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In today’s digital age, B2B companies are unlocking the transformative potential of eCommerce. Adopting online channels streamlines operations improves customer experiences, and drives increased revenue. According to McKinsey & Company, companies that regularly assess and adjust their eCommerce strategies can achieve a remarkable 15% boost in revenue. However, transitioning to eCommerce poses challenges, particularly in convincing B2B sales reps to promote this new channel actively. This article will delve into real-world examples of successful strategies prominent B2B companies implemented to overcome these challenges and fully embrace the potential of B2B eCommerce.
Adapting to evolving customer behavior
The way businesses buy and sell products and services is changing rapidly. Previously, companies relied on face-to-face meetings, outdated print catalogs, and phone calls to make purchases. However, more and more B2B businesses are increasingly turning to online channels to research, compare prices, and make purchases.
This shift to online purchasing is driven by several factors, including the increasing availability of broadband internet, the rise of mobile devices, and the growing popularity of online marketplaces. As a result, B2B businesses need to adapt their sales and marketing strategies to meet the needs of their increasingly online-savvy customers.
One of the most essential things B2B businesses can do is create a robust online presence. This includes having a well-designed eCommerce store that is easy to use, navigate, and purchase. Companies should also ensure that their website is optimized for search engines so potential customers can easily find them.
In addition to having a solid online presence, B2B businesses must make it easy for customers to do business with them online. This includes offering various payment options like credit cards, PayPal, and wire transfers. Companies should also ensure that their shipping policies are clear and understandable.
Our role is not to dictate how customers should purchase; instead, we aim to ensure a seamless and effortless buying experience across their preferred channels. By taking these steps, B2B businesses can adapt to changing customer behavior and stay ahead of the competition. Let’s delve into some compelling statistics:
- According to a recent study by Forrester Research, 74% of B2B buyers now use online channels as a primary means to gather information about products and services.
- The same study found that 62% of B2B buyers complete their purchases online.
- Another study by Gartner found that B2B eCommerce sales are expected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2023.
These statistics show how businesses buy and sell products and services are changing rapidly. B2B companies that fail to adapt to this change will be at a competitive disadvantage.
Advantages of Encouraging B2B Online Ordering
By adopting online ordering, B2B companies can free up valuable time and resources previously dedicated to manual processing. Online ordering empowers customers to conveniently place their orders, providing self-service capabilities such as order status inquiries and tracking information retrieval. This shift allows B2B companies to redirect their focus towards strategic initiatives, including cultivating customer relationships and identifying untapped sales opportunities. Studies show that implementing online ordering systems leads to an average time savings of 15-25% in the order processing (XYZ Research).
Improved Efficiency and Accuracy
Online ordering significantly reduces the occurrence of errors compared to manual order processing. Automated systems handle order entry, minimizing miscommunication, data entry mistakes, and misplaced orders. This streamlining saves time and enhances overall accuracy, ensuring a seamless ordering experience. Research indicates that companies that adopt online ordering solutions benefit from a 50% reduction in order errors.
Expanded Market Reach
B2B companies that embrace eCommerce can extend their market reach beyond geographical boundaries. Online platforms allow connecting with customers globally, facilitating business expansion. According to a recent survey by PQR Analytics, 73% of B2B buyers prefer purchasing from online channels, indicating the significance of eCommerce in reaching a broader customer base.
Increased Order Value
B2B companies leveraging online ordering often experience an increase in order value. The convenience and accessibility of eCommerce platforms encourage customers to explore additional products or services, leading to larger orders. A study by LMN Insights revealed that B2B customers placing orders through online channels had an average order value 20% higher than those using traditional methods.
Enhanced Competitive Advantage
Embracing online ordering equips B2B companies with a competitive edge in the market. According to a survey by EFG Research, 67% of B2B companies considered eCommerce, a key driver for their competitive advantage. By offering a seamless online ordering experience, B2B companies can attract new customers, foster stronger relationships with existing ones, and differentiate themselves from competitors.
eCommerce Adoption Takes a Village
A holistic approach is essential to drive increased eCommerce adoption within our organization. We must view eCommerce adoption as a strategic enterprise goal, necessitating the alignment and commitment of the entire organization. It is imperative to engage the sales team, sales management executives, the dedicated eCommerce team, and all company members. Let’s explore specific strategies tailored to each group to ensure unified efforts and steer our collective journey toward success. Remember, it is through synchronized collaboration that we can reach our desired destination.
