Imagine: a typical B2B buyer, after a hard week at the office, goes home, maybe binge watch on missed korean drama episodes of the week, while spending hours flipping screens after screens of online shopping sites in fun, engaging, anytime, anywhere consumer therapy.
Come Monday morning, our B2B buyer heads back to office, and after the second cup of coffee kicks in, decides to refill the required supplies and inventory for the next couple of months.
Does our buyer start calling vendors for pricing? Browse through stacks of print catalogues collecting dust on the desk? Not a chance. Instead, our buyer goes online, expecting to find the same high quality e-commerce experience she enjoyed over the weekend.
Unfortunately, in many cases, she is sorely disappointed by what she finds. It is quite amazing to find that a majority of B2B brands are still not making a serious effort to embrace and invest in e-commerce. All too often we hear top executives of B2B brands remarked that e-commerce is not relevant to their business and industries (they’re wrong), that nobody buys B2B online (a 2014 Accenture Interactive survey shows that 68% of B2B buyers are making purchases online), and the e-commerce revenue isn’t worth the time and money invested (global e-commerce sales in 2013 was $600 billion).
Many B2B brands fail to realise a simple truth: B2B customers will come to come to your website because they have to. It is their job.
In the workplace, more than anywhere else, people look for the path of least resistance. So the B2B buyer isn’t thinking of creative ways to find new suppliers; she is thinking of finding the easiest and fastest way to get her procurement needs met. And there is no easier nor faster way than via online order. So, how then can you transform your B2B website into the best procurement tool that a B2B buyer can ever hope for? Here are 5 things you need to take note of:
1. Mobile, mobile, mobile
A Forrester Research study showed that 54% of B2B companies selling online report that their customers are using smartphones to research products and 52% are using their mobile devices to make online B2B purchases. If you can already buy flowers online from your smartphone, why should refilling stationery for the office be any different?
Also consider the fact that being mobile optimised will create positive impact to your search engine rankings. In April this year, Google has announced that moving forward, a site’s mobile optimisation and friendliness will be a factor in determining how well it ranks on Google search results.
2. Make order refills as easy as breathing
Most B2B purchases are recurring buys with little variations over time. The typical procurement manager has no time to re-validate her buying list every time she wants to make a re-stock of supplies. Make your customers’ job easier by providing options to make a quick refill of previous orders.
If the products that you sell have a time factor to their continued proper usage (e.g. fire extinguishers or air-con units requiring periodic checks and servicing), consider providing your customers the option of creating standing orders, with automated reminders whenever a renewal is due.
3. Stop making account registration compulsory
Requiring B2B customers to open an account on your site before they can buy from you is an outdated concept from the days of conventional offline trading. Insisting on labourious (and at most times, absolutely unnecessary) company information upfront creates additional resistance in your customers’ path to purchase and increase the chances of them getting turned off and visit your competitors instead.
Focus on encouraging the customer to commit the first purchase and make that transaction experience an awesome one. Make life easy for your B2B customers and they will keep coming back for more.
4. Allow credit card payments
Many B2B e-commerce sites allow customers to place order, but provide no means of making payments online, perhaps still mired in the conventional mindset of offering credit terms to B2B buyers.
The prevalence of the consumer retail e-commerce experience has significantly changed the way B2B buyers behave on the e-commerce sites they shop for the workplace, and this includes their expectations about payment formats.
The truth is, your customers want to pay you online. A 2014 survey by Forrester Consulting showed that more than 50% of B2B buyers say they’d rather pay for web orders with a credit or debit card rather than be invoiced.
5. Live chat support
Many B2B brands incorrectly assume that by simply putting up a FAQ page or some downloadable PDFs on their product specifications would suffice as customer support, and that the customers can figure out the in-betweens by themselves. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Recall our mantra that your primary objective for B2B e-commerce is to provide the easiest and fastest path-to-purchase for the customer. The availability of live chat support on your site gives you that extra edge in being able to answer customers’ questions and allay their concerns in a matter of minutes, saving them precious time that they otherwise have to spend to comb through your webpages and technical sheets for the exact same answers.
Large, global e-commerce brands like Amazon and Alibaba are starting to zero in on the B2B space, leaving businesses no time to spare when it comes to developing and improving the B2B e-commerce experience they deliver to their customers.
If you have not gotten around to thinking about it, now is the time to do so. Should you need assistance in working out a B2B e-commerce strategy to strengthen your online position for the future, feel free to email us at email@example.com