Make no mistake, the increase in digital buying behavior is here to stay, pandemic or no – especially as the number of millennial decision-makers rises. If your ecommerce system isn’t delivering expected ROI, now is the time to uncover the real culprit holding your site back.
In a recent episode of our Wholesale Change series, we discussed the importance of stepping back, looking at goals and objectives, and assessing what is broken with your ecommerce by asking three questions:
Are Stakeholders Aligned with Customer Goals?
Stakeholders default to measuring success in dollars and transactions, but does that take into account customers’ intentions?
Too often, we assume our B2B space is entirely professional and that we know what customers want, when in reality, B2B purchases can be emotional, too. If it takes twice as long for a loyal customer to find and purchase what they’re searching for on your site, they may get frustrated, wander to a competitor’s site with better search capabilities and make their purchase there.
Understand How Customers Use Your eCommerce Platform
Don’t make assumptions.
Your ecommerce system affects users beyond transactions. For example, maybe a customer uses the platform as a tool that supports other purchases. They may use a print function to make a quick punch list and run it to the branch for pick-up.
Track user activity.
Buying and shopping online are different processes. A design engineer may research and select products while a purchasing agent completes the transaction. Both are important to understanding how you can increase share of wallet with that customer.
Differentiate relational customers from transactional customers.
While both actively use search engines, just 22% of relational customers prefer search engines, closely followed by 20% who prefer a customer service rep and 19% who prefer a distributor sales rep. These customers largely prefer to place orders by phone (42%) or at the supplier branch/store (23%). Transactional customers, on the other hand, have a clear aversion to in-person ordering with only 3% preferring to buy at the branch/store and 2% in-person.
Are Technical Problems Interfering with User Experience?
These days, your website cannot be ugly. Amazon has given us a gold standard for user experience (UX) and if your site feels clunky or runs slowly, you’ve already lost, even if the site works. Do you know how many of your customers are ordering on mobile phones and at what point they’re dropping off between searching and checking out?
Prioritize product data.
Product data touches everything from technical issues, marketing, searching and conversion rates, and can yield huge dividends. But the bar is getting higher for B2B product data every year. If a product page offers only a few attributes, even loyal customers will leave to search that information and make that purchase elsewhere.
The good news is that there are great resources available consolidating robust data that distributors would never have been able to generate on their own. Be wary, though, of duplicating hundreds of competitor sites listing the same product data. Differentiate by adding value like user reviews, videos and technical datasheets.
Solve with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Use an SEO audit to identify specific problem areas that keep you from presenting well to search engines. Hone headers, descriptions and keywords – especially on your most popular product pages. Include any features or benefits that are specific to your customer base and location to make the product data stand out. Eliminate slow-loading images that bog your site down. These are all things that will play well in Google search results. Plus, the cleaner and more differentiated your site, the more likely Google is to promote it.
Step up your Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).
Increasing transactions is a math game about turning visits into transactions. Thankfully, it’s directly tied to UX and there is plenty of software to understand what customers are doing on your website. Use this data to continuously make and test small changes. Writing a bit of new code to make a small change like adding an “add-to-cart” button in red can pay off in adoption and conversion rates.
Why Isn’t Marketing Increasing eCommerce Adoption Rates?
Even a sleek optimized ecommerce site won’t get adoption if you don’t market it properly. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come.
It seems counterintuitive, but our research shows that field sales reps drive online sales more than any other channel. More than a third of customers say the field sales rep is still their primary means of learning about digital ordering. Meaning, if you skip launching an ecommerce site to your sales team before launching it to your customers, prepare for failure.
Communicate key benefits of the site as a tool for salespeople to better serve customers while still earning credit for those sales. In our experience, proactive sales teams that are supported and incentivized can more than double ecommerce revenue.
Think of ecommerce an extension of your service rather than a separate tool, integrating what customers most appreciate about you across all your channels. Picture a customer interacting with your ecommerce site: They have a question and see a button that connects directly with their account manager with that rep’s photo and email. That account rep then stands ready to see the sale through to completion. The online sale happened using multiple channels that prioritized personalization and felt seamless to the customer.
Remember, the best software companies in the world are not interested in building finished products. Building a successful ecommerce site is not about flipping a switch and walking away. It’s a service and product that must continuously be improved. Listen to your customers. Train your team. Iterate, and improve.
Dean Mueller is Independent Consultant at Distribution Strategy Group. He has more than 30 years of experience in sales and marketing and helps distributors build holistic digital strategies that drive a significant shift to online sales, improve profitability and grow customer satisfaction. Take your digital strategy to the next level. Contact Dean at email@example.com.