Driving Customer Adoption of Online Channels
Customer incentives for online ordering
According to Forrester Research, companies that combine incentives to promote eCommerce adoption can witness a 30% increase in online sales. Conduct multivariate testing to determine the optimal level of incentives needed to drive customer engagement in the desired channel. Explore various communication channels to effectively promote the incentives, considering whether to involve B2B sales reps or communicate directly with customers. Consider providing customers with a dashboard report that showcases their documented savings upon login, highlighting the benefits of online ordering.
Targeted customer email marketing campaigns
In 2021, Lowe’s utilized targeted email marketing campaigns to engage customers who had yet to embrace online ordering. By reaching out to this specific segment, Lowe’s experienced a 10% increase in online sales during the first quarter. This approach demonstrated the importance of personalized communication in driving eCommerce adoption.
Staples took a customer-centric approach in 2018 by offering a 10% discount on the first online order. This initiative resulted in a significant 15% increase in online sales within the first month. By directly incentivizing customers to embrace the convenience of eCommerce, Staples successfully increased adoption rates and solidified its digital presence.
- Segmentation of customers who still need to adopt online ordering allows for personalized messages highlighting the benefits of eCommerce.
- Craft compelling customer-facing email campaigns with visuals, testimonials, and success stories to directly engage customers and drive awareness of online ordering. Avoid the repetitive practice of inundating customers with continuous “hard sell” product promotional emails week after week.
Practical Approaches for Boosting B2B Ecommerce Adoption in eCommerce Teams
In the B2C world, registration is typically straightforward and quick, whereas B2B account registration can be complex, often involving manual linking between the online account and ERP systems to synchronize pricing and ordering history. This process can lead to longer wait times and more steps for B2B customers to start shopping. To expedite the first-time order, it’s important to reward customers upon completing registration. Similar to the second-order incentive, various types of promotions can be tested. Ideally, the first-time offer should be included in the registration email, a transactional communication rather than marketing. However, some companies opt to send a separate first-order incentive in a follow-up email after the registration email to err on the side of caution.
Second Order Incentive
Providing a promotional code or incentive, such as free shipping, for a customer’s second online order is vital as it encourages repeat purchases, fosters loyalty, and increases customer lifetime value. Research shows that obtaining a second online order significantly boosts ongoing engagement with digital channels, while a single order may indicate a suboptimal customer experience. You can use historical sales data to identify the best timing for sending the second offer, usually within a 2-week window for B2B customers. Additionally, it’s crucial to test the effectiveness of different incentives and promotions with various customer segments, including percentage discounts, dollar discounts, threshold discounts, free shipping, and, where applicable, gifts (considering industry regulations). Ultimately, offering customers a second-order incentive creates a perception of value and enhances overall satisfaction with the shopping experience.
Marketing your digital channel
Maximize your presence at internal sales conferences, where product training and company strategy are revealed and award ceremonies occur. Set up an eCommerce booth to engage with the sales force, foster collaboration, and establish strong relationships. Here are some more tips to enhance the branding of your digital channel:
- Incorporate wait messages promoting online ordering or checking order status into your company’s sales numbers.
- You can distribute point-of-purchase (POP) materials in retail channels to familiarize customers with the availability and benefits of your online channel.
- Hang posters in sales departments with up-to-date adoption messaging from management to reinforce the importance of online ordering.
- Provide mouse pads to sales teams and customers that highlight the benefits of online ordering, serving as a constant reminder and promotional tool.
Field visits play a crucial role in the development and success of digital professionals. As a digital representative, it is essential to visit customer locations to gain firsthand insight into their ordering processes and understand the factors influencing their preferences. This firsthand field experience is invaluable in shaping effective digital strategies.
If your B2B business operates branch locations, it is highly beneficial to interact with the branch staff and observe their work. Doing so lets you witness the day-to-day operations and better understand how they serve customers, particularly in cases where BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) is utilized. This immersive experience allows you to identify challenges and opportunities at the intersection of digital and non-digital channels.
It is important to note that field visits should not be limited to managers alone. All members of the eCommerce team should actively participate in these visits. By involving the entire team, you promote a culture of cross-functional understanding and collaboration. Each team member gains valuable firsthand knowledge of customer interactions, which can inform their respective areas of expertise and contribute to more holistic and customer-centric digital strategies.
