B2B eCommerce: Go B2C or Go Home


B2B EcommerceFor B2B or B2B-like organizations that run a corporate eCommerce platform, the time of captured customers and “traditional” site features/functionality has passed. B2B eCommerce sites are the new B2C. The new customers (buyers) have high expectations during their visits. With the rise in available purchasing option for these buyers, including large scale alternative platforms like Amazon Business, no account should be considered a safe (“captured”) customer.   

The key to continued sales and growth for B2B eCommerce sites requires embracing the lessons learned and strategies from B2C companies. For B2B organizations looking to modernize their eCommerce activities, several key concepts can help start this conversation. 

Know the Mindset of Your Current “Buyer”

According to ThinkWithGoogle.com, as of 2015, nearly half (46%) of all B2B researchers are millennials, a significant shift from even three years prior when they represented about 25%. This means that the users of the eCommerce system have deep experience with eCommerce usage and expected features. They have grown up never knowing a world without the internet. Providing an outdated system, with poor features and even worse user experience, can and will lead to those users looking for better options.

By focusing on marketing to millennial professionals and meeting their expectations, B2B companies can help reduce these buyers’ desire to research, shop, and purchase elsewhere.  The millennial group also has high expectations to leverage mobile and tablet touchpoints to a higher degree than other groups.   

Create Exceptional B2B Ecommerce ExperiencesFocus on the Buyer's Experience

Traditional/legacy B2B eCommerce solutions have typically followed the path of simply providing simple search functionality for a massive catalog. In the modernization of B2B eCommerce solutions, it’s important to focus on both the aspects of how users search as well as how to use those results to increase sales.

B2C customers have known this for years. Recent data at ThinkWithGoogle.com suggests that up to 57% of the purchase process (research, options, etc.) is done by the time buyers are contacting the purchasing site, with 93% of those customers conducting research online (mostly via search engines).

For this reason, it’s imperative to look at search engine optimization/search engine marketing strategies, and how best to leverage investment to influence the buyer’s experience prior to visiting your site. Once within the site, focus on driving incremental sales via use of the marketing tools found in the eCommerce platform (e.g., cross-selling, up-selling, bundled offers of product) to generate additional sales revenue.  

Creating Better Customer Engagement

B2C sites have found that customers want an experience that makes them comfortable and that is easy to use, but they also want to work with brands that engage with the customer outside of the pure purchase. B2B organizations are actually in a strong position to embrace this engagement model. Customers look to B2B partners to be the expert on their product offers, so look to push that further by becoming their trusted advisor.

Hosting communities that offer real and valuable advice/answers around the products can push the B2B company to be viewed as a preferred or go-to source, and set them apart from competitors. The direct involvement with customers on the community side can drive down QA issues and returns by resolving questions early (e.g., how best to install, which items need to be bought with another item, etc.). And content created in this area provides fresh, relevant, and constantly growing information that search engines elevate over stale content (e.g., old product pages).

Making it Personal

While B2C companies focus on personalizing the experience for specific customers, B2B companies need the experience to be focused on what’s important to the organization as well as to the individual buyer. For example:

  • What drives the company’s buying decisions?
  • Which marketing efforts will most influence the purchase approver?
  • What promotions are valued by those making the financial decisions for the purchasing company?

By increasing personalized experiences and embracing the future coming with Cognitive Commerce, you can reach the right level in the buying organization. With this kind of personalization, B2B companies will increase customer retention and push value via targeted and relevant marketing/promotion efforts. 

These key points are really just the start of the conversation. There are certainly additional areas of discussion around this topic of “B2C for B2B,” such as:

  • Absolute necessity of a defined and well-planned mobile strategy
  • How best to resolve or minimize struggles around channel conflict with B2B organizations

Future blog posts will attempt to address these and other eCommerce-related topics. The importance of embracing the modernization of B2B platforms cannot be undersold. It is or should be a key company initiative to grow your B2B eCommerce business.

About the Author

Brian_Kayla_Profile.jpg Brian Kayla is the Senior Director of Omnichannel Solutions at Lightwell Inc, joining Lightwell in 2015 to continue growing Lightwell’s strong services teams. With expertise in the merging of business needs and technology to create better eCommerce solutions (B2C, B2B). Brian is a leader of a diverse Omnichannel team (including technology, business and digital skills). His team has long and proven history of delivering full lifecycle and smaller projects.

View Brian's video around eCommerce trends below. 

 Create Exceptional B2B Ecommerce Experiences