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B2B marketing has long been under-represented, not to mention B2B ecommerce.

But with the entry of Amazon Supply and Google Shopping for Suppliers to the market, B2B ecommerce is quietly catching up.

So much so that forecasts suggest that the B2B ecommerce market will be double the size of B2C by 2013.

This is a real wake up call for B2B companies that have not considered selling their products online.

We know that the B2B buying cycle is notoriously lengthy and complex. Add to this the omnichannel and big data challenges already faced by companies these days and it’s no surprise that many are put off by the potential cost of implementation and conflicts between their direct and online sales channels.

The stakes are high, but so are the potential rewards. By migrating B2B customers online, companies  have seen a 44% increase in Average Order Value (AVO) and 38% of the B2B executives agreed that customers have spent more.

In addition, half of the companies have reduced their acquisition costs and 52% have decreased their support costs.

Perhaps most importantly, the more channels customers buy from, the more money they spend and the more loyal they are. In a time when companies are struggling to find growth in the traditional channels, this may well be the best way to stand out from competition and increase sales.

Here are a few things to consider when approaching B2B ecommerce:

1. Operationalise online ordering

Order processing is a key element to making the purchase happen online. It’s critical to make it easy for customers and staff to manage the transaction process. Engagement starts here and you need to deliver a great user experience to give customers reasons to move online.

Being able to easily adjust pricing levels (e.g. discount for bulk order or return customers) and the ability to track orders are must-haves.

And don’t forget that identity is key in B2B commerce, capture user identities, present onboarding opportunties and further customise the user experience by understanding their preference to build loyalty.  

2. Market to, and acquire new customers through online channels 

Opening a channel for online acquisition creates new ways to market and reach customers. Adopt this B2C tactic and get your organic and paid search optimised, as well as email and display.

Many companies don’t consider the full impact of their marketing mix until the site is launched. Planning for this up front can shorten the time to online revenue. 

3. Enable customer self-care to improve efficiency 

Giving customers the ability to control access, manage an order, track order status and make changes on the move eliminates phone calls and frees sales staff time for more productive purposes.

Self care portals should provide staff with the ability to interact with customers online or through the phone, if necessary.

And over time, customers become familiar with the self care process and online ordering, making the transition to self ordering easier.

4. Adopt B2C merchandising and marketing tactics 

The B2C market has already proven the power of merchandising and marketing in driving extra sales.

Once on the site, B2C style merchandising such as offering related products and personalised offers based on the corporate purchase history can drive extra revenues. 

5. Multichannel and mobile

Consider multichannel for customers and staff members. The convenience of mobile access and the ability to place an order on mobile devices and tablets is a growing trend.

Enabling easy content and product management on a variety of devices from the start will save money and add profit, as research has shown the more channels customers can buy from the more they spend.

It goes without saying that ongoing maintenance and refinement of the site is required to keep up with customer needs. In the design phase appropriate analytics should be set to track and measure success.

Baselines against existing sales channels should be charted so that improvement can be monitored against goals.

David Bowen

Published 10 January, 2014 by David Bowen

David Bowen is the Product Manager of EPiServer. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter, or add him to your circles on Google+

6 more posts from this author

Comments (1)

Claire Stead

Claire Stead, Head of Marketing at Smoothwall

A lot of B2B marketers are afraid to take their services and sales online, as B2B is built around relationship building, and usually lengthy processes. What many B2B organisations don't realise is that it can actually improve your service offering to add e-commerce to your portfolio. By being the first in your industry to offer B2B ecommerce, this can be a great USP for your organisation, the most important thing is getting the operational buy in and making sure that the processes are fault proof throughout all departments involved. From my experience, that is the main obstacle to overcome, getting universal agreement and understanding from all departments about their involvement in the e-commerce process.

almost 3 years ago

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