Clunky, outdated business-to-business functionality. An inability for potential customers to easily compare product buying options. No self-service support or FAQs. Insufficient product information. Not enough digital-commerce channels to satisfy your technically savvy target audience.
Is your B2B website sales process one of those dusty digital spaces that makes existing customers and potential new customers alike grimace? Is your ecommerce strategy in need of a remodel?
If so, you’re in good company: B2B sellers have largely gotten away with not updating their ecommerce platforms at the frenzied pace that was all but required by B2C ecommerce retailers. However, the pandemic lockdown phase that spurred B2C sales and awakened B2B sellers to new possibilities is history, and so is the B2B sales grace period. B2B shoppers now expect the type of user-friendly buying experience from B2B businesses that they get as consumers in the B2C world. They want — more like demand — from B2B brands: a business model that encompasses modern, personalized experiences and purchasing recommendations expressly tailored to their needs.
How much would a B2B buyer spend?
B2B buyers have changed their stripes radically since the days of in-person meetings between buyers and sales reps. Avionos reports that 87% of B2B buyers say they’d pay more for a supplier that had an excellent ecommerce portal.
And buyers could also pay a lot more in online B2B transactions. McKinsey & Company found that more than 35% of business buyers say they’d spend upwards of $500,000 on a single digital transaction. Plus, 15% of corporate decision makers say they’re fine making online buys of more than $1 million.
So we’re talking about some serious online sales revenue here. It may come as a painful realization that you need to revamp your B2B site so extensively. But knowledge is power, and with your new awareness comes opportunity.
Choosing the best B2B ecommerce strategies
So with the prospective consequences of not revamping and the prospective upside of doing this work in mind, what B2B ecommerce marketing strategies should you embrace to streamline your B2B ecommerce site and make it successful in the coming years?
You may already have been thinking about cleaning up your site and optimizing your app for use on mobile devices. You could consider a digital transformation of your B2B user experience. Perhaps you’d go so far as to upgrade from a legacy system to the latest technology. Whatever you choose to do will take time and investment dollars, no question. But for the moment, let’s not worry about that; let’s talk about five hot B2B ecommerce trends you’ll want to stay keenly aware of as you come up with a game plan.
First, one question: Are you collecting data on your visitors’ online activities as they move around your B2B site?
If you’re like many B2B companies, you have, indeed, amassed a trove of first-party visitor data. You can use that information to align your site with your user needs while pursuing any of these commerce trends.
And if you don’t collect that data? Well, there’s never been a better time to start.
Trend: leveraging AI-enabled site search
Unless you’ve been away from civilization for a time, you know AI — artificial intelligence technology — the next big thing — is revolutionizing the world of information and changing business as we know it. And like everything else, B2B ecommerce is falling under AI’s seductive forces.
Did you know that for B2B commerce, 92% of purchases start with search? They know what they need, so they go straight to the search box.
How does that pan out? B2B buyers often have trouble finding up-to-date information and products they need. According to Wunderman Thompson, 52% of companies experience frustration with B2B online purchasing.
Maybe, from way back when, your B2B site has decent keyword site search that helps your business customers find what they need. It may be doing an OK job. But would you know if a significant segment of your shoppers weren’t happy, and were leaving your site because of your outdated search functionality?
AI search on websites significantly upgrades the quality of search. It does this so well that to some customers, it feels like the search engine (or chatbot) is reading their minds.
Better relevance and results make business shoppers happy, and they also add up to better conversion rates and satisfied customers who come back.
How can you integrate AI search to help your B2B shoppers come away with the right information, keep reordering, and, over time, develop long-lasting working relationships with your company?
One option is neural search from Algolia. It utilizes vector search with neural hashes to deliver accurate results in near real time for B2B sites (and apps), plus accommodates traditional keyword search, all in a single API. It also helps with personalization, another major trend.
Trend: Personalizing B2B shopping
When it comes to personalization of the B2B shopper experience, much has changed since the days of then-sophisticated marketing tactics like simply inserting the recipient’s name in an email. Search and exploration can be heavily personalized based on past transactional history to shape the buyer’s journey through the site. You can use AI to provide super-accurate search results, amazingly relevant recommendations, and sophisticated email, texting, and chat messaging.
