Three B2B e-commerce tips from experts

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Unlike consumer purchases, the average B2B purchase involves up to six people, according to a recent study published by Demand Gen. This means B2B e-commerce brands need to convince groups, rather than individuals, when it comes to most purchases.

As a result, the research stage of the B2B purchase journey is even more important and marketers have to win channels like search marketing that have a greater influence on the early stages of the sales funnel.

1. Understand the B2B customer journey

The most important asset for B2B e-commerce marketers is a solid understanding of the modern B2B buying journey. As shown by Gartner’s study on the New B2B Buying Journey & its Implication for Sales, the B2B buying journey is more complex than ever.

Marketers are looking at a non-linear purchase path where intent fluctuates and needs change as buyers become more informed and confident about making the next purchase decision.

Gartner says B2B buyers complete six tasks before completing a purchase:

  • Problem identification: “We need to do something.”

  • Solution exploration: “What’s out there to solve our problem?”

  • Requirements building: “What exactly do we need the purchase to do?”

  • Supplier selection: “Does this do what we want it to do?”

  • Validation: “We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure.”

  • Consensus creation: “We need to get everyone on board.”

As a B2B e-commerce marketer, each of these tasks is an opportunity to capture leads at different stages of the sales funnel and guide them along the remaining steps by addressing their needs as they change.

2. Make B2B purchases easier

Also supported by Gartner’s B2B buying journey report is that 77% of B2B buyers say their latest purchase was very complex or difficult.

This reveals an opportunity for B2B e-commerce brands to win customers by making it easier for them to make decisions and complete the purchase. In the next section, we’ll look at steps you can take on your website to make B2B purchases easier but, first, let’s address a common search marketing problem.

As we explain in our five PPC strategies for B2B e-commerce companies article, buyers can have a hard time finding the products they’re looking for on platforms like Google, which are more geared towards consumer searches.

For example, it’s easy for homeowners to find individual and low quantities of bricks but much harder for companies looking for a specific type of brick in bulk quantities. So you have to know which keywords your target customers are using when they try to find your products - eg: “wholesale red house bricks” or “buy red clay fire bricks in bulk”.

This is even more important when your target customers don’t know what they’re looking for or the suitable options at their disposal are vast. For example, one of our B2B e-commerce customers sells furniture to businesses and events companies with a wide range of products suitable for different use cases.

So we’ve produced a series of buyer’s guides for each costumes type, filled with relevant advice for restaurants, pubs and other settings to address the individual needs of each customer type.

3. Optimise your website for B2B purchases

With B2B buyers landing on your website, you can seal the deal by making the initial purchase easy and creating an experience that incentivises repeat purchases. Here’s a summary of the optimisation tactics we’ve looked at before in our 12 key features of a B2B eCommerce website article:

  1. Customer registration: An optimised signup and login system encouraging prospects and new customers to create an account for personalised pricing, repeat orders, loyalty bonuses, etc. – all of which allows you to capture vital customer data.

  2. Filters and on-site search: Filters to help users navigate your catalogue and find the products they want with a minimal number of clicks.

  3. Complete product specifications: Comprehensive product information, including specifications and details related to quality, safety, dimensions and any USPs that matter to B2B buyers.

  4. High-quality product images: High-resolution images that show the best of your products.

  5. Purchase options: Bulk purchases with high-volume discounts/incentives and any bespoke options relevant to your business – eg: return packaging for 5% off next purchase.

  6. VAT toggle: A toggle switch allowing users to see prices with or without VAT in bold, large text (with a less prominent note of the other price).

  7. Real-time stock counts: Show customers that you’ve got enough stock in for their bulk purchase and provide alternative purchase options when you don’t.

  8. Estimated delivery times and order tracking: Help buyers purchase with confidence, knowing they’ll get their products in time.

  9. Payment options: Aside from covering all of the major card and digital payments providers, consider buy now, pay later options for customers to buy on credit and settle the bill within 30 days or 60 days.

  10. Live chat support: Capture organic traffic as leads and help new users find what they’re looking for with live chat support.

  11. Security: You have to earn and maintain trust with B2B buyers by making them feel like their money is safe with you and Google is especially tough on security for eCommerce websites.

  12. GDPR compliance: Given the account data B2B eCommerce companies manage, GDPR compliance is especially important.

By addressing the unique needs of B2B buyers, easing their purchase concerns and minimising friction, you put yourself in the best place to win the first deal. Then, your priority is to incentivise repeat purchases and maximise customer lifetime value by making it easy to continue buying and rewarding customers for their loyalty.

Dave Colgate, head of SEO at Vertical Leap.