As B2B e-commerce sales continue to surge, more wholesalers and brands are looking for the right platform that will provide the best shopping experience for their B2B retail customers. If you're a B2B wholesaler, you don't have to look far for inspiration–just think of the features you use as a B2C customer when shopping online. Ultimately, B2B customers expect the same intuitive shopping experience and it may be even more important to them since they are placing high-volume, complex orders with a much higher dollar value.
The first step is finding the B2B e-commerce platform that best fits your customers, whether you're in fashion, eyewear or the food and beverage industry. A common starting point is a user-friendly, intuitive interface that won't require a long adoption process and will be easy for B2B customers to use from the get go.
Once you've found the platform that's right for you, you need to actually create a personal shopping experience for each and every one of your customers. You can start by reviewing customers' purchases to gain insight into their order patterns. When do they place their orders? What time of the month, or seasons of the year? What are they buying? Are there any related items that can replace out of stock items? How can they find the products that they're looking for faster? Do they search by price range or color more often?
Now that you know more about your customers, here's what you should do to ensure each client's experience is tailored to their specific needs:
1. Purchase history
Buyers should have access to their purchase history so they can quickly place orders based on past purchases. Your B2B storefront should offer customers the ability to edit their orders – update quantities, change shipping addresses and more.
2. Customer-specific pricing
Your customers expect to see their own negotiated prices. Look into the best selling products to see how flexible the price should be, offer special discounts and consider a product of the month category for your various customer segments.
3. Personalized product catalogs
Create customized catalogs based on top-searched and purchased items so customers are greeted with their preferences upon logging into their account. The catalog is the storefront that determines a customer's attitude toward the products, so it needs to be as personal and vivid as possible. Provide as many high-res images as possible for each product. Make sure to include several angles and show texture when necessary; include exact measurements and a detailed description of the item, including the available inventory for each item (so as to avoid back orders). You will increase client conversion when the customers feel confident they're making an informed decision.
4. Reinforce branding
You've spent time, money and effort creating your brand, now's the time to put it to full use. This is what your customers are buying as much as the products they purchase. Make your B2B e-commerce store uniquely yours. The platform you choose should provide you with the ability to add your own name, logo and website domain, and embed your online store in your website.
5. Search capabilities
In this age of instant gratification, sifting through web pages and products is simply not an option. Set up navigation filters with your product categories and most common attributes so customers can find the products they're looking for quickly. Implement a search bar with “auto complete” functionality to allow buyers to hone in on products whose name they already know.
6. Mobile commerce
Smartphones and tablets are already a common shopping tool for B2C, but they are being increasingly utilized for B2B. Choose a platform that enables you to publish your own e-commerce app, on all app stores. A mobile app provides a richer, slicker, and easier to use user interface in comparison to websites — increasing using adoption. Finally, your e-commerce app should be functional when offline (i.e. when WiFi is not available) so customers can place orders anytime, anywhere. What could be better than having your store open 24/7?
7. Cross-sells and upsells
B2B buyers expect special offers and deals in the form of cross-sell and upsell campaigns.Offer complementary items to customers based on their purchase (cross-sell) and similar items priced higher than the one they're purchasing, or same products at larger volumes (upsell). Start by reviewing previously purchased items and match them to related items that together provide greater value. Automate the process so that when a customer purchases X, they are offered Y at a discount, or when they place an order for an X amount of one item, they'll receive a Z% discount on their next purchase.
8. Smart matrix ordering
If you sell products with variants, set up “matrix ordering” by assigning a prominent feature to row, and another to the column. Customers will be able to quickly select a size column, for example, to shop for items available across specific colors and vice versa.
9. Wish lists
These enable buyers to quickly and easily add items to a list that they may want to consider for future purchases, all at the click of a button. Wish lists can improve order efficiency by providing a way for buyers to organize the items they are interested in. The buyer can create different wish lists which can be renamed based on content.
10. Payment options
Offer as many payment options as possible. If you limit options you'll be left with more abandoned carts and less returning customers. You likely already have your payment processes set up in your back-end ERP or accounting system. Integrate your B2B e-commerce platform to your existing back-office invoicing and payment processes, as well as enable new customers to make online payment in your e-commerce application by integrating to a leading e-payment gateways.
Ultimately, B2B e-commerce is a vital sales channel for wholesalers and manufacturers. Your B2B e-commerce platform should deliver a memorable buying experience. Optimizing the platform to best accommodate users saves them time, increases productivity, decreases order errors, improves customer service, and increases conversion… which translate into increased sales.
header image courtesy of Magdalena Kania