As buyers and business owners are becoming younger and more comfortable shopping online, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage if you do not have an eCommerce presence for your brick-and-mortar B2B business.
Market research company Forrester projects that B2B eCommerce sales will reach $1.8 trillion per year by 2023. This would account for about 17% of all B2B sales in the United States.
With most B2B buyers doing their research online and 93% of B2B buyers preferring to do their purchasing through an online portal, can your business afford to stay in the stone age?
While the overall user experience for a B2B website will be similar to a standard B2C website, there are a few significant differences you will need to consider. Unlike traditional B2C eCommerce websites, a B2B website needs to be designed and developed with more strategy intent.
To help you with your website development journey, we’ve compiled the 10 Commandments of B2B eCommerce to give you the best chance at success.
1: Make Your User Experience Clean & Efficient
Pretty much the most crucial factor for any website is user experience. If the website has a poor user experience, chances are its visitors will end up going elsewhere to purchase goods or consume content.
While every website may be different, there are a few key user experience factors that every website should pay attention to.
Website Page Speed
No matter what industry you’re in or the types of products you’re selling, it’s imperative that your website loads quickly.
Primarily, if your website is slow to load, users will become frustrated and leave. However, many new website owners don’t realize how much page speed impacts search rankings.
In 2010, Google began factoring page speed into its ranking algorithm and has continued to add more value to it over the years. This doesn’t only include desktop browsers but also includes mobile browsers.
You can use online tools like GTMetrix and Google Page Speed Insights to test your current website load times. If your website is fully loaded in 3 to 4 seconds, you’re in pretty good shape. However, if your website takes more than 4 seconds to load fully, you may want to consider spending some page speed optimization.
Logical Website Navigation & Hierarchy
Having a logical, easy-to-navigate website is essential no matter what products you are selling. To start, make sure your navigation is well segmented and covers all of the primary sections of your website.
Depending on the products you’re selling, you can break down the navigation by category and subcategory, by the brand, or even by shopper characteristics like gender.
What’s important is that you consider what your primary products are, who your direct customers are, and how your customers prefer to shop. Design your navigation to make it most accessible for your customers to find what they’re looking for efficiently, and they’ll keep coming back for repeat purchases.
You should also make sure to link as deep as you can into your site as possible, especially if you have a more extensive catalog. Utilize dropdown menus to include links to 2nd and 3rd-level subcategories.
While linking deeply into your site from your main navigation helps customers get from start to finish more quickly, it also has search ranking benefits. The deeper a page’s crawl depth, or how many clicks away it is from the home page, the less priority a search engine crawler will assign.
Intuitive Search Functionality
Another critical factor for any eCommerce website is that it must have intuitive search capabilities. This means that your search should consider more than just the title or product description when returning results.
Make sure that when your customers submit a search query, things like product specs, product features, product tags, and any other product attributes you might be using are being considered in the results.
If you have an extensive product catalog, you should also include filters with your search results. Let your customers refine their search results by price, brand, product type, and other attributes that can help them find what they’re looking for more easily.
Search autocomplete is another excellent feature to offer your customers when you can. This feature returns the top 10 or so results to a search query before the customer submits the query. This way, if they see what they’re looking for, they can bypass the search results and go right to the product they’re looking for.
2: Consider Customer Purchasing Behaviors
When structuring your website and designing the pages and the functionality, it’s vital to consider your customer’s purchasing behavior. Think about how your customers shop both on and offline.
Make sure to build plenty of ‘funnels’ into your most popular products and categories. Don’t just include links in your navigation, but build links to your top website sections by creating content blocks on your homepage and other informational pages.
You should also make sure to include cross-sells, up-sells, and related products whenever possible. At the very least, you should display these types of blocks on your product pages, blog posts, and shopping cart page.
By understanding your customer’s purchasing behaviors and then designing the shopping experience for them, you will likely see higher average order values and conversion rates.
3: Provide A Wealth Of Useful Information
Your website should not only sell products, but it should also be an informational resource for potential buyers. According to eCommerce platform 3dCart, 74% of B2B buyers research most of their purchasing options online before deciding on a vendor.
When creating your product content, think about all of the potential questions that your customers have had previously. Design the content to provide detailed information about the product and answer the questions.
You should also create comprehensive breakdowns of your product specs and list these on your product pages. In many cases, buyers will look at whether your products meet specific specs or requirements.
If applicable, it’s also helpful to include product tutorial videos on your product pages. When potential customers can watch your product being used in real-time, it creates a lot more trust in the product itself.
The more information you can provide to your prospective customers, the greater the likelihood of becoming repeat customers.
4: Enhance Your Sales Team, Don’t Replace Them
In business-to-business commerce, personal relationships will be important. Customers and sales representatives will likely have regular conversations about new products, promotions, pricing, and any number of other topics.
So when building a B2B eCommerce store, your goal should not be to replace your sales team but to build something that will make them more efficient and their lives easier.
