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What You Need to Know About the Future of B2B Ecommerce

By: Andrea Panno

In the new age of B2B transactions, customers expect to manage almost every aspect of their buying experience through your website or another online portal. That doesn’t mean, however, that there won’t be any human involvement and participation—and that’s the challenge: striking a balance.

Customers who want a quicker buying experience might very well prefer to chat with a sales rep online, rather than fill out a “Contact Us” form and await a reply. This is just one example, but it’s a powerful one.

This example demonstrates that the future of B2B eCommerce isn’t about a unilateral solution that involves fewer people and buttons: it’s about using every tool available to reduce the number of hurdles a prospect encounters throughout their buyer’s journey.

Striking a balance of tech-enabled personalization that contributes to an advanced, seamless and customer-empowered buying experience is what business leaders need to prioritize now. Ultimately, creating a single source for all buying needs should be the goal of every action taken across your company’s departments when it comes to eCommerce—from developing your website to providing live support. Here’s what you need to know, and what you need to do, about B2B eCommerce.

Where B2B Meets eCommerce

We know that B2B transactions can be complicated. There are regulatory and tax concerns, large-volume orders and customizations. This means that it might not be as simple and straightforward to take B2B transactions online as it is in B2C. Many B2B companies might look at the nuances of their selling processes and think, “there’s no way to complete or even start these transactions through eCommerce”—but there is a way. It just requires some creative thinking.

The goal is not to eliminate the customization, regulatory compliance or order volume to make your business mold to an eCommerce model; rather it’s to mold the eCommerce model to your business. There are many new technologies that let you verify customer’s credentials online or semi-online for regulatory compliance. These can be incorporated into your website to make it easier for customers to buy, and to make it faster for you to process orders and verify credentials on a fast, automated basis.

There are other reasons that customers may not want to fully execute a transaction online. They might want to discuss the purchase with your team and learn more about your company before they make an investment. For these barriers, there are features your website can offer to help customers get their transactions started. Incorporate FAQs and ways for your sales team to follow-up quickly, such as using software that notifies you when a quote is generated or consultation is requested.

The Importance of Data Collection

B2B companies experiencing success in eCommerce are using account-based marketing and other personalized marketing strategies to target the specific needs of customers. Whatever style you use, personalization is key and one of the best ways to start is by collecting data. People don’t want to receive messages that don’t pertain to them, nor do they want to answer the same questions over and over. Data collection allows you to personalize messages and offerings and helps you organize the channels you use to offer individual products and services.

Heat maps, for example, show the bounces on your website: what’s working, what isn’t, what products people are interested in, and which products they most frequently ask questions about. Heat maps are an important digital tool because the data they provide helps you understand the precise journey each prospect is taking. Heat maps will help you see what steps customers and prospects take (or don’t take) on their way from discovering your company to completing a transaction.

The Shared Need for Seamlessness

Customers and companies alike need a seamless buyer’s journey. Customers want convenience and immediacy: they want to take as few steps as possible to make their decision and purchase. The best way to do this is to condense the buyer’s journey where you can on your website and eCommerce store.

Today, and as we look to the future, B2B customers will conduct research on the same sites from which they later make purchases. The content your marketing department provides for awareness-stage research needs to be interactive and engaging: think demo and explainer videos and ROI calculators. These tools make it less likely for the prospect to stop their journey to look for information elsewhere.

Importantly, the seamlessness and integration of your marketing makes it easier for you to conduct business. If your website is integrated with research resources and other eCommerce resources, like customer portals to adjust accounts and pay bills, your company will have one place in which all data is stored, content is published and order information is captured.

Important Steps for the Road Ahead

Now that we’ve established what the future of B2B eCommerce will look like, let’s look at what it will specifically take to create it.

  • Software that facilitates data collection
    Customers hate to receive messages that don’t pertain to them and to answer the same questions over and over. Data collection allows for all the personalized tactics, like account-based marketing, that the new customer experience necessitates.
  • Automation that speeds up the process
    Automation makes experiences convenient for buyers and takes “busy work” away from your company. Orders are coming in automatically and being stored centrally so that nothing gets lost in the shuffle, and everyone across marketing and sales knows what their counterparts are doing.
  • Subscription services for recurring revenue
    A subscription automates the old-fashioned “standing order” and makes sure it’s fulfilled on time. Customers love the ease of not having to constantly re-order, and subscription service will help you forecast sales and maximize recurring business and revenue.
  • High-customization capabilities
    B2B customers have highly-specific needs and the eCommerce solution you implement needs to allow for that customization, otherwise, it won’t be worth it. Consider a drop-down menu of custom features and functionalities, or simply prompt a real conversation to take place at that stage.
  • Accessible support features
    Make it easy for your website visitors to chat with sales reps or bots to help transactions go through smoothly. Utilize smart artificial intelligence and conversational marketing strategies to ensure your chatbots ask questions’ related to the page, or stage of the journey your visitor is on.

Summing Up

It’s important for business owners looking toward the future to know just how valuable a solid eCommerce experience is to their business. B2B customers have new demands that can be challenging for companies to meet if they don’t think creatively and use the right tools.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are ways to make the buying experience more seamless and convenient, even if your business conducts nuanced transactions that are hard to fully translate to eCommerce. Learn more about what’s important when it comes to the new B2B user experience by downloading our just-released, free eBook, B2B Becoming B2C: The Changing Sales Cycle.

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Are you interested in B2B marketing services? Contact Sagefrog Marketing Group today.