A shocking 22% of global sales are projected to happen online by 2025, and it's likely you can't afford to go unseen by almost a quarter of all buyers. Want to learn how to use ecommerce platforms for B2B sales?
In this article, I’ll explain how B2B ecommerce is evolving, why B2B companies should adopt the ecommerce model, and how to use ecommerce platforms for B2B sales.
The Evolution Of B2B Ecommerce Websites
Ten years ago, hosting an online marketplace was restrictively expensive for most business-to-business sellers. At the very least, you had to hire or outsource to a team of tech wizards to handle the coding and design elements required to run a decent site.
Personalization? That would have cost a small fortune. Not to mention, before cloud-based storage became widely accessible, hosting an ecommerce site was a vast undertaking in and of itself.
Believe it or not, anyone can run an ecommerce website now. Website builders, marketing tools, and innovative software solutions take care of the coding and design, so all you have to do is implement and manage the B2B ecommerce software.
Why Should B2B Companies Adopt Ecommerce?
Diving headfirst into ecommerce is essential for B2B companies. Online is where your customers are, and it's the future of the industry—where opportunity meets scalability. Today's B2B buyers are accustomed to the convenience and availability of online shopping.
When buying clothes, pet supplies, or tools, you can conduct research, speak to a customer representative, and buy something in a few short clicks. Your B2B customers expect the same, which means you're already missing out if you're not running an ecommerce store.
You probably remember when success in business was about how well-connected you were in your local area. Ecommerce shatters the geographical barriers that tie you to your region. So, if you manufacture glass components in Michigan, ecommerce enables you to work with distributors in Denmark, Australia, Great Britain, or anywhere in the world.
In one fell swoop, B2B ecommerce lets you tap into international markets more efficiently, use real-time data to preemptively solve customer issues, and eliminate manual stocktaking.
Benefits Of Ecommerce For B2B Businesses
In case you're not fully convinced, here's a summary of the benefits you can reap from using an ecommerce platform for B2B sales:
- New connections: Networking and doing business with companies worldwide, from Singapore to Stockholm.
- Global customer base: With an ecommerce platform’s built-in tools, it’s easy to take orders in multiple currencies and sell to buyers who speak different languages.
- Flexible payment options: Your company can take online sales with easy order processing, online credit card payment facilities, and cryptocurrency.
- Scaled up: Your platform can steadily grow as demand grows, with no need for huge upfront investments or major changes to your business model.
- Always open for business: Being open around the clock is one of the most profitable advantages of having a B2B ecommerce solution.
- Eco-friendliness: With fewer clients relying on printed product catalogs, you can do your bit for the planet.
- Data-driven forecasting: Your razor-sharp instincts got you this far in business, but having real-time analytics to drive decision-making can help you attract and retain more customers and be more profitable.
- Order management: As a bonus, implementing an ecommerce platform can lead to major improvements in how your company handles its inventory management systems, automates manual tasks, and streamlines workflows.
- Reputation for personalization: With custom deals and bundles available to loyal customers, retention rates can skyrocket—with revenue following suit.
- Plenty of choices: While there used to only be two or three decent ecommerce platforms to choose from, there are now many. Examples include BigCommerce, Magento, Shopify Plus, Adobe, and Amazon.
How To Use Ecommerce Platforms For B2B Sales
Here are 6 steps to improving customers’ buying experience using an ecommerce platform for B2B sellers.
1. Select an ecommerce platform tailored to your company's needs
The best B2B ecommerce platforms prioritize brand customization, integration with third-party apps and plugins, customer support, and inventory management. What works for one storefront may not work for you. Tailoring an ecommerce platform to your specific business needs means that you’ll have the functionality you need to grow.
In most cases, you can connect your ecommerce platform with your CRM and ERP software to streamline sales processes and mine critical data. This is a great way to dig a bit deeper into your analytics and reporting for better customer data, including sales trends and other crucial metrics.
2. Make sure your branding is consistent
In a world full of online marketplaces, being trusted and recognized by customers is more important than ever. Your logo, color scheme, and style aren’t just for show; they let customers know that they’re in the right place for a positive buying experience.
As you define consistent branding and build trust, you’ll also create brand recognition. You can offer flexible payments and vast product catalogs all you want, but you aren’t really in the fight until customers know who you are and trust doing business with you.
The takeaway here? Ensure your online store is visually on-brand, optimized for mobile, slick, and easy to navigate for an excellent user experience.
3. Leverage SEO and organic traffic
When done right, SEO is the most cost-effective way of driving potential customers to your storefront. Free marketing, you say? Not quite. Anybody who has dabbled even a little in SEO knows that the competition is fierce, as every ecommerce website is vying for the sweet embrace of organic traffic.
You’ll want to define a clear digital marketing strategy and work with an ecommerce platform that complements it. Because SEO optimization is a constant effort, make sure you begin with compelling, SEO-friendly product descriptions to drive organic traffic and always ensure that your price lists are accurate and up-to-date. From there, keep an eye on search analytics to see which pages are driving organic traffic and converting visitors into buyers. If you notice a product or page that isn’t performing as well, don’t hesitate to tweak the content.
Looking for a way to incorporate juicy keywords in a more natural way? Here’s a pro tip: A short FAQ can go a long way in providing value to customers while giving you a bit more space to compete for specific keywords.
4. Offer multiple ways for clients to connect with you
Offer multichannel support so that customers can get in touch around the clock. Having chatbots, live chat, contact forms, phone lines, and any other means of communication helps you capture data and provide a seamless service to clients.
Don’t forget about ol’ reliable: social media. Facebook, X (it’ll always be Twitter in our hearts), Instagram, and TikTok are all fantastic low-cost ways to keep in touch with customers and any worthwhile commerce platform will support social media plugins. Sure, you could outsource live chat to another country for 24-hour real-time communication between your company and its customers, but a social media management team could be the next best thing.
5. Offer multiple pricing options and be business-friendly
Part of providing an exceptional user experience is being able to adapt to your different customer groups. When it comes to pricing, consider using specific pricing strategies, volume discounts, and loyalty rewards for returning customers.
Keep in mind that business transactions can be as varied as your customers and your ability to adapt will come into play here too. Look at your business model and determine how you can cater to different customers. Perhaps you can offer flexible payment options such as net payment terms. Beyond accepting major credit cards, maybe you can also accept different currencies. No matter what you do, always make sure payment gateways are secure.
6. Listen to (and learn from) your customers
Embrace feedback. When you get the same comment from more than two customers, it's time to listen, learn, and reiterate.
Use analytical tools to measure site performance, create customer groups and segments, analyze buyer behavior, and track shopping carts. This data is a treasure trove for forecasting or any other form of business planning, so make the most of it.
How Do You Tailor An Ecommerce Site For A B2B Audience?
First and foremost, B2B customers prioritize reliability and efficiency.
When designing your ecommerce site with your chosen provider, keep this in mind at all times.
Other B2B features to consider to make sure your ecommerce site is customized for your target audience are:
- Intuitive navigation, so finding products is fast and easy.
- Tiered discounts and bulk pricing options to cater to high-volume orders.
- Custom quotes and purchase order capabilities.
- Detailed product specifications and descriptions.
- Automated reorder process.
- Integration with CRM and ERP software.
- Omnichannel support available around the clock.
Cast Your Company's Net Far And Wide
Integrating ecommerce features into your B2B website can be a game-changer.
An ecommerce site is your online storefront and store, making the entire purchase process easy for clients, from research to checkout. They can get in touch with your business around the clock, which can drastically improve customer experience and boost retention rates.
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