Several website features, functions, and enhancements have been conceptualized over the years to help improve a B2B sales operation.
One example of this would be an auto-reordering feature for your website. An auto-reordering feature allows customers to set up an order or multiple orders that will repeat on a specific frequency.
So let’s say a customer has one set of products that they need to be delivered weekly and another set of products that need to be delivered on the first of every month. With an auto-reorder feature, the customer can set up these orders one time and then let the website handle the rest.
Another great B2B eCommerce feature is offering a price match guarantee. First, you’ll need to develop the general terms and conditions for your price match guarantee and share this with your sales reps.
Next, you’ll need to build a form into your website that allows customers and potential customers to insert product information and upload a picture or advertisement with the price they’d like you to match. The more flexible and easy-to-use that you can make this form. For example, you can offer a search autocomplete field that will let users quickly find the products they’re looking for.
The important thing to remember is that the features and functionality that you build into your website should simplify your sales process and make your sales team more efficient. It’s usually not worth implementing features just for the sake of having the features if they don’t fit into your existing sales model. This will usually end up complicating things and creating unnecessary bottlenecks in your sales process.
5: Create Easy To Manage Pricing Structures
One thing that every buyer will consider before making a purchasing decision is pricing. So when you can give your customers flexible, custom pricing rules, you’re likely to close more new customers.
First and foremost, you should have a variety of customer pricing groups set up. For example, you can have a group for new customers, one for customers that order more than $10,000 per month, customers that order more than $25,000 per month, and so on.
You could then offer different wholesale pricing discounts to each group to encourage larger orders from your customers. For example, the customers in the ‘$10,000 per month’ group may receive a 10% discount on the list price, and however, the customers in the ‘$25,000 per month’ group may receive a 16.5% discount on the list price. These types of pricing structures incentivize your customers to buy more and consolidate their buying with your business.
Another effective strategy is offering product-specific pricing to your customers. For example, a customer is in the ‘$10,000 per month’ pricing group. They may be happy with the pricing they receive on most of your products, but there’s a specific product that they can buy at a lower price from another vendor.
Instead of moving this customer to a different pricing group or losing their business, you can simply assign that customer a special price for that one product so that you can win their additional business but still maintain your margins.
Have an eCommerce platform that lets you experiment with your pricing: schedule flash sales, product-specific discounts, close-outs, and other promotions. Stay flexible and make sure to A/B test your offers so that you can offer the pricing strategies that are most attractive to your current and potential customers.
6: Use Great Media Assets
All shoppers are visual shoppers, whether it’s a B2B shopper or a B2C shopper. Even if a customer eventually makes their way to your product description and product specs, the first thing that they will look at will be your product photos and videos.
So it goes without saying that without high-quality media assets for your products, your chances for success in the eCommerce space go down considerably.
Make sure that your website features plenty of high-quality photos and videos of your product. It’s important to show what your product looks like and show how it looks when being used. If your product comes in various colors or other variable options, make sure to include media for every choice.
Creating Website Photos
If it fits into your budget, it’s always best to hire a professional photographer to shoot your product photos for you. Shooting and editing photos is an acquired skill, so it’s best to use a professional if you want that truly professional look.
If you don’t have it in the budget to hire a photographer, you can typically buy a decent camera, lenses, some lights, and photo accessories for under $1000. If you’re going to take the DIY route, make sure to get a camera that shoots both high-quality photos and videos.
There are a few photo accessories you’ll want to make sure to pick up. First, you’ll need a lightbox so you can take shots of your products on a flat white background. Always start by placing your lights wherever the lightbox manufacturer suggests you do. Once you take a few photos, though, it might be worth experimenting with light placement just to see how the picture quality changes.
Another excellent photo accessory to buy is a motorized turntable to place your products on. For one, this will save you a lot of time and effort when it comes to repositioning your products for additional photos.
You can also switch your camera into video mode and create videos that show a full 360-degree view of each one of your products. These videos can be beneficial when selling clothing and clothing accessories.
7: Consider Your Integrations Before Choosing A Platform
Depending on your business and current business strategy, you may already integrate several platforms and services.
For example, even if you don’t already have your eCommerce website, you may be selling your products on Amazon, eBay, and other shopping platforms. Many B2B and B2C retailers also use shipping and fulfillment services like ShipStation, Shippo, and ShipBob to handle their order fulfillment.
When building an eCommerce website, you should first audit all of the different services you currently use or that you plan to use. When choosing the eCommerce platform, you will use for your website, ensure that they have integrations available for each service.
While all eCommerce platforms may not offer native integrations with every service right out of the box, most platforms do have plugins, applications, or extensions that will help to fill in the gaps.
You’ll also want to make sure that the integrations are bi-directional. The last thing that you will want to do is manage your inventory on each of your sales channels individually, so make sure that your eCommerce platform integrates with the channels and sync your inventory across your channels.
