Although many believe the “business web” is reserved for B2C businesses (business-to-consumer), B2B e-commerce (business-to-business) is actually bringing in more revenue and growing at nearly twice the pace of B2C e-commerce.
So, does your business plan embrace B2B e-commerce? Many of the internet giants have adapted their business plans to take full advantage of this great opportunity. Take Amazon, or Google for instance, who have recently dappled into the B2B e-commerce market, connecting buyers and suppliers. B2B e-commerce, is not just for giants, however. Thousands of businesses, including manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors of all sizes are embracing B2B e-commerce as a new sales channel for their business.
The B2B e-commerce market is evolving rapidly, making it tough to keep up with the latest and greatest do’s and don’ts. For your convenience, we have compiled the 5 essential rules of modern B2B e-commerce. By incorporating them into your sales strategy you could be pulling in new sales revenues via a flood of new customers.
Allow your e-catalog content and user experience to set you apart
Treat your e-commerce store as an extension of your brand. User experience in your e-commerce store is every bit as important as the products you feature there. Set your content apart from other B2B e-commerce stores by providing a B2C-like user experience that your customers will enjoy interacting with. They expect easy navigation through your e-catalog, simple but smart product filtering, promotional pricing on select goods, beautiful imagery, and ability to view your products from every angle, including zooming in to see the fine details.
Your customer service can make or break your B2B e-commerce
Outstanding customer service is another critical differentiating factor for online commerce. While the efficiency and effectiveness of your new online store will be appreciated by your customers, you will need to show them that even e-commerce buyers earn superior customer service.
Loyal customers are essential to your B2B e-commerce platform and network. Not only will they continue to buy from you in the future, but they also have colleagues in the industry that they’re likely to recommend your goods to. Make it easy to contact your customer service department by offering your customers multiple channels of communication: chat, email, as well as a toll-free phone number. Make sure that emails are responded to within 24 hours, that you always have chat agents on duty, and that your time-to-answer and first contact resolution metrics are always improving.
Use customer segmentation to offer specific promotions
By segmenting your customers you can offer targeted promotions to specific customers based on their wants and needs. Typically, B2B e-commerce businesses segment their audiences based on historic spend, customer type, size of business, geography, or vertical sector, just to name a few. Chances are that you’ve implemented a customer relationship management system (CRM) that has all the analytical data to support your customer segmentation. Analyze this data to figure out which customer segments tend to buy which products at what prices, and build your promotions in a manner that drives more customers in a given segment to buy more of these products.
Provide your employees and customers with a mobile-friendly experience
According to a Forrester Study, mobile e-commerce offers a significant new opportunity for B2B businesses. Customers appreciate the mobile platform because it allows them to place orders, track their shipments, and manage their budget from anywhere. Not only does this lead to more conversions, but ease of use also increases customer loyalty.
Forrester's research also showed that B2B companies already selling online report that more than half of their customers use tablets smartphones to research and make purchases. With all of these customers making use of e-commerce sites on their mobile devices it’s essential we optimize this experience for them.
Integrate all of your technologies into one
It’s important to integrate your e-commerce system to all relevant back-end systems. Your B2B e-commerce store should integrate with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) for inventory, invoicing, and item details; Order Management System for all your sales orders across sales channels; your customer relation management (CRM) provides customer information, and content management system houses your product catalog images.
When done correctly, information that’s updated on the e-commerce site will feed the entire ordering process all the way through order fulfilment and invoicing, saving you from costly data re-entry and errors, as well as damaged customer satisfaction.
Oh, and there’s another one...
These 5 essential rules for modern B2B e-commerce should get you headed in the right track to increase revenue and accelerate customer acquisition. The number one rule, above all others, is that you should get started now. B2B e-commerce is rapidly evolving; if you don’t keep up, you’ll quickly fall behind your competition. Chances are they’ve already jumped on the B2B e-commerce bandwagon.