Nothing is immune to disruption, technology included. In that context, it’s, perhaps, surprising to see that while the expectations of the B2B customer are changing, B2B companies are continuing to depend on ancient methods to interact, engage, and sell to the customer. These methods are destined to fail (if they haven’t failed already). B2B buyers demand elevated interactions and personalized brand experiences. In the age of rapid digitalization, this expectation is not over the top.
The first point of contact for a B2B buyer today is not the company salesperson but the company website. According to Forrester, by 2020, B2B eCommerce will touch $1.1 trillion and account for 12.1% of all B2B sales. With the increasing number of B2B transactions moving online it becomes imperative to ensure that the digital experience meets the customer expectations to result in a sale. This is why CX has become a key focus area for B2B companies as well. 80% of B2B customers have shown that they are favor companies that deliver a great customer experience. 89% of B2B companies are using customer experience to show competitive differentiation.
But is it easy for B2B companies, especially those in industries such as manufacturing to meet this demand owing to the complex nature of the business? They deal with complex products, large product variants, a complex web of suppliers and distributors, complex payment methods…it’s a laundry list of complexity.
But unless your products are highly “findable” and present correct and detailed product information with the right images in a user-friendly manner and a device-agnostic manner your customers will move on to a competitive site.
It’s clear that you need to improve your browsing and search experience to improve your brand’s online experience and translate these interactions into sales. How can you do that? Here are some pointers.
1. UI and UX are not B2C specific
We often forget that UI and UX are equally, if not more, important in the B2B landscape as in the B2C landscape. All the standard user interaction and experience principles discovered for B2C apply to the B2B context. B2B applications are complex and component-based but the customer interactions have to be simple and easy to use. B2B buying is rarely impulsive. They are complex, long-drawn processes, with high price points. So, your online content has to be easy to use and help the buyer get from Point A to Point B easily. Intuitive UI’s, responsiveness, clickable CTA’s, and the like, become important drivers of conversion.
2. Allow your content to speak for itself
The B2B space has to address product complexities. The information is vast and often in different formats. You have different product variations and product variants.
But the B2B customer craves simplicity. While complicated product catalogs are a part of the process, product information doesn’t have to be complex. Your success in the B2B landscape will be determined by how you can accurately present your product information.
Product information has to be accurate, updated, complete and optimized. Things like technical specifications, visual drawings, units of measurements, inventory status, etc. are important parameters that determine if you will have an engaged buyer who will go on to make a purchase or a frustrated one who will leave your website and find another vendor.
3. Optimize the search function
You shouldn’t be surprised to find abandoned shopping journeys if your customers have to go on an expedition each time they want to search for a product. Since B2B buying is research-intensive, your product information has to present itself accurately and at the right stage. Your customers shouldn’t have to sift through mountains of information to get to what they need.
Intelligent product categorization can be hard with the sheer number of SKU’s that exists in the B2B product universe but is critical to closing sales. To manage this and to ensure that product information is updated in the face of constant product evolution you need strong Master Data Management and Product Information Management practices.
4. Become dead serious about product tagging
If you thought your job would be done by putting out all the product information, specifications, and documentation online, think again. Along with this you also need a system that integrates with your existing internal systems to help you enrich the right product information in real-time. You also need to focus on product tagging so that you can offer personalized catalogs and pricing to your customers. Product tagging helps you enable advanced navigation and helps your visitors filter products based on any number of specifications such as specs, brand, price, type, etc. Having a robust Product Information Management solution is essential here as this process is time and resource-intensive and can be prone to manual errors.
5. Give real-time stock information
Many B2B customers use web stores to check stock availability and lead times. To build a trust-based relationship with the customers it becomes imperative to make this information reliable and readily available. Making this information available also cuts down time wasted on emails and customer service calls since the customer knows what’s available and what is not.
Inventory management systems thus become essential to manage and track the inventory and stock check. They also help your customers stay updated on product availability and lead times.
6. Get personal – suggest related products
When you are browsing online, say for a camera, you also get suggestions on the best memory card, the battery or the case that goes with it. And when you get this information don’t you add some of them to your cart? You do this because (a) it’s apparent to you that these products add value and (b) it’s helpful not having to search for them. Doesn’t this sound like a sales representative helping you pick the right accessories in-store? Isn’t this what you’d call exemplary service?
This experience should be no different in the B2B scenario. Having a PIM system helps you address the complexity of large catalogs of products from multiple vendors and enables you to manage your data efficiently and consequently allows you to deliver personalized experiences to your customers.
7. Omnichannel is non-negotiable
Millennials are beginning to dominate the B2B buying space. And they have made it clear that they want no differentiation between their B2B and B2C buying experiences. But with different avenues to interact with the principle merchant (eCommerce website, distributors, third-party catalogs, or the marketplace), enabling this becomes a challenge.
It thus makes sense to migrating to an omnichannel strategy and making the product information available to the customer when they want it, wherever they want it. Without that, it will be hard for you to meet your personalization strategies to provide elevated B2B buying experiences.
Today as many as 33% of B2B customers are starting their buying journeys online. Highly searchable product content, ease of browsing, correctly tagged, and compelling and complete product information will keep the wheels moving and drive your customers to make purchases. The lack of those will lead to missed opportunities. To optimize your online interactions, ensure that your customers get all the information they need. The sales will surely follow.