B2B e-commerce (business-to-business electronic commerce) is a rapidly growing field and a terrific opportunity for companies that can open an optimal B2B online store. Whether you sell bulk materials for manufacturing or manufactured products to business customers, applying these B2B e-commerce best practices can help you grow your sales.
Make Your E-commerce Store a Delight to Use
Your online store may be the first contact that potential customers have with your brand, so to run a successful e-commerce business, it’s essential to make it visually attractive, user-friendly and up to date.
Easy to Navigate
Your goal with your e-commerce site is to take customers on a sequential journey from exploration to consideration to deciding and ultimately to purchasing. To help customers move through the stages quickly and with a minimum of hassle, make it as easy as possible for customers to find what they’re looking for and request a quote or place an order. For a user-friendly customer experience, add:
- Well-structured URLs that follow a clear pattern
- Category tabs with search filters that make it easy to find a specific product quickly
- An initial quiz that produces personalised search results
- A site search feature with frequently used search terms
- Easy-to-see call-to-action (CTA) buttons including:
- “Speak with a sales representative”
- “Request an instant quote”
- “Request a product demo”
- “Request a sample”
- “Place an order”
In addition to these basic features, make sure that your website loads quickly and is optimised for mobile devices. After a negative experience purchasing on mobile, 62% of customers are less likely to buy from the same brand again. Down the track, consider using an artificial intelligence plugin like Wootomation (compatible with WordPress) to personalise your e-commerce platform to each individual who visits your site.
E-commerce customers make decisions based on careful consideration of their business’s needs and how well a given B2B company’s product offerings meet those needs. To demonstrate to potential customers why they should choose you and not a competitor, you need to provide high-quality, professional product images that show each product from all angles and allow the viewer to zoom in. Furthermore, your website needs to look professional with a clear brand image and trust badges to reassure customers of your authenticity.
In addition to professional product images, provide customers with detailed information about each product, including its name, what it does, how it works and the problems it solves. The specifications should be clearly presented in a consistent table for every product for easy comparison. As part of your digital commerce strategy, create unique and engaging content to educate your customers, build customer relationships and show viewers how you outshine the competition.
On your website, all content should be search engine optimised and can include:
- Home page, category and product copy (written content)
- Blog posts with highly relevant information
- Case studies detailing how your products or services have helped other businesses to grow
- Videos, including product demonstrations, educational videos and how-to videos
- Images of your raw materials and finished products (as relevant), labelled with keyword-optimised alt tags and file names
- Infographics that provide a quick reference for your target audience
Trustworthy and Secure
Trust is a big issue with any e-commerce platform because customers aren’t sure whether a given website is legitimate, whether it’s secure or whether their order will even arrive. As B2B customers generally place large orders, it’s important to assure them that your business is both legitimate and trustworthy. At a minimum:
- Secure your site with a secure socket layer (SSL) certificate.
- Integrate a secure, PCI-compliant payment gateway.
- Develop a comprehensive fraud prevention strategy, including two-step authentication at the checkout.
- Gather and display abundant social proof, such as ratings, reviews and customer testimonials from independent, third-party websites.
Once your online store is ready to launch, integrate it with your existing sales channels so that customers always have up-to-date information about stock availability and approximate restocking times. An integrated multichannel system ensures that stock levels are automatically updated everywhere when products are sold in-store or online.
Supported by Excellent Customer Service
Your e-commerce platform is your storefront, but you still need customer service representatives ready at all times to answer questions, provide customers with quotes and resolve any ordering issues straight away. Ensuring customer satisfaction in turn increases loyalty and makes your clients more likely to recommend you to others.
Provide a Full Self-Service Portal
Once business customers have placed an order and are satisfied with the quality of your products, they want to be able to order again with a minimum of time and fuss. That’s where your self-service portal comes in.
After an existing customer has signed in to the portal, they should be able to view their purchase history and reorder products with a single click, as well as add or subtract products as needed. Your self-service portal needs to allow:
- Customer-specific pricing
- Automatic electronic invoicing
- Bulk ordering
- Scheduled ordering
- Easy reordering with customisation
Offer Payment Options that Work for Business Customers
Once customers arrive at the checkout, you’ll need to provide flexible payment options that are suited to business customers’ needs. B2B e-commerce best practices in terms of payment include:
- Offering a variety of payment methods (credit/debit, bank transfer, wire, checks, ACH, trade finance, local payment methods and international payment methods)
- Allowing customers to split payments between several payment methods
- Allowing customers to spread payments out over time or make delayed payments
- Allowing customers to split an order between multiple shipping addresses
- Automating recurring billing
Depending on the region in which each B2B customer trades, you may need to customise your invoice to meet local tax and import requirements. Ideally, your website should be set up to generate invoices automatically to prevent any friction and ensure you get paid. A reputable merchant services provider will be able to help you customise your checkout in addition to offering merchant services like real-time transaction tracking, sales reports and analytics, fraud prevention and round-the-clock support.
Keep Your Existing Customers Coming Back
Attracting new customers is important, but existing customers make up the bread and butter of a B2B company’s income. To keep your customers coming back:
- Ensure a smooth and pleasant customer experience.
- Respond to queries and problems straight away.
- Reward repeat purchases with a customer loyalty program.
- Accept feedback and leverage customer insights to set the direction for improvement and growth.
Get B2B e-Commerce Right and Reap the Rewards
Taking your B2B sales online—or adding an online channel to your existing sales model—has enormous potential when B2B e-commerce best practices are followed. From the beginning, ensure a smooth and informative customer journey on your website coupled with immediate, personal attention from your sales team.
Once the relationship has been established and the customer has ordered once, make it easy for existing customers to order again with a self-service portal and payment gateway that is optimised for B2B customers’ needs. Over time, responding to feedback and continuing to improve and expand your product offerings will give your online store the best chance of success.