One of the reasons that Shopify is such a popular platform for B2B and B2C eCommerce websites is how many 3rd party integrations they offer.
8: Online Customer Service Is Key
Just like in real-world sales, customer service will still be an integral part of your online sales. If you don’t offer fast, efficient customer service options for your customers, chances are they will move their business to a website that does. Even if you don’t have enough staff on hand to handle incoming phone calls, there are still several ways to offer excellent customer service online.
These days, just about every website will have some sort of contact form on it. Contact forms make it easy for customers and prospective customers to submit questions about products, orders, shipping concerns, and just about anything else they may have an inquiry about.
Instead of just offering a single ‘catch-all’ form for your clients to fill out, though, create different forms for each of the different needs your customers may have.
For example, you can have a specific form for new customer inquiries, a specific form for returns and refunds, a specific form for price match requests, and so on.
Each of these forms can then route to different people on your sales team or your customer service team to improve your team’s overall efficiency.
This also allows you to keep your forms as efficient as possible and collect only the information you need from your customers on each form. For example, having an “order number” field just adds one additional step to the process for a prospective customer that’s just looking to submit a general inquiry.
Another great feature found on many modern websites is a website chat feature. Website chat applications are often inexpensive, if not free, and allow you to provide your customers with more immediate feedback.
Website chat tools are often simple to install, no matter what eCommerce platform you’re on. So when choosing the chat application, you plan to use, consider the chat features that look best for your needs, not the eCommerce platform your website is hosted on.
When it comes to managing your incoming chat requests, you will usually have the ability to have one or multiple “chat operators” who can accept chats depending on the chat request volume. You will also be able to set an “away message” during the hours that your chat operators are offline.
Another great feature to add to your website to assist with customer service is a resource library. Compile resources like product brochures, PDFs, product tutorials, and anything else your customers may find helpful when researching or purchasing your products.
Once you’ve compiled your materials, put together a logical organization system for your resource library. For example, grouping items under a category like “PDFs” may be too broad. Splitting your PDFs into smaller groupings like product guides, assembly guides, and product brochures may make more sense.
Make sure that you use a flexible system to manage your resource library so that you can add new resource categories and subcategories as they are needed.
Website FAQs, or frequently asked questions, are another great way to provide your customers with the answers to the questions they may have about your products.
Think about the questions that new customers typically ask in your conversations. Ask your customer service and sales representatives for common questions and requests that they may receive.
Once you have a list of questions, create well-written, informative responses to each question. You should also consider the questions in your list and whether or not any other questions can be included to expand on the answers, you’re providing.
If possible, you should also segment your FAQs into categories to make the answers easier to find. For example, you may want to break down your FAQs into sections for “new customers,” “ordering,” “shipping and returns,” and “general.”
Continue to grow your FAQ library every month. These will not only make an excellent resource for your customers, but they also are great for search engine rankings. Since your existing customers are asking these questions, it’s likely that many other people have these same questions and are typing them right into Google.
By providing clear, informative answers to the exact questions that searchers are looking for, you’ll be giving your website several new opportunities to be found in search engines.
9: Reward Customer Loyalty
In addition to providing excellent customer service, it’s also a good idea to reward customer loyalty. You must build relationships with your customers and show them that they mean more to you than their average order value.
There are many great ways to reward your customers both on and offline.
One of the best ways to show your customers you care is to provide discounts on future orders. Whether these are customer-specific discounts or sitewide discounts that you announce to your email list, these are typically mutually beneficial situations. Your customers are happy because they’re saving money, and you’ll likely end up seeing a spike in sales due to the promotion.
Another great way to reward your customers is to include a free product or two with one of their orders. Regardless of what the product is or how much it costs, everyone loves to get free stuff. By including a complimentary item or an extra unit of the product they’ve ordered, your customers will appreciate the gesture and continue to do business with you.
10: Adapt To Your Customers Needs
The most important thing to remember when building a B2B eCommerce website for B2B is that you should always be ready to adapt to your customer’s needs.
Listen to the pain points and requests that your customers talk to you about. Send occasional user experience surveys to your customers and offer a small discount on their next order to encourage participation.
Collect as much website feedback from your customers as you can and compile everything to a list. While there will undoubtedly be plenty of “dud” suggestions, there should also be plenty of constructive feedback that you can take action on.
Develop a list of changes and updates that you plan to implement based on the feedback and pay close attention to any repeat suggestions or critiques. Assess these items first, figure out what is required to implement the changes, and prioritize these changes before any others.
Remember – the more user-friendly you can make your website, the more likely you are to increase average order values, improve conversion rates, and attract new users.
Learn More About E-Commerce Growth With Proper Noun
Proper Noun is a content marketing agency specializing in e-commerce growth through various content and SEO strategies. We’ve worked with e-commerce companies of all sizes to grow visibility in the search engines and drive more sales. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help your e-commerce store with an effective e-commerce SEO campaign, contact us today to get started.