Have you noticed that the B2C customers, over the years, have shown a dramatic change in their purchasing pattern? They have left behind the charm of physical stores in favour of far more promising e-commerce stores.
Well, who can blame them? The experience of window shopping from the comforts of one’s home (meanwhile drinking coffee in pyjamas) is hard to resist. Even if it means giving up the weekly friends’ hangout session at a nearby mall.
And no, we are not overly optimistic here, we have stats to prove our point. Statista, one of the top online portal for statistics, claims that the online retail industry will hit an annual growth rate of 17.5% of the total retail sales worldwide by 2021.
These figures don’t mean much until you learn that the current worth of online retail sales is already soaring at 3.53 trillion US dollars. Now, who's being an optimist here.
So far, we have covered the B2C industry only. Let’s get amazed by the B2B industry now. Do you know the current online wholesale market is worth 12.2 trillion US dollars on a global scale? Now, that’s certainly a much bigger market compared to B2C. Also, do you know where it will be in a couple of years? Well, we will leave that to your imagination.
Other studies conducted in relation to this revealed an interesting point. The quality of products and services matter a lot but not as much as the overall buying experience of the customer. Time to hone that customer relationship skills of yours, don’t you think?
But what to do if you are serving the B2B industry instead of B2C? Does buyer experience matter there too?
The wholesale industry is growing day in day out. And with it, the need to please your customers. How? By offering a seamless buyer experience, it is the only thing that goes beyond offering products or services. In simple words, this is the key to your entrepreneurial success. This factor is so important if you fail at this, your prospective buyers might not give you another chance at all.
So, what is this buyer experience everyone is talking about?
We are sure you must have a clear idea of what the buyer experience is. But even then, it’s important that you understand this concept well enough in terms of ecommerce.
To begin with, when you compare the buying patterns of both retail and wholesale customers, you will realize that the overall buying procedure of wholesale is much more complex.
- Wholesale companies offer a wide range of products and services to their customers as compared to their retail counterparts.
- Business to Business products/services are generally personalized as per the buyer needs.
- Retail customers generally purchase individual products whereas the wholesale purchase often contains different products and services bundled together.
- B2B sales cycle generally involves multiple teams in different departments and can take months (sometimes even years) to reach a buying decision.
As you can see, wholesale buyer journeys are not only complex in nature but also require a completely different approach. But before moving into that, let’s understand a bit about what a wholesale customer expects from you.
Expectations of a Business to Business buyer
- There’s a difference between what the buyer is currently experiencing and what experience he is expecting from you. The key here is understanding this difference. Just focus on having as many interactions with your B2B customers as possible and with time, you will get a hold of this.
- The understanding is worthless unless acted upon. So, our next step would be to design a buyer experience as per the particular need of the customer and deliver it to them exactly the way they want.
- Lastly, you need to focus on two important things while working on perfecting the buyer experience. One, it should help them make better decisions and two, it should help them reach that decision in an easy-going manner.
There you go, a simple way to understand what the ecommerce buyer expects from you. Let’s move on to how you can live up to those expectations.
By Personalizing the Accounts
Personalizing the accounts generally means personalizing the content to reflect your buyer’s best interests. This serves two purposes. First, it lets you in on the inner workings of your targeted wholesale markets. And second, it forms the basis of driving in more sales. Combined, both these lead to an improved customer base. Let’s understand this step by step.
- Emails, since long, are using personalized content to grab the reader’s attention effectively. All you need is a contact name, account history, previous search history or a company anniversary note to get started. These things can easily be obtained from your CRM. The B2B leads you get in return are high not only quality-wise but also quantity-wise.
- Website personalization is another effective yet challenging affair. It is effective because it represents the digital image of your business. And it is challenging because you simply cannot customize the website to suit everybody’s needs.However, that doesn’t mean you cannot try. You can always break your customer base into categories and based on those categories, you can create appropriate content keeping in mind the need of the segments.
- Lead nurturing program is a proven ecommerce strategy to strengthen the relationship with your prospects. Just don’t overdo it or you will overwhelm your prospects. Here are a few ideas to carry it like a pro.
Focus on the business customers who research products but for some reason leave the site without making any purchase. You can keep these potential customers engaged by sending them data-enriched emails till the day they are ready to buy.
By Keeping the Payment Process Simple
The time we are currently living in has provided an abundance of information at our fingertips. And we know that abundance of anything is bad. Something similar our B2B buyers are facing these days. The wide availability of data and the ease to access it has left them frustrated, confused when it comes to taking the final decision.
As if this wasn’t enough, these buyers have to go through the complex buying procedure. It generally involves multiple teams in various departments. And depending upon the deal, you might spend hours in meetings and filling out tons of paperwork.
So, is there nothing you can do about it? Well, there is. Concentrate on simplifying the ecommerce purchase process, rest is easy. This will not only allow your sales team to handle the customer queries in an efficient manner but also help speed up the entire buying process.
So, is simplifying as easy as it sounds?
Well no, but then nothing is. All you can do is try. So, try streamlining the transactions by removing as much extra weight from the buyer’s journey as possible. Believe us, your customers will thank you for it.
