July 31st, 2019   |   by Anthony Komarov

The new B2B - give your clients the best shopping experience

When browsing the web it's easy to bump into content that shows how to build brand awareness and promote products to individual clients. There are tons of sources with both basic tactics and lesser-known tricks. Meanwhile, the B2B market seems to be less explored. That's surprising because this niche plays an important role in the whole retail industry.

Moving shops online is becoming a must-do in order to face the challenges of today’s world. As the pandemic has forced many companies to shut their walk-in stores, having a digital equivalent is essential to stay in the game, or even expand the business.

Keeping that in mind, the main goal should be providing leads with the best shopping experience possible. Let's dive into the topic and focus on elite practices that you can start working on today.

What exactly are sales in a B2B model?

The new reality means new opportunities for brands that work in the B2B sector. With the rising expectations of clients and more stores switching to online, it's crucial to provide customers with a unique user experience. This change is inevitable - Forrester estimates that US B2B e-commerce will hit $1.8 trillion by 2023. Considering the mark left on the industry by the pandemic, we might expect that this number will rise even more.

The shift to digital isn't only driven by new restrictions. The acceleration in running eCommerce B2B shops was already visible because of clients’ preferences. A whopping 93% of B2B buyers claim that they prefer making purchases online.

B2B vs. B2C

B2B strategies differ from those used in the consumer market. That’s why applying the same actions for the latter when selling to the former type of companies is a mistake.

B2C (business-to-client) is a business scheme in which each of us is involved almost daily. It's the buying and selling process between a company and a customer. At most times, it concerns relatively small amounts of products or services. The brand's approach to the client is generally personal and more straight forward (depending on the industry).

B2B (business-to-business) - is a business model that focuses on selling goods or services to other companies. These types of sales are vital for many industries' supply chains and help other brands boost their efforts. B2B companies have a very specific target audience, as they offer a certain and precise type of supplies - starting from raw materials, services, and consultations, to finished parts. These goods are essential for other businesses to operate, grow and profit.

Although in this article we’ll focus on the eCommerce field, the same differences appear between traditional B2B and B2C as in their digital version.

The differences between B2B and B2C relationships

While some methods used by B2C companies could be applied to the B2B field, companies shouldn’t follow each other’s models. The following comparison might show more clearly why the strategies have to be unique for both business models.

The main differences between B2B and B2C schemes:

  • Decisive process. When working in the B2B model, you have to take into account the opinion of the whole decisive team. If you’re lucky you might negotiate directly with a decision maker (a manager or a business owner) but often before you reach the head of the company, you’ll have to talk with a few people. That’s why the whole process is more complicated and longer. In B2C you directly reach a client who is interested (or not) in your services, and who is a decision maker at the same time. In B2B, the verdict might depend on the opinion of a whole board.
  • The level of potential risk. It’s higher in B2B than B2C relationships. Shopping for a company is a longer process, as it requires more formal protection and more detailed agreements. Also, no one from the company’s team wants to take responsibility for potential failures and risk their job, which lengthens transaction times.
  • Orientation on product vs. orientation on the solution: In B2C, products are mostly less complex (or smaller amounts are bought at once). In the B2B model, the contracts are bigger and thus involve a higher financial contribution. That’s why even if you sell a product it’s called providing your buyer with a solution, as often it’s also a set of goods and services.

In conclusion, B2B brands are enterprises that offer things that other businesses need in order to operate and develop. This is in contrast to B2C companies, which sell directly to individual clients.

Redefining B2B strategies in the digital world

The rise of B2B e-commerce solutions has changed the relationship between businesses and suppliers irreversibly. Even if the international health and social situation will improve in the next few months, consumers' shopping habits have already transformed and possibly forever.

As new trends emerge, we will focus on B2B eCommerce sales - a type of transaction held online between companies. The traditional approach to this model is no longer enough, and after setting up a digital store it's irrelevant to the internet environment. With this mental shift, brands have to adjust their actions. B2B sales have to go digital sooner or later. To make this process painless, there are some hacks to use.

Tighten the cooperation between your in-house sales and marketing teams

Many brands are afraid of changing their selling habits and fear that having an eCommerce B2B shop would kill their sales team’s in-person contact with clients.

They couldn’t be more wrong! The best results might come from balancing good, old practices with a new approach to sales and marketing.

