way to offer the same convenience is through the creation of saved order lists/wishlists/order templates. Such a list will allow your customers to create and save a list of their frequently purchased order(s); such lists can be reused, eliminating the need to enter a lot of information every single time.
And while you provide repeat order and saved lists, you cannot miss out on making the purchase process faster. Quick order functionality makes it easier for your customers to search for their desired products via name or SKU, update the quantity, and add multiple products to the cart without having to change multiple screens, shortening the whole process by a good 10 to 15 minutes!
4. Complex Checkout
Customer-supplier relationships in the B2B world are complex and dynamic. This is because B2B customers expect customization in nearly everything – from product specifications to delivery. As such, the checkout experience must be as transparent and linear as possible.
Moreover, the complexities of B2C shipping pale in comparison to that faced by B2B businesses – choosing the right freight carrier, charging handling fees, delivering to multiple locations, etc.
B2C checkout may not be as complex. Yet, to streamline the whole experience, sellers offer multiple payment options, single page checkouts, etc.
B2B complexities demand complex checkout tools that offer your B2B customers with options such as multi-step checkout, split shipments, PO for payment, payment gateway – credit cards, etc.
Spreading the checkout over multiple pages will make the process simpler for your customers by helping them focus on one step at a time, and integrating split shipments will enable your customers to have separate products delivered to different locations without having to create multiple orders.
Moreover, split deliveries also reduce shipping costs. And with payment options most suitable for your B2B customers, you can make order purchasing easier and faster.
5. Analytics-enabled Mobile Responsive Store
According to Google, mobile outranks desktop in total traffic. And what’s more interesting is that this stat is specific to B2B customers. This means whatever you do, making your ecommerce site responsive on mobile phones is a must for streamlining the experience.
Responsive design will automatically show your entire website’s content in the best possible format for each mobile device. Not only does this make it easier for your customers to browse through your store, but it gives you only one asset to manage, reducing the resources needed to update the site across all versions.
Now, being responsive does not end with a mobile-responsive site. Customers all over the world shop online and for many, English is not their native language.
Speaking another person’s language can literally strengthen bonds. The same happens in customer-supplier relationships. You can have 2 to 3 language options based on your customer base. For subsequent visits, your customers will automatically be redirected to the correct site.
Similar to multi-lingual options, your customers will also need multi-currency options. With the help of multi-currency support enabled via Google Analytics, your customers will be redirected to the site that supports the currency of the country of their residence.
To bring it all together in a streamlined manner, EPR ecommerce integrations are a must for your B2B ecommerce store. Such integrations are the secret behind the seamless set up and management of B2C stores. What you get is a fully functional administrative UI, customized back-end workflows, built-in order management, multiple payment gateways, etc.
An ERP-integrated ecommerce store will offer you the following benefits –
- 360-degree view of your inventory, which is crucial to avoid over or under-selling
- Increased order accuracy
- Reduction in the time taken to process each order
- Timely order delivery
Such strategies are designed to drive sales by delivering convenience to your customers at every level, from the time of product availability to its selection, to purchase, and finally up to delivery.
The interesting thing is that when compared to B2C, B2B has a larger millennial customer base – people who prefer self-reliance over tedious conversations with sales reps.
And as their purchasing power increases, B2B companies will face even greater pressure to cater to the needs of the demographic – streamlining ecommerce experience. If you aren’t delivering a smooth shopping experience yet, now is the best time to do so.
Need help with delivering a full-fledged ecommerce experience to your customers? Docmation’s Salesforce B2B Commerce Quick Start Package will streamline it all for you, in less than 5 weeks!