Launching an eCommerce store for your B2B business
One of the many reasons to have your B2B eCommerce store is to outperform your competition. All you need to begin with is a website that has the basic eCommerce store features. You can reach geography your sales reps aren't available in with this. As a business owner, you can either increase sales or reduce the cost to further grow. B2B eCommerce site hands you both benefits.
The modern B2B buyers are conditioned by B2C experiences to seek the same ease of shopping when dealing with distributors, manufacturers, retailers, and brand owners. So, it becomes imperative for the traditional brick and mortar wholesale businesses to have a B2B eCommerce store. The availability and convenience benefits of online commerce have expanded beyond the consumer market and into B2B (businesses selling to other businesses).
Today, we'll take a closer look at the critical milestones for setting up a B2B eCommerce store and discuss how to launch a solid B2B eCommerce site that reinforces your brand and drives sales.
Start by identifying your Goals & Performance Indicators.
There are many benefits to B2B eCommerce. However, going online cannot be a goal in itself. B2B eCommerce acts as a means of reaching your business goal. Before building a roadmap to business digitization, define your expectations. Whether you are looking to curb expenditures, increase your client portfolio, expand your market, or optimize existing operations, you will need well-defined and measurable goals.
Example e-commerce goals include:
Increasing revenue and/or the number of customers
Reducing order errors and increasing the efficiency of the ordering process
Freeing up time for your support and sales teams
Lowering overhead costs
Improving your customer experience
Prioritize the goals after identifying them and define the key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress. Set clear eCommerce KPIs that align with your strategy and goals. Having clear KPIs will ensure that you can spot any gaps that require your attention and measure the success of your e-commerce store project while also ensuring there is a clear focus on your eCom goals.
KPI examples include:
average order value
percentage decrease in order errors
percentage of orders taken with the web store
sales cycle length
Set requirements for you MVP or Minimum Viable Product
Wisely choose your B2B eCommerce features. Use the business goals to define the requirements for a website once you've identified them. That is a minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP is a proven way to develop a site with a basic set of features allowing you to understand your user's expectations then factor customer feedback into full site development and design.
To include every single eCommerce functionality at once in an MVP is unreasonable. You will get your webstore to market faster by rolling out a phased approach, which in turn results in a faster ROI. Communicate the benefits and value of your brand to the target audience and focus on the essentials. We suggest including the following:
Advanced Product Search
Simple Checkout Process
Request a Quote
Apart from just preparing MIS, making their stock purchases, and negotiating with your sales representative, B2B customers have too much on their plate. They can give bulk orders, get tired prices based on quantity, split deliveries, negotiate or ask for a quote online, pay, see their credit limit, and many more if the inventory details are available with the delivery schedule. Also, the essential B2B eCommerce website features such as past orders lists, the advanced search for finding for their required products with specifications, application of appropriate filters, and more helps your customers to buy in the same B2B process. The only change is in the way they place the order.
You can always fine-tune your B2B eCommerce website in time with an MVP and offer a bigger range of services. Based on feedback, for example, you may add additional shipping options or payment options. During the planning process identifying potential integration, points facilitate future implementation benefits. So decide what integrations are important now and the enhancements you want to add later on.
A high level of data security is required to sell online. Plan to secure your site using SSL certificates, set up permission rules, and provide user authentications at a minimum. Work with your card processing services if you handle online payment transactions, and be sure you are PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant.
Efficiency Tracking and CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
It's necessary to be able to track and understand your customer experience when building your B2B website. Visitors will quickly leave your site if you don't provide a positive experience. Meaning it's crucial for your business to capture customer interactions and customer data. Check & see if your eCommerce site easily integrates with a CRM (customer relationship management) since these interactions are usually recorded in a CRM. This will ensure your marketing and sales teams will have access to all client data across every touchpoint.
Keep your focus on customers' experience.
Remember that just because you can doesn't mean you should, as you set out to improve your customers' digital experience. With your customers in mind, evaluate every opportunity. Think of who your audience is, what they want, and what they need to know. Is this something that will enhance your users' lives? Your particular business might be doing well on Twitter, but Instagram is probably a better option if you're an apparel company.
Focus on what resonates.
You're wasting time and money if something doesn't resonate with your consumers. Your users' are still going to be frustrated throughout the purchase process if you're adding videos to product pages, but what they really want is a streamlined checkout. Focus your efforts on where they will have the most value for your user.
After the Launch
To see how you can enhance the site's architecture and/or design, ask your customers to provide feedback on the new purchasing method. Social media platforms and Analytics can tell you a lot about the interactions on your site, but don't push qualitative feedback to the backseat. Experiences are interactive. Ask your users' what they think. Get a sense of what they love about your brand. Run surveys and ask them if there's any friction you need to address. Your site experience can improve their brand loyalty. Keep track of customer feedback and comments. Be ultra-responsive to their inquiries and requests, and don't stop working on the site to improve it and continue to evaluate results against your KPIs. Constantly A/B test your site's content and functionality to maximize the site's performance. Monitor changing buyer patterns, market trends, and new technology to build on your website's success.
BONUS: What would be the most ideal eCommerce app?
We’ve got two words for you: Social Selling. This Facebook and Amazon mashup of sorts would mean you’re handing your users the ability to buy something from a third-party within the native social media experience you’ve built. And this isn’t hard to build?
