According to a recent Forrester report, as many as 74% of customers rely on online research for their work-related purchases. This is unsurprising considering the increasing number of millennials in decision-making roles at organizations of all sizes.
Given that millennials are very much used to the convenience of shopping through massive B2C platforms like eBay and Amazon, the vast percentage of online B2B purchases is to be expected. It seems like the future of service is digital.
There are many reasons why online shopping is so popular, including but not limited to:
- AI-powered accurate product recommendations
- High-quality customer support
- Line of credit
- Multiple payment options
The overall excellent offers presented by the big B2C players have spoiled shoppers to an extent, and now everyone expects to see the same quality of service in the B2B space. This means that an increasing number of B2B companies are considering their opportunities to transition to a predominantly digital business model.
- COVID-Induced Paradigm Shift
Until last year, most B2B stakeholders were happy to continue operating in the traditional way, but the COVID-19 pandemic has kicked their digital migration into high gear. It not only pushed people into more digital purchases but it impacted production and affected distribution by restricting movement.
More and more offline B2B players are consulting digital marketing companies offering brand identity services, all in a bid to make their online presence felt. Thankfully, the road to an improved B2B online channel is not too long and arduous, but there are several crucial points you’ll need to cover.
- Top 5 Tips to Improve your B2B Digital Channels
Now that you know why B2B customers are migrating towards online channels for their purchasing decisions, how can you change your approach to make more of an impact in this area?
Firstly, you should remember that a well-made and adequately implemented ecommerce platform will serve as much more than just another point of contact. It will help your business reach and convert new customers effectively and open new opportunities for your brand.
To start selling products or services online using a powerful custom-built e-commerce site, you might consider using a custom-design ecommerce shop.
The key features of a successful online B2B customer journey can be summed up in the five tips we’ve outlined below. Consider these your guide to implementing a B2B online strategy that will increase your profitability through higher operational efficiency and added value to your customers. Let’s get started!
- Build your Digital Infrastructure
Investing in digital infrastructure is vital if you want success in the B2B online space. This will drive value for your customers and their businesses by incorporating modern technologies such as business intelligence insights, big data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
These technologies will allow you to streamline more of your business processes, both internal and external and improve your service as well as your planning and forecasting capabilities.
The strongest B2B online players use cloud-based ecommerce platforms and integrate them with their operational systems and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software. This boosts real-time visibility and facilitates alignment across the supply chain, which makes it easier to take advantage of new business opportunities and reach low-volume customers worldwide.
- Improve the Customer Experience
A simple and effective on-site search functionality can be an essential feature, helping customers find and review the products you have on offer. The most successful B2B ecommerce platforms integrate more complex tools to help their prospects navigate their stores and find detailed information about their products. These tools include things like:
- Competitor comparisons
- Video tutorials and product demonstrations
- Mega menus
- Advanced search features
Some B2B online platforms even incorporate live chat support, assisting customers with any issues or queries, which can facilitate buying decisions and thus improve conversion rates dramatically.
In 2021, customers want personalized solutions, and good B2B companies offer them by organizing their content around several parameters. These include:
- Price optimization algorithms meeting customized price requirements
- Past purchase history
- CPQ software used to adjust pricing based on the relationship with the customer
The most advanced B2B companies use the latest technology to combine human and machine learning and identify behavioral patterns in their prospects and customers. This approach has been named ‘cognitive commerce,’ and it relies on predictions and anticipation of customers’ future behavior to personalize their experience. AI systems like IBM Watson provide cognitive commerce platforms with a wide array of applications across various sectors.
On the more traditional end of the technology spectrum is customer relationship management (CRM) systems. These can be used to support customers through commercial credit and offer dynamic pricing. With the help of CRMs, buyers are often allowed to customize their purchase to get precisely what they’re looking for in terms of packaging but also handling and transportation of the products.
- Adopt an Omni-Channel Approach
If you have a brick-and-mortar store and you haven’t paid too much attention to your online presence so far, going fully digital could be an overcorrection. Instead, try to adopt a multi-channel sales approach combining physical locations, traditional desktop solutions, and mobile options.
If you can pull off this type of integration seamlessly, you’ll be able to engage more customers and amplify your profits by reaching B2B customers through a variety of channels.
ROBO (Research Online, Buy Offline), otherwise known as webrooming, is another interesting behavior B2B customers tend to engage in. B2C consumers have always browsed the internet for info before going into a physical store to make a purchase, and this behavior is becoming prevalent in the B2B world as well.
To achieve a top-notch customer experience in this environment, you must manage all the different touchpoints with your customers from the first point of contact to the final purchase. The experience must feel seamless regardless of the form and number of channels used during the buyer’s journey.
- Synchronize the Logistics
The role of logistics, especially in cross-border B2B ecommerce, is critical. We’re not just talking about last-mile delivery here, but your entire purchase-fulfillment strategy.
To address the varying customer requirements and increase your competitiveness, your B2B online business must emulate the strategy of the online retail powerhouses, providing a selection of transport and delivery options, meeting different service, transit time, and perhaps most importantly, cost requirements.
Integrating your operation with the systems of transport providers will enable you to offer customers their preferred solution while providing complete transparency of all the costs involved.
Synchronizing your logistics is crucial in a cross-border context, and the only way to achieve it is to integrate your data and available technology with the logistics service provider. These integrations allow B2B businesses the flexibility to offer cross-border delivery while meeting ad hoc requests.
- Final Thoughts
You don’t need to develop anything particularly unique to be a highly successful online B2B player, but you do need to understand what it takes and work hard to implement it.
Think about your own experiences with the best B2C ecommerce platforms out there and use their solutions as an inspiration to create an excellent B2B platform.
Once your digital B2B platform is live, keep reviewing its performance and highlighting its weaknesses to establish future KPIs and benchmarks. The best online B2B strategy revolves around testing, optimizing, and constantly evolving.
Tomas is a digital marketing specialist and a freelance blogger. His work is focusing on new web tech trends and digital voice distribution across different channels.