  • Unify the goals. Salespeople and marketers tend to focus on different facets of lead generation. To make the process profitable and the results visible for both sides, you should set relevant metrics to track. Also, decide whether you need to reach a wider audience or actually obtain fewer, but more prosperous leads.
  • Don’t neglect the power of social media. Even though B2B companies don’t spend too much time scrolling through community platforms, most of us have a profile on at least one of them. LinkedIn is perceived as a more business-oriented medium, so building your brand’s image might help you to convince new clients about your offer. Invest a little into yours and your co-workers’ profile to add a professional touch. You can also add a few prosperous brand executives to your contact list by expanding your network.
  • Sell & build a loyal community around your brand. Social media is perfect for keeping in touch with your clients. In terms of working with companies, you can use them to build authority by sharing knowledge and quality content. Educate your clients - show your publications and answer industry-related questions. Your marketing team can also use retargeting to convince leads who resigned from your services at some point in the sales funnel.
  • Use marketing automation tools and analyze the data. When you watch relevant metrics and compare them, you can improve your actions in a particular field. Without this, it’s impossible to know your leads and use the information about their preferences to your advantage. Personalization is highly important these days - Net Solutions’ B2B Commerce 2020 report highlights that 63% of B2B leaders plan to prioritize capturing a 360 degree customer view to deliver personalized experiences to their clients.

Tips & strategies for online B2B companies

There’s more you can do to optimize and accelerate your digital store’s development. The key tactics are the following:

  1. Implement EDI to simplify the cooperation. EDI stands for Electronic Data Interchange and it’s a computer-to-computer exchange of documents in standard electronic formats between business partners. By resigning from paper-based exchanges of business documents, companies can reduce costs and errors to increase processing speeds.
  2. Introduce a “punchout system”. It’s a mechanism that makes it possible for a buyer to access a supplier's website from their own procurement application. In simple words, your ecommerce website is connected directly to the client's procurement system. The buyer leaves their procurement application and enters the supplier's web-based catalog. This might be helpful for companies that make huge orders for supplies.
  3. Enable buying in bulk. With a user-friendly system like this, you can help your clients order large amounts of goods quickly and efficiently. Simplicity improves the customer experience and reduces the risk of mistakes.
  4. Simplify account management. Working with companies includes delegating tasks within teams. Enable organizations to manage their B2B accounts, users, and budgets. Give the credit to account managers to create user roles and assign varying degrees of access rights. These might concern e. g. searching for products and placing orders.
  5. Show credentials. Ask your recent customers to write an opinion about your services and upload this recommendation to your website. Business people might need a specific reason to convince their supervisors about your services, and such quotes might help you with acquiring new clients.

Don’t go digital-only

Relationship management is consistently key to building a strong relationship with your customer. You can automate some actions to make the purchase process smoother, but don't resign from personal contact completely.

Arm your sales team with a robust CRM system and combine traditional dialing with omnichannel solutions. Negotiations are bread and butter for companies and you should prepare your employees for that. Online shop and sales teams should be closely linked together. You can build customer engagement by adding a live chat to your eCommerce store and reach your leads on more channels.

User Experience at it’s finest

Imagine walking to a store with excitement after watching their advertisements and reading about products that can do wonders. You get there and… you can’t find anything from your wishlist. After minutes of searching, you want to pick some products but they are so high on the shelves that you can’t reach them. And after finally getting them in your basket, your payment won’t go through at the till.

Sounds dramatic? That’s effectively what happens when a website works badly and delivers a low user experience.

Build your shop on an intuitive software system

To avoid such problems, you can choose an intuitive platform to build your eCommerce store on. The most common choices are Shopify, BigCommerce, or Magento, and the popularity of them all is still rising. A whopping number of over 80% of surveyed B2B companies plan to invest in an eCommerce platform to provide a unified experience for their potential customers. Make sure that your design is flexible and matches all devices.

Optimize SEO and create quality content

Before you do anything else, make sure that your website works seamlessly. You don’t want to scare off your potential customers, do you? With an eCommerce store that doesn’t work correctly, you’re losing the reputation of a professional.

To avoid this, take care of a few things. Combine eye-catching visuals with clarity and a short but sweet copy. Take care of the breadcrumbs to help both your SEO and your customers’ shopping path.

To make sure everything is buttoned up, use tools to optimize your on-site SEO to accelerate loading speeds. Customize your store with exclusive content, embed shoppable snippets, and convert HTML into any templates you want. B2 Storefronts enable you to do these, and many more things, in order to leverage your customer experience.

Over to you

The benefits of having an online B2B store are multiple. Reaching new customers, better management of suppliers & customers, as well as selling more goods to existing customers thanks to providing a personalized experience and having better lead acquisition are just a few.

And above all, an online store allows you to get the best of both worlds by introducing a holistic strategy. Combining traditional practices with fresh tactics can let you hit the sweet spot even with a B2B model.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. You can check it out yourself, as our tool offers a free plan. The only thing you need is a new account and a vision of your online store.

B2B Buying process changed
B2B Customers demand same level of experience as they get used to on traditional stores

B2B Sales are transforming, so the toolbox of the B2B eCommerce should too. With our solution merchants are able to run their B2B store on top of the channel they use for the B2C channel while fully benefiting from full flexibility and high performance.

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