No matter if you’re a large retailer trying to supplement your brick-and-mortar sales with online shopping or a small B2B brand looking to get your foot in the door with bigger businesses, eCommerce is essential in today’s marketplace.
Just this year, online sales outpaced physical retail for the first time, and that trend is unlikely to slow down. Having an online presence is important, even for companies who don’t have any digital marketplace, since Google searches and map results are increasingly how consumers find physical businesses. But business-to-business companies selling services to other companies are even more reliant on eCommerce. Their product is often not a physical one, and other businesses are more likely to find vendors digitally.
So how can you optimize eCommerce for your business? Here are four key areas to focus on.
1. User Experience
“Build it, and they will come” doesn’t quite stack up in the eCommerce world.
Of course, offering a great product or service is the foundation to maintaining a successful business, but “build it, make it as easy as possible to find and buy, and they will come” might be a more accurate (if not as catchy) adage.
The amount of fierce competition between brands online has combined with shortened attention spans, along with an increase of options, making it harder than ever to stand out from the crowd. This means that when consumers or businesses do find your site, you can’t afford to lose them because of less-than-perfect user experience. Good UI/UX, on the other hand, can set your business apart from others who are offering a comparable (or better) product on a worse interface.
Many things play into a good user interface experience: ease of use, organization, aesthetic appeal… and the list goes on. But perhaps one of the most impactful elements is speed.
A case study by Radware found that increasing page loading time by just two seconds led to a 17% increase in people abandoning their planned online transactions. Moreover, a U.K. study found that more than half of U.S. consumers and more than two-thirds of those in the U.K. were most likely to cancel a purchase due to slow website experience.
As a company catering to other businesses, your clientele might have slightly less impulsive buying habits, but at its core, the speed of user experience is something that can make the difference between you having a chance with a client or not. Test if your pages are easy to use both on computers and mobile devices, and consider investing in improving your speed. Money spent on better hosting bandwidth or a faster web platform will pay off in transactions that you otherwise might never have been completed.
Speaking of mobile, since people browse the web on their phones now more than on their laptops, your user experience needs to be optimized for both mediums. Invest in good, clean website design and don’t skimp on your visual content. Aesthetic decisions are not just luxuries anymore; they’re necessities. A website that feels good to use and is pleasing to the eye draws business.
2. The Initial Connection
By making it as easy as possible to contact your business, find your services and rates, and start an initial connection, you can leverage a good user experience in your favor.
The same concepts that apply to standard business-to-consumer companies are becoming more and more applicable to the B2B marketing landscape. Mobile platforms, speedy eCommerce interfaces, and changing consumer culture are all leading to a world of instantaneous transactions, impulse decision making, and immediacy.
True, your average B2B transaction operates at a much larger scale and at a slower pace than a friend of yours finding a pair of shoes they like and hitting “check out.” But even other businesses are looking for faster processes and quicker gratification. This, combined with the aforementioned increases in competition, means that your company needs to be able to take the first step as effectively as possible.
Any form of connection with a client, even if it isn’t a transaction yet, is vital. If you can offer a free e-book related to your service, an email list, or a trial, that’s your initial “in” with a customer. It is much easier to convert an existing client who knows about your company and product to a paying client than to find new clients to make connections with.
Make the sign-up process as easy, quick, and as painless as possible (i.e., fewer fillable fields, fewer clicks, etc.), and you will be rewarded by a base of contacts that you can turn into long-term customers.
3. Search Engine Optimization
Given that you’ve found this article on optimizing eCommerce, it’s likely that you’re already familiar with the world of search engine optimization.
It may come as a surprise that typical individual consumers are not the only ones who find products via the standard Google search. In fact, according to a Google and Millward Brown Digital study, more than 70% of business-to-business researchers start their search for a service with a simple search. In fact, the average B2B researcher surveyed performs 12 different searches before first engaging with a company’s site. What does this mean for your business?
First, it means that initial aesthetic appeal and website design matters a whole lot with the number of other pages you will be competing with. With so many separate searches being attempted, and doubtlessly hundreds of pages being opened, loading speed looms large in the list of factors that could retain researchers’ attention.
In addition to this, it means that SEO has become more significant than ever. Make sure your business is not isolated on its website; publish a blog, be present on social media channels, etc. Any link to your business or discussion of your product makes you more likely to be found via standard search.
Aside from the standard methods for gaining online SEO traction, consider encouraging existing customers who you are on good terms with to write reviews and publish them on related technical blogs or journals. This will both drive organic traffic from other businesses in the field and boost your SEO rankings. In the end, being found in the first place is what the rest of your eCommerce strategy is reliant on.
4. Human Touch
In the search for productive SEO strategies, eCommerce optimization, and the betterment of user experience, the human aspect of B2B work can get lost.
While all of these more technical factors of your business’s eCommerce are important, in the end, you are still trying to win over a human customer. Automation may be taking care of menial tasks during various parts of the research-to-purchasing journey, but the complexities of B2B sales require a personable and capable hand at the wheel.
Customers who feel like they know the people they’re engaging with and feel personally paid attention to and taken care of are more likely to choose your business over others. So how do you integrate the human touch into your eCommerce process?
While testimonials from consumers may seem to be a tad outdated or cliché, a demo video or personal greeting on your website, if done well, can draw positive attention. Consider also attending a trade show and hiring trade show models to man your booth or stand. Most major cities hold plenty of trade shows that your business can be a part of.
B2B clients who do much of their research online may welcome a change and be able to interact face to face with the business they’ll be building a relationship with. Don’t neglect catering to the individual, even in the world of business-to-business transactions.
Though the world of B2B eCommerce may seem like a complicated one to navigate, many familiar principles from the standard eCommerce landscape still apply.
By focusing on developing an enjoyable and fast user experience, you can have a leg up on your competition. Potential clients should enjoy every step of their journey with your company, from finding information about your services to simply navigating around your site. An excellent user interface experience also indicates your dedication to quality, something that every company likes to see.
In the evolving competitive eCommerce landscape, it’s more important than ever to snag and retain potential clients. Make sure you have a low barrier of entry, both from a financial and effort perspective, to forge an initial connection and maintain it. By offering free trials, one-click subscriptions, e-books, etc. you can build a database of potential customers who you can then connect and develop a relationship with.
The world of B2B isn’t immune to the importance of search engine optimization, so make sure it is easy to find your company through the various methods discussed above. Authentic connections with other companies, blogs, and journals, can all help you in this regard. And finally, don’t lose sight of the personal element of marketing: you’re a person offering a service to other people. Make your clients feel respected and catered to, and integrate the human touch into your eCommerce strategy.
We hope you enjoyed these tips on how to optimize your eCommerce strategy. For more information on eCommerce and B2B business strategy, you can read more of our articles here.