(This is a guest post from our friends over at Zoey Commerce,a powerful eCommerce solution for B2B and wholesale businesses.)
Traditionally, B2B eCommerce has been a more manual process than its B2C counterparts. There’s a variety of reasons for this, from more complex product offerings to lagging technology solutions for B2B business. Fortunately, the latter issue has been quickly getting resolved, with off-the-shelf B2B eCommerce solutions providing much more robust capabilities than they did even just a couple of years ago.
For B2B and wholesale sellers, this means the opportunity to take much more time-intensive sales and streamline them, simply by offering their buyers stronger self-service tools. Some of these ideas come from the B2C eCommerce space, and will look familiar to all of us as B2C shoppers when we take off our work hats.
Here’s some ways that B2B businesses can leverage modern eCommerce technology to put more power in the hands of their buyers.
Account Management Tools
At a baseline, offering your buyers the ability to manage basic information in a My Account area, just like you’d see on major sites like Amazon, is a good first step. This lets buyers manage important information such as:
Billing and shipping addresses: As offices or company information changes, being able to update this on the fly will ensure no orders getting held up by an interaction with customer service to update information.
Payment information: Many B2B businesses take payment via many of the same forms of payment as their B2C counterparts: Credit cards, ACH, etc. Being able to save payment information (such as via tokenization) and be able to update those payment details when needed removes another obstacle.
Order progress: Like in a B2C experience, B2B sites with My Account areas allow buyers to monitor order progress, know if an order is on its way, if the order is paid for, etc.
Add/remove users: For systems that allow a company to have more than one user for a purchasing account, being able to manage those users is also important.
Order Portal Capabilities
Where B2C eCommerce tends to be more about customers browsing and finding the right items for them, Most B2B purchases are a lot more straightforward and are designed to be as frictionless as possible. As such, many B2B businesses may find an Order Portal eCommerce solution more conducive for their buyers than a traditional B2C shopping experience. Generally order portals will provide:
More straightforward shopping experience: Instead of an image-heavy catalog, you’ll likely find a more table-driven list of products with product details available if you click in. This will look on the surface very similar to the tables you’d have seen listing products in paper catalogs. Familiarity can help win over the less tech-savvy buyers. Meanwhile table views generally allow the adding of multiple products to the cart at once.
Quick Order screens: The ability to quickly add multiple SKUs and add in bulk to the cart extends to customers being able to type in all the SKUs they want at once, and their quantity, instead of trying to find them in your catalog one by one.
Recently Purchased list/Reorder button: Some B2B eCommerce business, in particular ones that sell products wholesale to other businesses, have repetitive orders or items being ordered. So having a Recently Purchased products list where a buyer can put the same items back in the cart, or a Reorder button to use an old order as a starting point, can further speed up the process.
Speedier checkout: With all that information saved via My Account, being able to use previously saved billing and shipping information will allow for less steps in checkout.
B2C eCommerce has been leveraging personalization techniques to make eCommerce more accessible and bringing the right products and information forward for a given customer. Those same tools can really bring a B2B eCommerce solution to life:
Catalog Segmentation: Being able to show only certain products to certain buyers can help when you sell special products only available to certain groups, or if you have multiple product lines and only certain lines are relevant to a customer, you can hide the products or catalog sections that aren’t relevant, focusing the buyer on what matters to them.
Pricing Segmentation: Personalization at a pricing level is generally a core B2B business case. Based on volume, or customer type, or order size, pricing can shift. Being able to offer personalized pricing through a website is one massive blocker that gets undone using these personalization tools, making eCommerce possible where it wasn’t before.
Additional Content: Some B2B businesses need to be able to surface additional content to help their buyers, such as marketing one-pagers, product specification sheets and more. So you can expose certain product information to those buyers as needed to help them make their decisions.
Recommended Products: Showing the right companion products based on purchase history is as important for B2B as B2C for growing cart size, helping your buyers know what else is in your inventory for purchase that may be relevant for them. This information may display in different locations than a B2C counterpart, such as at the cart screen or even on the main landing page, but the information is just as helpful.
Payment Options: Savvier B2C eCommerce stores know that offering multiple payment types increases conversion rates. B2B businesses may need to offer different options, but still should keep that in mind. As such, offering pay now as well as pay later options, such as Net Terms, can similarly increase conversion rates by giving buyers enough choice to satisfy whatever option they need.
Why Self Service Matters
Some businesses have shied away from making eCommerce more self sufficient, fearing that customers will be more adrift without salesperson support, or that salespeople might drive business more successfully.
The reality is that as eCommerce becomes more and more common, and more of your buyers become acclimated to ordering things online via their own personal life on B2C purchases or at work through other B2B sites, more standard sales don’t need that level of handholding. In other situations, the eCommerce site becomes a tool salespeople use to make their ability to sell more quickly and smoothly.
Taking orders via email, phone, PDF, EDI, etc., are all certainly ways to get work done, but tend to be much slower than giving the customer access to the information they need and want. Empowering buyers will also offer customers the ability to place orders on their own schedule, day or night, without requiring a salesperson to intervene in every instance. This frees up salespeople to chase new customers, as well as focus on customers who need that helping hand or haven’t been heard from in awhile.
The net result is more cost-effective sales, and increasing your bottom line without having to grow your sales team.
About the Author
Josh O’Connell is Vice President of Marketing at Zoey, a modern, B2B-focused eCommerce platform. Josh has worn a variety of hats in the eCommerce field over two decades working online, from developer to running a web development agency, and loves sharing his knowledge with others. When not working at Zoey, Josh enjoys travel, attending concerts, reading and solving sudoku.
About Zoey Commerce
Zoey is a powerful eCommerce solution for B2B and wholesale businesses. Our suite of B2B capabilities includes quote generation, customer groups, access restrictions, quick order capabilities and more. B2C-standard capabilities are also included to empower merchants to let their customers self-serve common needs like reordering, order status and account maintenance.