Providing a personalized B2B customer experience in your online store won’t go unnoticed. According to Accenture, when searching for suppliers to work with online, half of B2B buyers said better personalization was key. They fully expect their B2B web experiences to be personalized. They reward those companies that treat them as individuals by buying for their companies and being loyal business customers. That means the likelihood of conversions is higher and your brand gets stronger — something you’ll surely notice.
Trend: Enabling B2B product discovery
As with B2C ecommerce, discovery is another journey, an alternative way to meet business customers’ needs, get them to the checkout process, and have them complete a sale. The B2B buying process could start with discovery of a promotional banner, seeing a recommendation, or reading editorial content about a product. Effective content discovery helps users ultimately alight on what they need and discourages bounce, leading to higher conversion and ROI.
You can also provide a friendly chatbot to help prospective B2B buyers discover items, suggest related or complementary items, and offer guidance.
Trend: Making business more social
Social media has always been a good place for B2C companies to hang out, but what about B2B? A sound digital marketing strategy absolutely includes forays into social commerce. According to Gartner, 40% of B2B buyers are already using social media to help them make the right purchase decisions, and this trend is only going to solidify.
The great thing about social media is it takes on a more casual, personal feel as opposed to traditional ads and promotional content. In other words, it may be less likely to arouse suspicion. And because readers are in an open-minded space when they’re scrolling through their feeds, you have an opportunity to hook their interest. That means newsy posts about your business on sites like Facebook could capture potential business-buyers’ interest and result in more sales.
How effective is a social media presence for B2B companies? The Content Marketing Institute says social-media posting is a key form of marketing (along with email newsletters and blogs, and an effective paid marketing method (along with SEO). This is partly because B2B buyers are already frequenting social media platforms as consumers, so it’s a natural place to catch their eye.
Social content tips for business
What works well for B2B content on social-media platforms? Intriguing infographics, enlightening product demos, interesting statistics, user testimonials, as well as reader-oriented industry news and content related to promotions.
You can double down on this ecommerce sales strategy by bringing a social-media feel to your website as well — specifically to your product listing pages — letting B2B shoppers post product reviews and include their own images. The Baymard Institute concluded that “User-generated product images can enrich and complement existing images by making products — and the sites that sell them — seem more trustworthy.”
Trend: omnichannel experiences
Mobile apps, text messaging, email, physical stores, your website, social media. A prospective B2B buyer might want to use a variety or all of these sales channels. How many of them does your B2B company offer shoppers?
According to McKinsey, “B2B companies that assume they’ve cleared the omnichannel bar in sales and marketing will need to think again. … All B2B customers prefer omnichannel, no matter their industry, country, size, or customer relationship stage.”
The firm adds that customer loyalty in the B2B realm is “up for grabs,” and buyers are more open to switching to suppliers that offer superior omnichannel shopping.
Trend: B2B on online marketplace sites
As with B2C, third-party marketplace sites have become a fixture of the B2B shopping world. After all, what’s not to love about going to a multivendor locale for business supplies. Setting up shop on the right marketplace site can also give B2B ecommerce companies extended reach around the globe.
Amazon Business has a huge chunk of this market — hosting one in three transactions that occur on B2B marketplace sites in the U.S. However, there are many other thriving business marketplace sites, geared for all different kinds of business. Depending on the type of company, a highly specialized B2B marketplace could be the ideal choice.
B2B ecommerce best practices
There you have them — a few powerful B2B ecommerce website trends. Of course, there are lots more tactics and strategies for B2B purchasing, plus emerging trends, that you’ll want to consider for your B2B ecommerce platform as well, but these should get your B2B upgrade off to a promising start.
Of these, what’s your best B2B ecommerce business strategy — which ecommerce solution should you tackle first to improve your ecommerce store?
Check out our demo for ideas. Or go straight to contacting us. We’re ready to help you optimize your B2B site search, discovery, and recommendations to meet or exceed customer expectations. We’re looking forward to seeing you capture more of the B2B ecommerce market!