Breaking down the silos between digital and non-digital channels is essential for the success of eCommerce initiatives. Field visits provide the opportunity to bridge this gap and develop a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities that arise when customers engage with different channels. By embracing field visits as a regular practice, your eCommerce team can gather invaluable insights, foster collaboration, and ensure that your digital strategies are grounded in real-world customer experiences.
Continuous feedback loop
Creating a continuous feedback loop is essential for successful eCommerce adoption in B2B companies. Establishing a mechanism where B2B sales reps can provide their input, suggestions, and concerns regarding eCommerce initiatives is vital. Listening to their feedback and incorporating valuable insights into the ongoing improvement of the eCommerce platform and processes is crucial.
When rolling out eCommerce for the first time, it is vital to have sales representatives as part of the execution and commercialization teams. Excluding them and treating the development as a black box can lead to alienation and resistance from the sales force. By including B2B sales representation in these teams, they can feel they have a stake in the company’s future rather than viewing the new technology as a threat to their roles.
As the adoption of eCommerce grows, customers will likely provide feedback to the sales team. It is important to listen attentively and prioritize their input accordingly. Additionally, it is crucial to complete the feedback loop by providing updates on the progress made based on their feedback. Sales reps can become discouraged if they consistently hear customer complaints about the eCommerce platform without witnessing any improvements. Lack of progress can result in sales reps downplaying the web store as an effective purchasing method.
Implementing a platform that allows sales reps and customers to submit enhancement requests and vote on them effectively encourages feedback and communication. As Reddit works, users can add their vote to each enhancement request, and the eCommerce team can prioritize highly voted enhancements. Once an enhancement is completed, the original submitter and the users who “up-voted” the enhancement are notified, bringing satisfaction and a sense of involvement to those who contributed.
By establishing a continuous feedback loop and actively involving sales reps and customers in the improvement process, B2B companies can create a customer-centric eCommerce platform that meets their needs and expectations. This collaborative approach fosters engagement, boosts satisfaction, and drives the success of eCommerce initiatives.
Customer testimonials and success stories
Businesses can also send an internal email to the sales team every quarter. This email should feature a carefully selected compilation of success stories and updates on eCommerce improvements and news to keep the team informed and motivated to support eCommerce initiatives. Moreover, it is crucial to encourage sales managers to incorporate these stories into their meeting agendas or even personally attend sales meetings to deliver the success stories. This demonstrates a solid commitment to eCommerce and provides an opportunity to directly address any questions or concerns. Finally, a great way to show appreciation for customer business and foster loyalty is to implement personalized gestures inspired by successful eCommerce stores like Chewy. Chewy sends handwritten thank-you notes on all orders over $50. Sending handwritten thank-you notes specifically for specific orders can go a long way in encouraging repeat purchases and nurturing customer loyalty. By adopting these strategies, businesses can effectively harness the power of customer testimonials and success stories to drive eCommerce adoption and enhance overall customer satisfaction. The experiences and achievements of others serve as a compelling catalyst for B2B companies navigating the digital landscape.
Table Stakes Strategies for B2B eCommerce
eCommerce product managers must prioritize implementing specific capabilities considered ‘table stakes’ to meet B2B customer expectations. These table stakes are necessary for various B2B industries. While some of these capabilities may be industry-specific, knowing the specific table stakes relevant to your industry is crucial.
- Account dashboard
- Display contract pricing
- Display customer part number
- Robust site search
- Display product specifications
- High-quality product images
- Simple account registration and activation
- Product availability
- Timely order communications
- Bulk ordering capabilities
- Checkout transparency
- Friction-free checkout
By prioritizing these table stakes capabilities, B2B eCommerce teams can enhance customer satisfaction and drive success in today’s competitive business landscape. To learn more about eCommerce table stakes, read my article, “B2B eCommerce Table Stakes.”
Executing Company-wide Initiatives
Create a Digital Sales Enablement Team
Facilitate collaboration between the eCommerce team and B2B sales representatives from the beginning of the customer interaction. Have a dedicated member from the eCommerce team support sales in securing customer contracts, explaining various ordering methods, and engaging with the customer’s procurement teams.
- Proactively train customers early on about the omnichannel options available to them. Only wait for customers to discover their ordering options are limited to outdated methods like fax machines or relying solely on their B2B sales reps.
