It’s no surprise that ecommerce is on the rise. In fact, according to Distribution Strategy Group’s 2022 State of eCommerce in Distribution report, 53% of respondents said their ecommerce revenue was greater than 10% of their total sales – a first for many.
Although these findings are promising, and the effects of the pandemic mean the sales environment shifted to a more digital-friendly experience, many organizations haven’t unlocked all the potential ways to drive revenue through their website.
Distributors must deliver customers’ desired browsing and shopping experience to compete against big names like Amazon Business and other digital-first competitors.
In addition, having a solid ecommerce presence provides better cost-to-serve and profit margins, boosting the profitability and efficiency of your business. For example, consider the recent hiring shortages and the constraints that your business may have felt; with a robust ecommerce platform, you can end up selling more with fewer people because your customers handle some of the legwork themselves by shopping online.
Improve the customer experience on your ecommerce website
Although they have different needs, B2B buyers are beginning to expect the same quality experience when shopping online as they have when shopping for items as a personal consumer. Given the complexity of B2B purchasing, your customers are often under a great deal of stress when shopping, so they want to interact with a fast, user-friendly, and informative website when they’re researching solutions and looking for products. There are several ways to make shopping a pleasant experience for your buyers:
Ensure search relevancy
Your ecommerce site should deliver relevant results to your customers’ queries. Customers should effortlessly be able to find the product they’re searching for. For example, if they type “screwdrivers” in the search bar, they don’t want to see screws in the results. Just as you’d become frustrated with irrelevant results, so too will your customers. The only difference is that their frustration can result in a lost sale for your business.
Make reordering easier
Many customers reorder items on a set schedule. Distributors that have an effective ecommerce website implement a smooth, painless reordering process. Use a system that keeps track of negotiated prices and offers automatic replenishment.
Offer product recommendations and personalization
Consider the last time you browsed Amazon for an item. Did other related products pop up as recommendations, based on either your current search or previous order history? By leveraging artificial intelligence, your website can provide relevant upsell and cross-sell opportunities to customers.
Have good product content
If products on your website have a single photo accompanied by a cut-and-dry description, it won’t cut it. Instead, products should have multiple images from different angles, data sheets (if available) and detailed descriptions. B2B buyers often research before speaking with a sales rep, which means they’ll spend a lot of time browsing your website to find the information they need and use it to compare to other products or competitors.
If they can’t find what they need on your site, they’ll go elsewhere. To ensure you capture their attention, focus on incorporating robust product data into all your listings. Distributors have a tremendous amount of SKUs, so focus on building good product content for your items that receive the most attention first and working out from there.
Optimize your website for mobile
Another B2C technique to integrate into B2B eCommerce is a mobile-friendly website. You want your customers to be able to have the same easy-to-navigate web experience from wherever they might be, whether it’s in the field, on a job site or at home.
Provide customer service
By utilizing webchat, Facebook Messenger or SMS text messaging, your customer service team can quickly answer customer questions. Using the underlying technology that powers search, reps can locate products, find substitutes and speak with confidence knowing they can answer just about any question the customer throws their way. Customers love this feature because it’s a fast and convenient way to get their questions answered. A study from the Aberdeen Group found that live chats are more likely to lead to conversions. Forrester research backs this theory by saying visitors to your site who use a chat feature are almost three times more likely to make a purchase.
Drive more of your current customers to your website
Teaching an old dog new tricks can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. The same can be said for customers interacting with your company in a new way. A customer who historically purchased via telephone might also find value on your ecommerce site once they try it.
According to DSG’s 2022 State of eCommerce report, “Growing revenue with existing customers” was one of the top two financial priorities for building an ecommerce site. Once the site is in place, it’s time to tell your existing customers about the benefits of buying from your website.
Incentivize your sales reps to drive buyers to the website
eCommerce won’t replace your sales team. Rather, these tools make their jobs easier – and create more sales opportunities. Consider incentives as part of your eCommerce-focused strategies. Financial incentives often provide that extra encouragement.
Leverage marketing to increase buyer awareness of your website
You can use many marketing tactics to drive more customers to your website. Some of these include social media promotion, announcements or banners on your website and emails to your customers. Discount campaigns for ecommerce purchases and even paid media campaigns can also be quite effective.
Inform smaller accounts that they have better purchasing options
Sales reps tend to focus the bulk of their time and energy on securing and nurturing larger accounts. One of the benefits of ecommerce is its self-serve nature, which is ideal for smaller accounts – making it quick and easy for them to browse, purchase or reorder.
Provide useful, educational content
Providing content, such as FAQs or how-to tutorials, makes your business stand out as a leader in the space. This content builds trust with customers by positioning you as an expert in your field. Articles can also help buyers understand the benefits of purchasing from an eCommerce site such as convenience. Going straight to the website rather than spending time ordering on the phone also increases buyers’ productivity.
Leverage AI and data-driven decision-making to improve your business
You can also connect your existing systems to your ecommerce site so that your sales reps can benefit from quick access to historical transactions and relevant customer data.
The data that AI and ecommerce can provide is a minefield of potential for your reps. These insights can improve business operations, such as streamlined customer interactions and experiences, as well as increase your profit margins.
You can also leverage this data to determine what’s working and what’s not in your company. For example, you can identify products that don’t sell as well as they should, then incorporate a more robust product content, such as additional photos or a more detailed description, to see if that boosts sales. You can also use AI to uncover any patterns.
What if a customer repeatedly browses for a product and then abandons it in their cart? Your sales rep can use this information to land the sale in their next interaction with the customer. Maybe they had a few questions or needed additional details.
Remember that you are on a digital journey. Incremental improvements to enhance your ecommerce platform can drive revenue for your company.