This post is a guest contribution.
Ecommerce is fast-becoming a mainstay reality in today's digitally dependent marketplace. But what do you imagine when you think about eCommerce?Many people will probably envision consumers buying up goods on Amazon, eBay, Aliexpress, and other B2C-focused platforms.
But B2B eCommerce is a massive sector of the global eCommerce industry. Still, it doesn't get the attention it needs to catch up with B2C's innovation.In 2019, global eCommerce retail (B2C) sales amounted to $3.5 trillion, while B2B's gross merchandise volume eclipsed B2C's numbers, amounting to $12.2 trillion.
While B2B eCommerce websites fail to hit the same heights as their B2C counterparts, B2B buyers are beginning to demand better service, customer experience, satisfaction, and sales. So essentially, B2B has to borrow a leaf from B2C's strategies.
Are you a manufacturer or wholesaler looking to start or improve your B2B platform? The strategies below will show you how to increase eCommerce sales for your website.
1. Maximize your on-site search functionality
B2B search and B2C search cannot be approached in the same way by any means. With a B2C site, you may get away with simply embedding a basic search box somewhere on the site. B2C customers have a way of making it work most of the time.
This strategy will backfire horribly on a B2B ecommerce site. The on-site search function on a B2B site needs to be much more robust. B2B customers are more cerebral in the way they search. This is largely because product categories on B2B sites are much more data-rich and content-heavy. It is common to find product categories, each with thousands of categories, and each product with hundreds of varieties according to make, model, functionality, attributes, combinations, etc. Your search filter needs to be able to handle more intelligent and targeted on-site search queries and bring back the most relevant and accurate results.
Consider the following statistics:
- 60 percent of B2B customers point to enhanced search functionality as a top priority for online vendors
- More than 50 percent of revenue can be traced back to 11 percent of on-site search sessions
- Faceted search is present on only 4 out of 10 websites.
- 7 out of 10 websites provide search only by exact keywords
The stats above show that you shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that you can skimp over building out your search function. Failure to implement a robust and faceted search function will most likely hamper customer's experience on your site, consequently plummeting your conversion and revenue.
2. Adopt personalization
Personalization is a powerful digital marketing strategy. But it had existed for decades in the B2B sphere before digital became a thing. Manufacturers and suppliers have always developed strong relationships offline, a strong enabler for signing long-term contracts with their buyers.
With the advent of digital, the B2B eCommerce space has to bring this strategy online, much like B2C. With the ability to tap into substantial customer data, B2B platforms can use this to identify the browsing and purchase history, patterns, and intent of their customers. Then they can use this to give them access to customized dashboards on the website, unique deals, and pricing.
Personalization is arguably the best "how" to improve online sales for your website. This is because your buyers end up feeling like they have a personal connection with your brand. No one wants to feel like just another stop in a long line of transactions.
3. Design for self-service efficiency
As stated earlier, the B2B market has long been known for its relationship building via buyers and sales reps. But today's B2B buyers—70 percent of them—prefer to interact with a business via a website and not sales reps.
Imagine today's buyer having to call a representative on the phone to request information concerning products, make a payment, order a product sample, request a quote, or track a shipment. It's a disaster waiting to happen.
These should be addressed adequately as self-service events. Take out the middleman (sales rep) and use your website to give buyers direct access to and control of all the information they seek. This will smoothen the customer experience, boost satisfaction, and consequently impact sales goals positively.
4. Embrace real-time inventory management
The negative impact that inventory miscommunication can have on your business is often understated. If a customer makes an order on your site only to find out the product is out of stock, that customer will likely hop over to a competitor, leave a negative review or both.
Most eCommerce businesses—including B2B—sell across multiple sales channels beyond their website, making it crucial to develop a unified, real-time inventory management system. Such an inventory system means that buyers can see the accurate stock count for each product in real-time.
This will curb the disaster of receiving orders for out-of-stock products. It will also help you because you'll always know when and how to restock your inventory.
5. Ensure your site is optimized for mobile
Your eCommerce efforts are essentially dead in the water if you're a king on computers, but a no-show on mobile devices. Here are some statistics to consider:
- More than half of mobile users say that if a business doesn't have a good mobile presence, they won't recommend it.
- 50 percent of B2B search queries in 2017 were made from a mobile device. This is expected to hit 70 percent by the end of 2020.
- High-profile B2B companies traced 40 percent of their revenue to mobile traffic and influence.
It's also no longer news that Google also prioritizes mobile in ranking websites. If these statistics don't compel you to adopt a mobile-first strategy right now, nothing else will.
6. Design your B2B website for scalability
Scaling rarely looks the same for every business. Whatever the case, being able to scale your B2B outfit will require you to take the right steps from the onset. These may include:
- hyper-specific product categorization
- Starting as a drop shipper, if applicable
- Beginning with a fully-scalable partner, like Alibaba
- Teaming up with fulfilment and distribution partners, and more.
These help eliminate a lot of operational costs and give you direction when it's time to scale. Everyone exhausts their initial market eventually. So scaling will also require you to identify new markets, starting from the most related ones.
There will be a lot of testing to find the right product/market fit, validate the market, and redirect your resources to these markets. This is how you scale your business and how to improve online sales.
7. Do paid media and execute a full-blown digital marketing strategy
As powerful as SEO is, we can't depend on organic traffic from search engines all the time. Paid media is an established way to get more traffic and sales to your B2B eCommerce website.
Run Google shopping ads, set up advertisements on Facebook and other social media platforms. LinkedIn, for instance, is by design an ideal place to get new buyers. HubSpot reveals that LinkedIn is more effective at bringing in leads than Facebook by 277%.
Having diverse ways of bringing in traffic, and consequently, sales. Always keep an eye on your paid advertising performance so that you can redistribute your budget as needed for the best results.
8. Create content to educate, not to brand
Besides the apparent objective of generating revenue, your B2B eCommerce website should have a repository of value-adding content. Most buyers start their buying journey with a simple Google search. Ensure that your site content (like a blog) is positioned to answer their search query. Of course, the content should be keyword-optimized as well.
Customers develop a more positive disposition towards a business if they receive value and education for free. It is imperative that your content is not just giving value but is written in a clear, concise, and scannable manner.
It should have headlines, titles, short paragraphs, sentences, etc. Thankfully, content creation can be outsourced to experts who can help craft effective content that will position you as a thought leader. Writing recommendation service platforms like Best Writers Online and Online Writers Rating can help you start your content outsourcing journey.
9. Make the checkout process as straightforward as possible
In this regard, simplicity can often mean a minimalistic approach to checkout structure. Cart abandonment is particularly brutal in the eCommerce sector.
- eCommerce brands record a loss of $18 billion every year due to cart abandonment
- General cart abandonment rate stands at 69.57 percent
- 65 percent of cart abandonments happen on a mobile device
Adopting a lean store and checkout design means your buyers will be able to search, add to cart, and check out with the fewest possible clicks. Incorporate a quick order form and offer multiple payment options: PayPal, Payoneer, credit cards, etc. These will help reduce your cart abandonment and increase your conversion rates.
There's a lot more you can do for your B2B eCommerce website: customer testimonials and reviews, email marketing, chatbots, and more. The fact remains that B2B buyers are more demanding, and as a result, are always looking out for alternatives.
Only 29 percent of B2B buyers express full commitment to the businesses with which they transact. Improving your website to satisfy your B2B buyers' demands is a non-negotiable responsibility if you want to stay relevant. The strategies above are how you can increase eCommerce sales.
Aaron Swain is a writing specialist. He is passionate about marketing and SEO. He expands and improves his skills throughout the writing process to help and inspire people.