How To Select The Best Ad Platform for Your Business
By Tom Wintaugh
Modern B2B buyers are embracing ecommerce. Here’s what your customers will expect from their online purchasing experience.
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While some B2B sellers believe their buyers aren’t interested in ecommerce, consumer trends and research say otherwise. According to McKinsey, two thirds of corporate buyers now rely on digital and remote sales channels throughout their purchasing journey. Businesses have responded accordingly, with B2B sellers now being more likely to offer ecommerce than in-person sales.
All this suggests that most modern B2B buyers want the same ease and convenience they’d expect from an online retail shopping experience—and if your business can’t provide that, your buyers will find a competitor who can.
On the other hand, creating a sophisticated B2B ecommerce site can meet and exceed your customers’ expectations and give you an advantage over the competition. To illustrate, here’s what your buyers will expect from a top-notch digital B2B experience.
Hosting your entire product catalog online, rather than (or in addition to) sending out traditional paper catalogs, has numerous advantages for both your shoppers and your business.
Buyers can use your digital catalog to easily explore your products from their home or office and quickly make a purchase, request a quote, or ask for further information. Meanwhile, your marketing team can easily release new products or update an existing item’s picture, description, and technical details, ensuring your customers have the most up-to-date information. Your sales and customer service teams can use the website anytime and from their mobile devices to reference product data, allowing them to better serve buyers.
How to Get Started: If your business publishes a traditional print catalog you probably have all of the basic product data that you need to populate an ecommerce website. You can upload spreadsheets to create products in bulk and use the images from your catalog for the website.
Having a B2B ecommerce website enables shoppers to find your products even if they aren’t familiar with your business—all they need to know is the product they want to buy.
When you move your product catalog online, your catalog information is published to search engines like Google and Bing. This means that if a buyer is searching for a product category (such as “lawn mower blades”) or a specific product number (such as “ARAPX-ZTR39”) they can find your website and buy from you instead of the competition. Making your product catalog accessible through search engines can help you widen your reach, attract more buyers, and increase sales.
How to Get Started: Group your products into categories and sub-categories that your customers would use to describe your products. For instance, you might start with a broad category like “lawn mower parts” and then narrow in with a sub-category for “lawn mower blades.” Follow other relevant SEO best practices for ecommerce to help more buyers find you.
You don’t need to look any further than your local grocery store to see that a lot of shoppers prefer self-checkout—and B2B buyers are much the same. They typically visit your site already knowing what products they need, and want to build a basket and complete their purchase without needing to talk to a sales representative.
How to Get Started: Offer an option to check out with a credit card payment. Eventually you can add offline payment methods like Purchase Order and Check. Third-party wallets and financing solutions like PayPal could also be a fit depending on your business model.
Occasionally your B2B website may attract shoppers who want to purchase a large amount of product. In the past, the buyer would need to call a sales representative to receive a quote for their order, but a sophisticated ecommerce website with native B2B quoting software can streamline this process.
To receive a quote online, your customer will add all the items they want to a cart and then fill out a simple form to request a quote. Your sales team can then modify the pricing and terms and the customer can complete the checkout process online.
How to Get Started: Explore the different online quoting software available to determine which option best suits your business’ needs. For instance, Miva merchants who get requests for custom or bulk pricing use Miva’s Managed Quotes module to offer their buyers a seamless online quoting experience.
Many B2B businesses require approved customer accounts, in part because they have different pricing groups for different types of customers. For instance, your dealer prices might differ from your wholesaler prices.
If this is the case, you can have a “Dealer Application” or “Wholesale Application” available for new buyers on your B2B ecommerce website. These forms will collect the buyer details necessary for an online account (such as an email address and password) as well as any additional information you choose, such as the business buyer’s EIN or the number of locations their business has. These customer accounts can then be approved by your team, added to a pricing group, and given special payment terms before being given access to buy through your website.
How to Get Started: Create a list of the fields you’d like to collect with your account application, then contact your ecommerce platform provider to learn how to implement them. Miva merchants can add those criteria as Custom Customer Fields.
One of the most common questions shoppers ask after completing a transaction is, “Where is my order?” Digitalizing your B2B store can help your customers easily answer that question.
Online orders typically come with automatic transactional emails that provide the shopper with the tracking number for their order. But your B2B ecommerce website can go a step further by allowing buyers to access their tracking numbers, as well as links to the carrier’s tracking page, through their personal customer accounts. A customer can simply log into their account to access their order history and to monitor their delivery status. This can significantly reduce the number of phone calls and emails your team receives around order tracking.
How to Get Started: Make sure you’ve turned on transactional emails within your ecommerce platform. When you print shipping labels you should be able to manually enter the tracking numbers, upload a spreadsheet of tracking codes, or automatically import them from shipping software like UPS WorldShip or ShipStation.
While many B2B buyers feel comfortable with self-service online purchasing, some buyers will still want to interact with your team, whether it’s over the phone, through email, by text, or via live chat.
Thankfully, orders made directly with your team can still be manually entered into the back end of your B2B ecommerce website. Once the order is entered it will automatically appear in the customer’s account just like a fully digital order.
How to Get Started: Use any resources provided by your ecommerce platform to train your team on how to manually input orders on behalf of customers. Additionally, you may be able to set up permissions for each member of your organization to limit their access to other areas of the website.
B2B buyers may have different needs or ordering patterns than consumers. You can add functionality and otherwise customize your online B2B store to support your customers’ specific needs. For instance, you might allow your buyers to create shopping lists for commonly purchased items. They can use a “Quick Order” page to enter SKUs or upload a spreadsheet to quickly build a basket. They can even reorder items by accessing their order history through their customer account.
How to Get Started: Once you launch your new online store, be sure to gather feedback from both customers and sales representatives. Based on this feedback you can determine what functionality, if any, you need to add to gain additional buy-in from your customers. However, keep in mind that some customers will always prefer in-person to online purchasing. To provide the best experience for the widest audience, you’ll want to enable your business to achieve success in both digital and traditional B2B sales. Encourage your staff to continue building relationships with customers through online and offline channels while expanding your business with a sophisticated and full-featured ecommerce site.
It’s clear that despite what some sellers believe, today’s B2B customers are interested in a digital experience. What other ecommerce myths might be holding your business back? Download our free guide to find out.
Benjamin Arp is a Miva Sales Engineer focused on driving ecommerce growth. He’s helped hundreds of ecommerce merchants develop their growth strategy, evaluate existing systems, and create plans to grow sales. In addition to working with merchants one-on-one, he is a regular contributor to the Miva blog and hosts webinars on a variety of ecommerce topics.