As the world shifts online more and more, consumers expect businesses to maintain an online presence and offer products to online markets. While this hasn’t been the norm for B2B businesses, they’re experiencing a disruption in the traditional model and embracing the capabilities and benefits of ecommerce.
B2B brands can drive new revenue streams, build loyalty with customers, and discover new customer segments with online sales. Unfortunately, making the shift also created competition for B2B companies.
Making the Switch is More than a Website
B2B companies shifting to online sales comes with challenges.
Choose the Best Ecommerce Platform
Traditionally, B2B businesses are not as agile as B2C or D2C. Most B2B businesses have legacy systems, operations, and processes, as well as leadership that may not want to let go of the old ways. Because of this, B2B companies often struggle to adopt new setups and an integrated ecommerce platform.
Another challenge is that B2B companies typically sell thousands of products in bulk, so switching to selling online requires new systems and processes. These considerations need to part of the new business model and the logistics for order fulfilment.
Ideally, you should adopt an end-to-end ecommerce system that supports every aspect of your business. Look for ecommerce solutions that provide order management, integration with payment processing, CRM, and logistics, and ecommerce sales.
Implement New Technologies
Ecommerce consumers want fast, seamless buying experiences, even with B2B. This model means a shift in procedures and a change of thought processes for managing returns and exchanges.
Several technologies can help with the process, such as automation. Ecommerce automation was once the foray of massive companies, but it’s now available to virtually any business of any size. Automation can take a lot of the hassle and guesswork out of the processes to simplify tasks and create better customer experiences. You can focus more on the business-critical tasks that drive your business revenue and growth, such as brand awareness campaigns and marketing strategy, while everything else is done for you.
Manage Customer Data
Customers are at the forefront of successful businesses. The best way to get to know what your customers want and deliver better experiences is with data-driven insights.
Think about your customer in terms of:
- Purchasing behavior
- Social media behavior
By developing targeted personas, you can tailor your brand strategy to provide consistent, valuable, and positive customer experiences. Best of all, as you sell to your customers, you’ll collect more data to get better insights for future strategy.
Create Compelling Content
Ecommerce brands have a lot of advantages. Namely, they’re new and agile, so they can make rapid changes to adapt to market shifts. B2B brands have something over young ecommerce brands, however – a deep understanding and expertise with the product.
Use this to your advantage. You know what the customers need and what they’re looking for, so add value to the experience with compelling content that addresses their pain points, answers questions, and delivers expert guidance. You can create a variety of content for this purpose, from blogs and articles to infographics, webinars, and videos.
Social media is another valuable content tool. Most of your customers are already online, so you have an opportunity to connect with them directly on social media. Make sure you have business accounts set up on all the social media channels your audience uses, then start creating and posting content to engage with them.
You’ll find a lot of other opportunities with social media, such as creating online communities for customers to interact, engaging with customers by asking for feedback, and hosting contests or giveaways.
Focus on the Customer Journey
Customer experience has a massive influence on buying decisions. For ecommerce businesses, the customer experience is even more important. You have a lot of competition online, but a positive customer interaction can give you a competitive edge.
More and more, B2B companies are making the switch to ecommerce models, but the ones with staying power are delivering a seamless customer experience that differentiates them from competitors.
So, how does this work? Consider the customer throughout every touchpoint in the customer journey, from the initial awareness to customer service after the product is purchased.
B2B customers want the same experience of B2C consumers, which means being able to make a purchase at any time, on any channel. To meet them there, B2B companies must have an omnichannel approach.
An omnichannel approach considers all the individual touchpoints where a customer interacts with a brand across multiple channels. Each channel and touchpoint is connected, allowing a customer to leave one channel and pick up right where they left off, seamlessly. Don’t put all your effort into the one channel – instead, focus on creating a seamless omnichannel experience that leaves a positive impression on customers.
Take Your B2B Business Online
As more and more business moves online, B2B customers expect the same seamless, personalized buying experiences as they get with retail shopping. Making the shift to e-commerce is a big decision, but it pays off in increased revenue, new customer segments, and better customer experiences. To pull it off, however, you need a good understanding of your customers’ needs, insightful customer data, and consistent, relevant content to create engaging experiences.
Author: Patrick Smith
With ideas for leading brands, Patrick solves real-world business problems for enterprise organizations, startups, and everything in between. Prior to C2 Creative, Patrick developed marketing campaigns at several leading advertising agencies and hybrid digital organizations. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from Illinois State University.