You can start by removing all the hefty paperwork from the process (by going digital) including the use of paper checks. Moreover, you can implement a secure payment system to your site. This will give your B2B buyers a sense of security while submitting personal details. Plus, they don’t need to worry about re-entering their personal details every time they visit your website.
These small steps may not sound much but when added together can work wonders for your business.
By Facilitating Customer Interactions
Communication is the key to everything. Without it, you can’t even hope to stay in business, let alone succeed. Want to know a secret? Your customers judge you by the way you handle interactions with them and later on, make their ecommerce purchase decisions based on these judgements. You really can’t afford to lose here.
But since we promised to help you out, here are a few ways you can have meaningful interactions with your customers.
- Maintaining Meaningful Relationships- the first step in this regard involves getting to know your customers from the inside out (and we mean literally). Find out who they are, what is the purpose behind buying these products, and what are the factors influencing their buying decisions. And use the collected data to communicate with your B2B customers in a profound, meaningful way throughout their buying journey.
- Offering Interaction without Interruption- this step involves removing any obstacles that might prevent you from having these deep, meaningful conversations with your customers. How? By automating the entire buying process with the help of modern technologies. Make sure it includes everything from order placing to order fulfilment to customer support to handling back-office operations.
- Implementing Omnipresence approach- you can further facilitate customer interactions by offering them an omnichannel presence. This not only means you should interact with B2B customers on their preferred communication channel but also provide them with a wide range of options to choose from.
A few popular ones include phone calls, online chat, emails etc. And ensure that the user experience is consistent across all channels.
By Creating the Content Worth Noticing
Business to Business decisions are the result of long-term strategic planning, that’s why they take such long durations of time. Though this is a natural occurrence in the business world, that doesn’t mean you can’t help your buyers reach those ecommerce decisions faster. The key here is to create quality content that shows your worth as a trust-worthy business partner.
- Tell your customers why they should buy from you. Also, make sure the answer doesn’t come from you alone. Use the feedback you received from existing or past customers to help build trust. Display it somewhere it can be easily seen. A strategically placed feedback has great significance in guiding your prospects along the buying journey.
- We all know how much Google loves fresh, relevant content. So why not use it to your advantage? By putting up reviews and testimonials of your B2B customers, you can improve your site’s credibility in the eyes of Google. This, in turn, will boost your SEO thus placing your website among the top search results.
- Another thing you can do to boost credibility is by improving your website’s star ratings. Don’t know what star ratings are? Ever seen little stars beneath the name of companies you search on Google? Yes, those are the result of reviews your customers post on Google. And remember the more stars, the better.
- Did you know you can use these reviews and testimonials for retargeting ecommerce marketing purpose? Yes, it’s true. The idea here is to retain as many existing customers as possible. You know how expensive it is these days to acquire new ones, so it’s better to focus more on keeping the ones you have.
Your customers will stay loyal to your brand as much as you will stay loyal to them. And your loyalty is shown from the quality of content you post and the genuineness of your reviews. So, work on them.
By Implementing Tried and Tested Discount Strategies
Implementing discount strategies is not an easy thing. Once you give your B2B customers the taste of discounts, they will always come back for more. And since it is such an important part of the wholesale marketing strategy, you cannot even ignore it. So, what choice do you have? Let’s find out.
- Rather than thinking of these discounts as a necessary evil (the cost of doing business), you can simply consider it as an important investment. An investment that is guaranteed to bring better returns in the future. Don’t know where to start? Here are a few ideas-
- use sales channels consistent with the buyers’ growth strategy
- Consider switching to higher-margin products, and
- Provide data to refine ecommerce products/services etc.
- Once you go through the above-mentioned list, you will know what areas are ideal for offering value-based discounts. For instance-
- To increase the impact, you can limit the number of discount types for each customer.
- For each source of value, you can set up a unique type of discount.
- Lastly, you can make sure that the investment of each discount type is above the minimum threshold for the buyer.
- All that’s left now is the execution of all the points mentioned above. You can do this by-
- By conveying the benefits of B2B discounts through clear customer-facing communications.
- By creating consistent messages about prices that includes both the discounts and rebates.
- And third, by providing full transparency regarding discounts such as extended warranties and free shipping.
As we have seen above, discounts are an important part of the marketing strategy, one that bears huge results. Just make sure you are getting enough in return (in the form of ROI) than what you are giving away and you will be fine.
Improving the buyer’s experience
Although the business world is quite large, ecommerce websites that genuinely care about its customers remain scarce. And so do the features offered by such websites that help drive sales, simplify transactions, and deepen their relationship with customers. It won’t be wrong to claim that wholesale companies these days have nothing of value to offer to its customers than its predecessors.
And the companies that do care about their customers? Well, they are the ones reaping in all the big rewards. So, what about you? Does your company care about its customers? Does that behavior reflect on your B2B website? If no, it’s about time to take your customer relationships a bit more seriously.
Abhishek Aggarwal is an ecommerce expert with 7+ years of experience. With hands-on experience of handling B2B and B2C ecommerce projects, he has a deep understanding of various turnkey platforms for enterprise as well as SME businesses. He writes extensively about the best services and features offered by the most popular ecommerce platforms. He currently works as an ecommerce consultant for clients across various ecommerce industry verticals.