Like most things internet-related, the ecommerce industry is growing at a rapid rate. B2B ecommerce, in particular, is flourishing. According to a report from Forrester Research, B2B ecommerce sales in the United States hit $1 trillion in 2018 and are expected to grow at a rate of 10% over the next five years.
With the industry evolving so quickly, businesses need to develop new strategies to keep up. Planning for long-term growth and competing with online retailers like Amazon requires tapping into the B2B buyer mindset and using B2C relationship-building tactics.
Here are seven tips to help you grow your B2B ecommerce business:
1. Add more product information to your site
Providing clear, detailed product and service descriptions on your site help facilitate a buyer’s decision-making process. According to LinkedIn’s Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey report, buyers ranked product information and demos as the most important types of web content to see on a business’ site. The mobile payment company Square knows this: their point of sale page includes videos, photos that illustrate how different tools work, and a section that lists the benefits of their POS system.
Comb through your website to see where you can offer more insight. If, for example, you sell cloud-based phone systems, don’t just explain how your service works—share information about the integration process and the benefits of going wireless. You can also include datasheets, catalog descriptions, and videos that demonstrate how to use a product or adopt a system.
Being transparent can lead to more sales and help foster a sense of trust between you and your buyers.
2. Utilize social media marketing
Take advantage of social media to bond with potential buyers. A 2017 survey from the Content Marketing Institute found that social media is the third most critical marketing tactic for B2B businesses behind email newsletters and blogs, and the second most effective paid marketing method behind SEO.
Posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are a great way to drive traffic to your site and prove you understand the unique needs and pain points of the B2B businesses you serve. Try to keep your posts informative and varied: share infographics, product demos, and customer reviews, as well as industry news and announcements about deals or discounts. To engage more potential buyers, you could also host a Twitter chat to answer questions or use Facebook live to demonstrate how to set up a popular product.
If you need an example of helpful, engaging content, look at HubSpot’s Instagram. The marketing software company shares motivational quotes, global news, infographics about the state of small business, and helpful marketing tips.
3. Make onsite searches easier
Most buyers don’t have time to scroll through hundreds of product names and numbers to find what they’re looking for. A clean interface and fast onsite search option can improve a buyer’s shopping experience tenfold. In fact, in a 2018 B2B survey from BigCommerce, 71% of respondents said an easy-to-navigate website is the most important selling feature.
Build a page that lets visitors search by product type, product name, or SKU number. Alibaba, a global ecommerce marketplace has a massive search engine and an intuitive interface: you can filter products within categories, search for items with the most inquiries, and request quotes for multiple items in one form.
Depending on your business, you could also include search options that let buyers choose from a list of pain points or filter items based on price. Or, if you sell a variety of systems, consider creating a fun online quiz that suggests solutions based on a buyer’s answers.
4. Offer flexible ordering and pricing options
Giving buyers a more personalized purchasing experience can go a long way toward securing sales. To ensure buyers feel accommodated instead of boxed in, you need to give them options.
Review your finances and sales forecast to see if you can adjust your packages or pricing model to offer more scalable solutions. That might include allowing month-to-month contracts on software services, for example, eliminating minimum sign-ups, or giving discounts on products above a certain dollar amount.
It’s also a good idea to offer a variety of payment options—from credit cards and digital wallets to purchase orders and payment terms—so buyers can pay in whatever way works for their business. Giving buyers flexible terms, like a larger payment window or the ability to pay in installments, is also helpful. Another option is a checkout support system that lets businesses extend payment terms without taking on any additional credit risk.
5. Advertise customer reviews and ratings
For buyers shopping for business essentials like software, web hosting, or wholesale products, making a purchase isn’t a one-time decision. It’s the start of an ongoing relationship. To feel confident enough to commit to your products or services long-term, buyers need social proof. According to a 2017 Demand Gen survey, 67% of B2B buyers said they rely on peer reviews when making a purchasing decision.
Publishing your company’s ratings and reviews lend credibility to your business and help to reassure buyers of your value. It’s a good idea to include names and photos of your reviewers to establish a sense of trust and authenticity. Also, instead of posting a single block of text, which some buyers may gloss over, draw their attention by pulling a quote from each review like Oro Commerce does. The B2B ecommerce company also includes links to case studies on their homepage, which essentially serve as more in-depth reviews.
In addition to posting reviews on your landing page and scattering them throughout your site, you may also want to create a testimonial page.
6. Optimize your mobile platform
Improving your website’s functionality on mobile platforms can lead to more sales. Like most consumers, B2B buyers enjoy the convenience of shopping and conducting research on their phone. According to a report from Forbes Insights called The Connected Executive, 66% of executives said a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to engage with or buy from a vendor. What’s more, 37% of executives used their phones to make business purchases between $5,000 and $100,000.
Migrating to mobile isn’t just about improving your site’s user interface, though. You also need to ensure buyers have access to the same features on mobile that they do on a desktop, namely the ability to conduct searches, fill out order forms and make purchases. For example, Handshake, the B2B ecommerce platform for manufacturers and distributors, has a mobile app that lets sales reps access digital catalogs, write orders, and check inventory when they’re on the go.
7. Improve customer service
Stellar customer service can help you build brand loyalty. Brainstorm ways to give buyers an easier, more enjoyable shopping experience. You may want to extend your customer service hours, for example, or install a live chat function on your site. Buyers can type their questions in a pop-up chat window at the bottom of your site, then get answers in real time while they browse different web pages. On a practical level, live chat can address confusion and cut down on customer service emails and phone calls. However, the main purpose of live chat is to provide demonstrate your willingness to help and give buyers peace of mind.
In addition to live chat, cloud-based software company Salesforce.com invites visitors to call with questions. Within a few minutes of browsing, you’ll see a pop-up box that displays the company’s customer service number and a note that says, “Need help? No problem.”
Another strategy is to pair buyers with a dedicated account manager who can help guide them through the buying process and set them up with a personalized order. In Demand Gen’s survey, 85% of respondents said their experience with their appointed sales rep convinced them to commit to a purchase. Buyers want to talk to someone who understands their business model, knows their problems and goals, and can explain why a particular product or service will benefit them.
Developing a reputation for being approachable and accommodating can help you increase customer satisfaction and win referrals.
The key to growing your ecommerce business is catering to buyers’ needs. Consider how you can revamp your website, offer more flexible solutions, and improve customer service.