Creating a Competitive B2B eCommerce Site

Colleen Kowalski

b2b ecommerce competitiveIs your B2B eCommerce site prepared to compete?

In today’s online market, 70% of B2B leads originate online; the line between B2B and B2C continues to blur as searching for product information, researching options, and looking up competitors are all typical online behaviors regardless of the focus. B2B companies need to take advantage of the latest trends in B2C. Consumers and businesses alike are drawn to eCommerce sites that feature a functional design, search engine optimized content, and personalized site experiences. With an outdated site design, your business could be missing out on valuable leads and clients.

Providing customers with the ability to purchase products and services via your website creates a convenient sales channel for your customers and encourages ongoing customer interaction. Additional conversions that are unrelated to sales, such as submitting forms, sharing content, and commenting on posts, are also incredibly important to plan for and track in the B2B environment. Creating a new B2B site is not without challenges, but once your new site goes live, you will see the impact on your sales and your lead generation. 

When creating a B2B site, it is critical to remember that the person shopping B2B during the workday is the same person shopping B2C sites in the evening; why should the experiences be different?”
Gian Genovesi, Briteskies’ Magento Delivery Lead

Four Common B2B eCommerce Challenges and How to Solve Them

Creating Support Within the Organization

Among the many initiatives an organization takes on in any given year, a B2B eCommerce project can be one of the most challenging. Not only do these require resources whose days are filled with conflicting priorities, but also introduce an entirely new sales channel that changes the dynamic of the organization’s working business model. Problems within the organizational structure can manifest into larger problems with your B2B site if not managed as they arise. 

Managing Your Product/Content Catalog

Before creating a new B2B eCommerce site, collect any necessary data and organize it into the proper catalogs. Typically, eCommerce catalogs require a tremendous amount of data in order to showcase each of your products effectively. For larger amounts of Item Master Data, an ERP might be the best way to store and sort your site data and product lists.

Determining if an ERP Integration Makes Sense

Integrating a B2B eCommerce system to a large and stable enterprise resource planning system allows for the seamless movement of data, but can also be one of the most difficult challenges to tackle. Because it can be so daunting, some organizations choose the path of least resistance and duplicate the ERP data and business logic in the eCommerce system, leaving the two systems decoupled. Unfortunately, this decoupling opens the door to a host of headaches, and companies find themselves wrestling with data replication and timing errors.

Integration of the eCommerce catalog from an ERP allows the organization to keep the catalog data synchronized and consistent. Integration also reduces the amount of human time and effort needed to update the online catalog. There are generally two types of integration; extract and import or full integration. These two scenarios are better suited for high volume catalogs with frequent updates. Organizing the catalog data is not an easy task, and is a major risk for new eCommerce sites. Ultimately, the effort required is rewarded as the site will look amazing and the customers will find and ultimately purchase what they want.

Including the Sales Team Management

Your sales team is a major asset to lean on when creating your B2B eCommerce site. Your sales team is responsible for establishing strong relationships with your clients and they should have some input on the functionality of the new eCommerce site before the Go-Live date. Additionally, it is important to explain all of the customer service tools and attributes on the site to the sales team. Since the sales team is typically the customer’s first contact if they encounter an issue, ensuring that your sales force is fully knowledgeable on the new site’s functionality is one of the most important things to do before launching the site. 

Three Tips to Building your online B2B site

Improve Existing Foundation

Time spent improving the customer experience will be rewarded as visitors will turn into customers when your products are easier to find and the buying process more streamlined. A few specific items you can focus on after the initial launch include:

Product Images

Product images need to be reviewed and improved. This tends to be a sore point for B2B companies, because many simply do not have access to high-quality images. However, eCommerce customers love and want multiple, high-resolution product images; find these images within the sales or marketing department, or conduct a photo shoot.

Extended product descriptions

Your Product descriptions should also be reviewed and improved. Originally, these descriptions would have been pulled from various internal sources—and, unfortunately, they typically aren’t of a high enough quality for marketing to customers (let alone for keyword rich SEO content).

Site navigation

Site navigation and faceted search elements must be reviewed. The idea here is to help online shoppers find what they want as quickly as possible.

Don’t forget to spend some time with the marketing team to determine what the goal of the messaging should be on the site, content is king in today’s online marketplace. If your organization doesn’t have internal marketing resources, consider a freelance writer with industry experience.

Leverage Marketing Tools

Be sure to review the online marketing tools available and develop a plan to deploy them in they were not part of the initial launch.  Those tools to focus on include:

Cross-sell/up-sell functionality

Providing this option is a straightforward way to introduce additional products to the online shopper. Typically, this data can be accessed from within the back office system. With the design of a quick interface, the eCommerce site can easily suggest additional products or higher priced items to the customer.

Customer segmentation tools

These tools can be referred to by various names, depending on the ecommerce software. Regardless of what they’re called, these tools ultimately allow for the creation of segments of customers based on their activities. Then, these customer segments can be used in marketing campaigns, email campaigns, specific targeted content, special pricing or promotions.

By leveraging these tools, an online B2B marketer can present customers with specific, targeted content and pricing that makes them feel as though the site was built specifically for them.

Product recommendations

Recommendations are typically found in most ecommerce software toolkits, and provide the B2B marketer with the ability to recommend products that other shoppers have also purchased. The shopper is presented with recommendations such as, “People who bought this item also bought these items” or “People who bought this item also viewed these items.” These recommendations are powerful messages to the casual shopper, and get into the psychology of the social influences of ecommerce.

Embrace Social Media

B2B marketers can and should take advantage of social media channels, such as blogs, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social media can drive traffic to your site by sharing your organization’s message and facilitate meaningful communication between the company and the customer base. With successful social media marketing, you will build customer loyalty, attract new leads, and ultimately, see repeat business.

Helping a customer understand how a product works will ultimately encourage him or her make the decision to purchase it. One of the more intimidating items that should be considered for B2B eCommerce is a product rating or review system. Traditionally, this tool has been used exclusively in the B2C world; however, buyers in the B2B world are starting to demand this option as well. Giving the customer so much power is a scary thought for many organizations and traditional sales teams. However, many B2B organizations are already starting to provide product reviews and, when properly managed, this communication channel provides trust through transparency.

Another option for B2B companies is YouTube, which provides the perfect medium for instructional, how-to videos. These videos are an excellent opportunities for companies to show off their expertise, to demonstrate how a product works, or to highlight other uses for the product.

If your B2B eCommerce site does not include any of these marketing tools, you are missing out on the opportunity to vastly improve your sales, meet and surpass your goals, and generate new leads.

Contact one of our eCommerce experts if you want assistance in creating and designing a new B2B eCommerce site.

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