Well, Facebook did all the heavy lifting. Today, it's unfair to call building a social networking website a challenge. We’re all familiar with what it takes. Identify your community. Define the features and functions. We understand that this definition hinges on the quality of the identification of your community. The wants and needs of your community shape and outline the features. Then you hunt for the right technology. The features and functions determine the platform. Once the user-specific features are listed, you prepare the growth environment. Partnering with a hosting company makes your life a lot easier. They deal with all the pesky technical issues and any other issue related to your platform. You adopt a reliable security system that will put your users at ease. You consider scalability. Your social media platform has to account for growth. Activity streams are the core of every social media website, so you spend some quality time brainstorming and design the perfect tools that will make the status updates a smooth experience. You allow for personalization, add a native payments feature and ship your baby. That’s really it. We should know. We did most of it for Yelloday.
Take Facebook Marketplace. It’s pretty close to a Facebook and Amazon mashup. You can hunt for, buy and sell items here. It’s quite similar to Craigslist with one exception. You know who is selling the product. Purchasing a product from an acquaintance is far more reassuring than buying from a stranger. You don't have this feature on the likes of eBay or Craigslist. You can also make use of Messenger when you want to haggle over price or learn more about an item. There's no need to open your mail on another tab and wait for a reply. The only thing it’s missing is the native payments feature.
Zuckerberg made up for this by rolling out the new native payments system integrated within the Instagram application. Instagram just introduced a native payments option to its application for certain users. It allows you to register a credit or debit card, set up a security pin, then start purchasing without having to leave the platform. This could potentially turn Instagram into a far bigger player in commerce. Instagram is already enticing far more brands to jump on board since its Payments could make impulse buys far quicker.
On Twitter too, you can sell to customers directly. Any product that you’ve tweeted will include a buy button, which means your audience can buy from you without leaving Twitter. Pinterest comes with Buyable pins. Click “Buy It,” and you can purchase with either a credit card or Apple Pay right there. Pinterest has partnered with a bunch of major retailers, like Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Wayfair.
Today people are talking about your brand whether you’re using social media or not. Without an active presence, you let users control the story. That needn’t always be a bad thing. After all, the most credible form of advertising continues to be word-of-mouth. However, it’s when a user’s complaint goes unnoticed or when that story doesn’t paint you in a good light, that it becomes a problem. A simple acknowledgment of their complaint can sometimes be enough to buy you more time and build a connection in the future. These relationships will benefit you well beyond a simple link share. We’ve all come to understand the power social media wields over brands. Most consumer-oriented companies have responded to this shift by setting up Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. These are great ways of engaging with and influencing customers. Through social media, you're providing far more of an impetus compared to traditional advertising. The recommendations from the prospective buyer’s family and friends, the most influential people of all.
E-commerce is coming of age. Companies that have mastered the trick of distancing themselves from promoting their product and instead focusing on branding have already reaped the benefits social e-commerce has to offer. Many companies have chosen to embed their e-commerce platform into their Facebook page directly, allowing users to shop without having to leave the platform. Some are also using Facebook as a component of their Mother’s Day or Father’s Day campaigns and have integrated with other Facebook offerings like group gifting and the birthday calendars. It's not hard to imagine companies taking advantage of other social networking features, such as a user’s likes and dislikes about colors, musical preferences, travel preferences to help personalize their marketing. Here is where social commerce will have the most impact, offering unique purchasing propositions for users and new touch points for companies. Group gifting and group buying are perfect examples of new buying propositions. Social platforms can conveniently bring together friends and family to contribute to a gift for a specified recipient. Developments like group gifting, social shopping, and ticket buying provide a small glimpse of what is in store.
Social commerce will marry various types of data behavioral, purchase, and demographics to give us sociographic data which tracks what their friends buy, not only what the individual buys. This data is collected in real time as users recommend, browse, buy, and rate products. This gives companies the chance to influence behavior along the entire purchase path.
Amidst the opportunities present, it doesn’t make sense to spend time re-inventing the wheel. Use the existing infrastructure. Else you'd end up with a bunch of suppliers and no users unless you offered a strong enough incentive for consumers to come to your page instead of existing social media pages. The real challenge is turning a 'like' to a buy.
So employ existing social media sites to turn strangers into champions of your brand, these champions into customers and customers into salespeople. When done right, native social commerce removes the friction of having to browse on social media and then convert on another site. We would all like to own the entire experience, get the branding boost, etc. Also agreed, for now, “native social commerce” doesn’t feel native enough. Even so, social commerce is something to keep a pulse on. Moreover, this shouldn’t be enough of a reason for you to shy away from optimizing social commerce if it holds the potential to convert.
More shoppers are buying online than ever right now. Even after stores re-open completely, how much of that spending will stay online remains to be seen. But due to fear of future outbreaks, the return to brick-and-mortars may still be slow. Whenever consumers' preference for eCommerce increases even more or in-store shopping comes back, building a compelling digital experience now means you'll be prepared. You can build community loyalty and differentiate yourself from the highly competitive eCommerce market by giving shoppers a holistic experience. Building a highly personalized digital experience on your eCommerce site may seem daunting at first, but it doesn't have to happen in a week. Keep a close watch on your analytics as you make incremental improvements to see what's working and what isn't, then adjust accordingly. Consider the steps in this blog when you start and remember that getting to a great digital experience is a journey.
Many retailers are choosing to remove the friction that stands in the way of turning occasional customers into loyal ones. Most are starting with protecting accounts from takeover control and securing online identities. Ecommerce sales may stabilize at a lower growth rate than they are today in the future. But the behavioral changes are already in place to change commerce and the retailing landscape overall for years to come.
Either way for your B2B business, an eCommerce store is a sure-shot way to see your business grow in a single quarter after launch. And, we have reasons to prove the same.
Choose a competent and experienced software provider. Prepare well. We are a "top eCommerce development companies in USA" that can help with this. Then make the decision to go live with your e-commerce implementation. You can learn, test, and continuously optimize your web store once live as your knowledge and experience grow.