Gone are the days when business to business (B2B) sales involved long in-person sales meetings. In fact, by 2025, 80% of B2B sales are expected to happen online through ecommerce platforms.
Despite this, over half of B2B buyers report feeling frustrated with the online buying experience. This suggests that a lot of B2B sellers are in desperate need of effective B2B ecommerce marketing strategies.
In this article, I’ll take you through some of the most effective B2B ecommerce marketing methods to expand your customer base and increase repeat business.
- What Is B2B Ecommerce Marketing?
- How B2B Ecommerce Marketing Differs From B2C?
- B2B Ecommerce Marketing Strategies
What Is B2B Ecommerce Marketing?
B2B ecommerce marketing is how your business promotes itself and interacts with existing and potential business customers online. This includes everything from the UX on your B2B ecommerce platform through to the emails you send and any online advertising you run.
Traditionally, ecommerce marketing for B2B customers has taken a backseat to B2C ecommerce marketing—but that’s not the case anymore.
While a lot of B2B marketing used to involve physical catalogs and mailouts, nowadays B2B customers expect ecommerce companies to have great websites and digital marketing which really adds value.
Ecommerce companies that are not delivering this will increasingly find themselves missing out on B2B sales.
How B2B Ecommerce Marketing Differs From B2C?
B2B ecommerce marketing may sound quite similar to Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing and that’s because there is some overlap. Some of the general strategies like email marketing, content marketing, and digital advertising will be the same for both audiences but the approaches are different.
B2C ecommerce marketing is aimed at individuals making purchases for themselves, whereas B2B ecommerce refers to individuals who are making purchasing decisions on behalf of a company or organization. As a result, B2B and B2C buyers have different priorities and ways of making purchasing decisions.
- Motivation: B2B customers tend to be more logical and financially driven when making a purchase i.e. is this product the most suitable product for the money? B2C customers tend to be more emotionally driven and are more likely to make impulse purchases (after all you don’t have to justify buying those new sunglasses to anyone but yourself!)
- Values: B2B customers are more likely to be interested in efficiency, expertise and return on investment (in other words, anything that makes their job easier), while B2C customers are more interested in entertainment, trends, and deals.
- Buyer journey: B2B customers often have bigger budgets and are more likely to repurchase than a B2C customer. But this means that B2B customers often take longer to research a potential purchase and often a purchase will need to be approved by multiple people. B2C purchases, on the other hand, are likely to be quicker and more transactional.
For example, if you sell office supplies, it will probably take longer to onboard a new B2B company that wants to place regular, bulk orders than a B2C customer who just wants to make a one-off purchase of some stationery.
B2B Ecommerce Marketing Strategies
Before diving into marketing strategies it’s important to make sure you have the right foundations in place.
That means taking time to understand your customer and create a customer profile so you know exactly how to communicate with them and meet their needs.
Your customer should be at the front of your mind when developing your website. This is likely to be the first place a potential B2B customer will look for information about your company and products, so it can’t be ignored.
Your customers should be able to easily navigate your website, find information, search and order products, and get in touch with a support team if necessary. Your website should include all the information that your typical B2B customer would look for, displayed in a way that makes sense for them, using the kind of language they use.
Additionally, all the content on your website should be optimized for search engines. Using search engine optimization (SEO) involves optimizing the pages of your website so that you rank for particular keywords. This can be an important tool for appearing in search engine results and getting found by B2B customers.
Once you have these foundations in place, you can think about the following marketing strategies to drive B2B sales.
1. Content marketing
Possibly the most important strategy for driving B2B ecommerce is content marketing. This covers a broad range of activities, from blogging and webinars to podcasts and videos, with the aim of building brand awareness and persuading customers to purchase your product.
Remember how B2B customers are more logical and take longer to make a purchasing decision? Well, this is where more educational content like ebooks, webinars, and videos can be really effective.
Whereas B2C customers tend to make quicker purchasing decisions and be more driven by entertainment and emotion, B2B customers often require lots of information throughout the decision-making process.
Think about the kind of questions or issues that your target B2B audience is tackling. Can you create some content that helps them with these challenges?
For example, if you sell IT equipment, perhaps you could create a video course teaching customers how to fix common IT issues and how your equipment helps with this. This kind of content helps to improve the customer experience and build trust.
There are lots of different methods to choose from—blogs, podcasts, live training sessions, ebooks, the list goes on. The main objective is to provide lots of useful, educational information that helps the B2B buyer.
Make sure you include calls-to-action (CTAs) with all your content to build the customer relationship and move customers along the customer journey toward a purchase.
2. Email marketing
Email marketing deserves a special mention as it remains one of the best ways to build a relationship with a potential customer. In fact, 81% of B2B marketers report that email newsletters are the most important part of their marketing strategy.
