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The recent trends and developments in the B2B retail industry are urging and challenging companies to adopt B2C ecommerce best practices:

“To compete in this environment, organizations must borrow best practices from the world of B2C, including digital tools for customer-facing employees and omnichannel commerce.”

Forrester, Make Your B2B Business A Digital Business, Jan 2021

Such digital transformation requires a well planned strategy and re-organization of B2B tech stack, architecture, and processes, which enables B2B retailers to benefit from future-proof omnichannel ecommerce solutions, offering flexibility, scalability, and competitive advantage over rival companies that lag behind technologically. The recommended approach for your organization’s journey towards digitalization would be to start from Search, as this is the first and most common way for shoppers to interact with a company’s site, especially in the B2B world where users are intent-driven and know exactly what they are looking for. What comes next is browsing, filtering, and enhanced navigational experiences. For a unified and consistent user experience, both Search and Browse functionalities should generate a seamless user journey on the site to satisfy user expectations of a modern shopping experience on ecommerce sites.

Search-based interfaces

Build powerful search interfaces that support B2B buyers’ needs: autocomplete, query suggestions, and B2B specific search solutions.

  • Use predictive search suggestions that include the latest trends and speed up recurring purchases: 
    • Query suggestions
    • Popular or promoted search suggestions on an empty query
    • Search results visualization
  • Offer buyers a seamless search for products, FAQs, technical specifications, and other information:
    • A combination of federated/multi-index search and query suggestions in a single drop-down menu. For example, each customer query will trigger search on multiple indices at once and present search results of different types in a single interface: products, spec sheets of the products, categories, FAQ, customer stories for organizations selling solutions, and more.
    • Product listing details – include relevant inventory information for each product. For example, stock status, price per unit, bulk price, and discounts available.
  • Search by SKU and other numbers:
    • Search by SKU
    • Search by style number

B2B buyers are looking for particular products and specifications and want to use product identification numbers, such as stock keeping units (SKU). Make sure to set up Algolia to make it easier to search for product numbers and filter by specific dimensions.

Examples of B2B industry-specific Search functionality

Let’s take a look at some Algolia B2B ecommerce customers who have successfully implemented B2B industry-specific Search functionality.

Product search tailored for business needs: Under Armour

 

Under Armour offers its B2B buyers a separate online catalog that provides them with a browsing experience tailored to their business needs, such as listings that include the wholesale price and MSRP, plus the item style number.

 

 

Federated search with query suggestions: Selco

When the users are entering a query in the search bar on Selco’s website, the relevant information is presented to them in the drop-down menu divided into categories, displaying results from multiple indices as well as showing query suggestions, eliminating the time and effort required to browse the website extensively.

 

 

Federated search on empty query: Dover

When the users are entering a query in the search bar on Dover’s OPW vehicle wash solutions website, just a click inside the search bar, prior to typing, will generate multi-index query suggestions. Suggestions on an empty query shorten the search time and effort and improve the customer experience on the website.

Website users have multiple options to explore related content. Instead of just entering a query into the search box, they can choose from suggested searches, products and categories.

 

 

 

Visualizing results as users search with Autocomplete: Chomette

Chomette’s B2B website has a dynamic autocomplete search functionality that lets users preview relevant products on the search results page as they type.

 

 

 

Search by SKU: Chomette

Chomette’s B2B website lets users find relevant products when entering SKU instead of product name or keywords.

 

 

 

Product listing details for B2B: Chomette

Chomette shows business users multiple types of relevant product listing details, such as SKU, stock status, price per unit, bulk price, and discounts availability.

 

 

 

Browse-based interfaces – Filtering, sorting, and navigation

Implement efficient and intuitive browsing functionality, such as filtering and navigation, on your website pages, matching your business customers’ needs.

  • Search results page
    • Filtering and sorting
    • Hierarchical filtering facets
  • Category page
    • Adding navigation and filters to Category pages
  • Product listing page 
    • Product variant interactive swatches
    • Easy bulk ordering

Examples of B2B industry-specific B2B specific navigation and ordering functionality

Search results page – filtering and sorting: Chomette

Chomette leverages Algolia’s filtering and sorting features to show users what’s relevant to them on search results pages. For example, new products or discounted products.

 

 

 

Search results page – Dynamic hierarchical filtering facets: Dover

Visitors to Dover’s B2B OPW vehicle wash solutions website can drill down to the desired products by selecting “dynamic” hierarchical filters. These filters present facet values that are contextual to their queries as well as their sets of search results.

 

 

 

Category page – adding navigation and filters: Under Armour

On the Under Armour site, people wanting types of sports gear, for instance, shorts, can select the product category on a navigation menu to instantly display relevant Algolia-powered category pages full of items for browsing.

 

 

 

Product listing page – product Variant interactive swatches: Under Armour

Sports equipment retailer Under Armour supplies interactive color swatches (the color of the item worn by the model changes when you click the hue), as well as size-indicating visuals to help people make the right buying decisions.

 

 

Product listing page – easy bulk ordering: Under Armour

 

 

 

Conclusion

The examples above demonstrate the benefits of optimizing Search and Navigation experiences for B2B ecommerce websites. These are based on B2C best practices and tailored to fit the B2B industry’s unique requirements and specifics. Implementing best-in-class B2B online shopping functionalities not only improves user experience today, but lays the foundation for future expansion and digital optimization of any B2B ecommerce shopping process. 

The shift towards digitalization comes with benefits in terms of revenue: buyers will visit the online platform more frequently to place orders. Moreover, we tend to see higher average order volume (AOV) on search sessions, meaning that buyers will be likely to order more if they use search. Finally, investing in ecommerce platforms and digital transformation will free up time for the humans behind the scenes, such as sales reps, support, or customer care teams, to focus on custom deals and dedicated added value advice, rather than reordering products over the phone.

About the author
Tanya Herman

Product Manager

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