When you think of e-commerce, perhaps your first thoughts go to Amazon, Nike and McDonald’s. Whichever brands you envision, they’re most likely B2C companies. It’s natural - B2C companies have been dominating the e-commerce landscape for years. But now, B2B companies have caught wind and they want a piece of the action.
In episode three of the ColumbusCast podcast, we sit down with digital experience experts Optimizely to discuss the winning elements of a B2B e-commerce strategy.
The lines between B2B and B2C are blurring
Traditionally, the ‘pretty’ website is associated with B2C while the B2B website is very functional. It’s meant to cater to the complexities of the B2B product catalogue rather than revolve around user experience.
These days, the lines are blurring. The retailers, wholesalers and distributors who use your website may be B2B customers but they’re still users at the end of the day. They come to your website to browse and purchase items. So, they want streamlined, convenient experiences. They want autonomy.
But the B2B experience is still different
Although B2B customers may be expecting a B2C-like user experience, there are still aspects that set B2B apart. For example, you might have variable pricing or different units of measure - things that B2C customers won’t have to handle.
So, when you’re choosing an e-commerce platform, it should cater for these complexities and promote the user friendliness your customers desire.
B2B companies typically have deeper customer insights
In comparison to B2C companies who are more experience-focused rather than having the fundamental understanding, B2B companies tend to have deeper relationships with their customers. It’s not guesswork or analytics; B2B companies and customers have long-standing relationships.
People who use B2B websites have already gone through the approval process or filled out lots of forms. So, they’re more invested in providing feedback to make their experience better. In contrast, B2C customers search for the most convenient experience and lowest prices (balanced with quality).
You should take advantage of your B2B customers’ willingness to offer feedback to improve your business. It’s an opportunity to work as partners.
How to improve the B2B customer experience
- Find a solution that can scale with your business. It doesn’t have to answer all of your needs today but it should be able to grow with you. For example, is there an app marketplace where you can choose add-on solutions? Does your solution support integrations?
- Find a partner that can grow with you. If you’re entering the e-commerce market for the first time or you’re new to it, things can change very quickly. So you need that all-knowing partner who can offer strategic advice and support. They can, for example, help you decide whether that new integration is right for your business
- Know your customers. Not just from an NPS perspective but you should also know how customers think. B2B companies tend to have those close relationships with their customers so use it
- Engage with your technical teams, such as the IT team. They can help you understand what certain things mean and how best to go about achieving it. Don’t fall into the trap of being all digital and only working on ‘wish list’ items. They can guide you but you need to see if it’s achievable
What does true agility look like in e-commerce?
For a truly agile future, you need your teams to execute new ideas quickly. So, this is what you should look for when choosing your platform. If a category manager comes to you and announces they want a specific software feature, you should think whether you can turn this around with an internal team instead of having to reach out to a partner for a heavy-weight implementation.
That’s why it’s not enough to simply choose a solution and assume it’ll work. You need a plan of how to use it, who will use it, how to adopt it internally and externally (customers), its scope and so on.
It’s important to take a phased approach, not just with the software but the processes that come with that. As you become more settled into the new software and understand the processes, you can look at things like automation to further improve process efficiency and productivity.
Crafting the perfect e-commerce strategy for the B2B market
Scroll up to listen to the full episode (which we’ve also released as a webinar) or search for ‘ColumbusCast’ in your podcast app. You’ll hear us cover more areas, such as:
- Pitfalls to avoid when creating a B2B e-commerce strategy
- What ‘business as usual’ looks like for B2B companies
- What B2B companies should focus on to enhance e-commerce performance
To learn more about e-commerce strategies and how to build one that succeeds in the B2B market, download our guide below.