As with the content marketing strategies discussed above you need to always think about how to give value to the B2B buyer and help them in their role. Your email communications should show them how your products can benefit their business or demonstrate your industry authority.
Email marketing should work alongside your content marketing strategy. For example, if you’ve created a new guide or webinar series, this is the ideal thing to email your B2B customers about.
I previously worked with an HR tech company that did a great job of this. We filmed a series of short videos, educating businesses about some upcoming HR legislation, and sent them to our email database over the course of a couple of weeks—followed by a limited-time offer for our services.
The campaign was really well received and the company got many more potential leads than they would have done by putting it on their website alone.
Another great thing about email marketing is that you can easily segment your audience so that you can send highly relevant, personalized emails to your B2B email list.
This is particularly important for B2B customers who typically want to build a relationship with a brand over a longer period. Personalized emails which deliver highly relevant information can be a really powerful way to convert potential customers into buyers.
3. Reviews and testimonials
Your existing customers are your best advocates, so make sure you use them! As we’ve discussed, B2B customers often carry out more research and spend longer making a purchasing decision than a B2C customer. Building trust with a B2B customer is therefore vital in order to convert them to buying.
Customers will often trust a testimonial or review from existing customers over any other marketing materials you produce. So including testimonials and reviews on your website, highlighting your great customer service and the quality of your products, is really powerful.
A good way to increase reviews is to offer discounts or vouchers in return for reviews. I’ve had great success with this in my own ecommerce business. I simply ask my customers to leave an honest review on social media or my website and, in return, they get 10% off their next purchase or access to a helpful guide about their products.
Not only do you get a review but you encourage the customer to purchase again—win-win! You could also run a referral programme whereby you offer customers an incentive for recommending your business to their contacts.
You could also think about working with influencers in your industry who have the kind of followers you’re trying to target. If you find the right influencer this can be a really effective way to build reputation and trust with potential B2B customers.
For example, if your ecommerce store sells products for beauty salons, working with an influencer who has an engaged following made up of beauty salon businesses could help get your brand name out there and secure B2B sales.
4. Social media marketing
It’s easy to think of social media as more of a B2C ecommerce marketing strategy, but don’t dismiss it too quickly.
While B2B customers are less likely to make purchases directly through social media than a B2C customer, social media can still be used to build awareness and nurture leads. It’s also important to remember that, while a business might not be on TickTock, for example, it doesn’t mean the person responsible for making purchases at that business doesn’t use TickTock.
B2B vendors should think about how to reach business owners, executives, and decision-makers through social media and then how to use relevant content to nurture these relationships.
LinkedIn, in particular, can be a great way to interact with businesses. It’s specifically geared up for sharing educational content like ebooks, case studies, and blogs. In fact, 89% of marketers use LinkedIn to generate B2B leads.
I previously worked with a legal tech company that produced a monthly report on updates in the legal tech industry. Since the company was a start-up and didn’t have a huge email list, LinkedIn was the perfect way for us to get the report in front of a huge B2B audience and build awareness of the brand.
However, if you work in a very visual industry like fashion, and your B2B buyers are all regular users of Instagram, then that would be a good place to share content such as video demonstrations of your products.
Digital advertising is an important B2B marketing strategy for getting in front of business customers. There are lots of different advertising methods to choose from such as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads, social media ads, and search ads.
You need to go back to your customer profile and think about what websites and social media channels your target B2B brand would use. You then need to think about what kind of language and information you need to include in your ads to make sure they appear in front of the right people and help build a relationship with them.
For example, if you’re a B2B ecommerce company selling products for dentists, you could think about running ads highlighting the medical benefits of your products on blogs and websites aimed at the dental industry.
You also want to make sure you have landing pages set up so that, when customers click on an ad, there’s a smooth transition to your website.
6. Other sales channels
Marketplaces can also be a great way to get in front of potential business customers. Some marketplaces, such as Amazon, have specific settings for B2B customers such as the ability to download invoices for accounting purposes.
As a seller, you can also create a pricing structure specifically for business customers. This is something I set up in my own eCommerce business after discovering that a number of my orders were coming from business customers. I’ve seen a noticeable uptick in B2B orders as a result.
Selling your products on a marketplace can be a great way to reach buyers who may not see your products otherwise. Amazon has a huge customer base, so it can be a quick and cost-effective way to build your brand recognition and improve your sales.
On top of that, new customers will automatically trust your products because they trust Amazon, plus you get access to Amazon’s impressive FBA fulfillment network which allows you to offer fast delivery to customers.
So now we’ve gone through the top B2B eCommerce marketing strategies, you need to go back to your customers and think about which B2B eCommerce marketing strategy will resonate most with them.
Like with B2C ecommerce marketing experimentation is key (and fun), and remember to set up the fundamentals first.
Once you’ve chosen your marketing strategies, have a look at our article on the best ecommerce marketing tools to help supercharge your marketing efforts.