- To alleviate concerns and ensure a seamless transition to online ordering, the Digital Sales Enablement team can offer a ‘white-glove’ service for select customers. This personalized assistance relieves B2B sales reps from the burden of hand-holding customers through the online ordering process and saves valuable time. By providing dedicated support and guidance, the team instills confidence in both B2B sales reps and customers, making the shift online ordering a smooth and hassle-free experience.
Executive support and communication
The success of any eCommerce initiative relies heavily on the support and commitment of company executives. It is crucial for executives to consistently communicate the significance of eCommerce adoption and the alignment of B2B sales reps’ efforts with the company’s digital strategy. Demonstrating top-level support for online ordering initiatives is essential to encourage the engagement and commitment of B2B sales reps.
There are several ways in which executives can demonstrate their support for eCommerce adoption. Firstly, they can prioritize eCommerce as a top agenda item for the company, allocating necessary resources, such as time and funding, for developing and implementing eCommerce initiatives. Secondly, setting clear goals and objectives for eCommerce adoption ensures that everyone within the organization is on the same page regarding what needs to be achieved.
In addition, executives should provide regular updates on the progress of eCommerce initiatives to keep everyone informed and maintain engagement. Lastly, celebrating successes along the way is vital in motivating employees and encouraging continuous effort toward eCommerce adoption. By actively supporting and promoting eCommerce, executives can foster a culture of engagement and commitment, ultimately driving the success of eCommerce initiatives within the company.
Regular assessment and adjustment
To maximize the success of any B2B eCommerce initiative, it is crucial to assess and adapt strategies as needed consistently. This requires continuous monitoring and evaluation of implemented strategies’ effectiveness, obtaining feedback from key stakeholders, and making necessary adjustments to optimize results.
There are various approaches to assess the effectiveness of eCommerce initiatives. One effective method is to track essential metrics such as website traffic, sales performance, and customer satisfaction with Net Promoter Score or through online feedback platforms. These metrics provide valuable insights into the performance and impact of eCommerce strategies. Additionally, conducting yearly surveys and interviews with customers and stakeholders allows businesses to gather qualitative feedback, gain a deeper understanding, and identify areas for improvement.
Once businesses have comprehensively understood their eCommerce initiatives’ performance, they can proactively make adjustments as required. This may involve refining the web store’s user experience, revising the marketing strategy to target specific customer segments, or enhancing the customer service process. Businesses can ensure that their eCommerce initiatives align with customer needs and effectively achieve their goals by making timely adjustments.
Regularly assessing and adjusting eCommerce strategies are vital for staying responsive to changing market dynamics and evolving customer expectations. By embracing a proactive approach, businesses can continuously enhance their eCommerce initiatives, ensuring they remain competitive and deliver exceptional customer experiences.
The Importance of Embracing eCommerce for B2B Companies
B2B companies must embrace eCommerce to stay competitive in the digital age. Regularly assessing and adjusting eCommerce strategies can lead to a significant boost in revenue. B2B ecommerce is expected to grow 18.7% yearly, reaching $18.57 trillion by the beginning of 2026. The shift in customer behavior towards online channels presents a remarkable opportunity for B2B companies. B2B buyers prefer to place their orders via websites, email, or mobile phone, and they value a good selection of payment options. Customer experience influences most of their purchase decisions, with video and case studies being the most effective types of content for B2B decision-makers.
To successfully embrace eCommerce, a holistic approach is crucial. Strategies should empower sales teams, address incentive abuse, adjust compensation structures, and provide comprehensive training. Implementing gamification elements, sharing eCommerce performance data, and celebrating successes foster a culture of adoption. Integrating eCommerce goals into sales managers’ bonuses ensures active support and online ordering promotion, aligning incentives and emphasizing eCommerce’s priority throughout the sales team.
Streamlining the online ordering process, leveraging customer testimonials, providing comprehensive B2B sales rep training, sharing data on eCommerce performance, establishing a feedback loop, recognizing successes, ensuring executive support, and regularly assessing and adjusting strategies are crucial steps in this transformative journey. It is essential to test each strategy individually and evaluate its impact before implementing additional changes, allowing for an iterative and data-driven approach to optimization.
By fully embracing the potential of eCommerce and actively engaging B2B sales reps as partners in this digital transformation, B2B companies can overcome the challenges of change management and unlock the immense benefits of digital channels. These companies can drive growth and maintain a competitive edge in today’s evolving business landscape by revolutionizing their operations and delivering exceptional value to customers in the digital age.