Moving B2B sales to the Internet is a trend that I have been observing for several years now. What has changed recently is the form in which sales in this channel are carried out. In short, the B2B market is maturing. Suppliers are outdoing themselves in inventing ways to make life easier for buyers to gain a competitive advantage.
It is noteworthy that in B2B we often go beyond "shopping", moving to a slightly different model where customers work on your platform. Their continued presence and activity will depend on whether they are comfortable. And here we come to the point - today I will tell you what buyers actually expect from you and what features you should have in your platform.
Why is it so important, i.e. do not spoil your image
"Mature" is a good term for what happens to the B2B market in electronic sales. Indeed, a lot of good things have happened in the last 5 years, and companies are beginning to see the potential of the online channel.
However, many players live in a completely different world, which is based on two scenarios:
- "I don't have a B2B platform",
- "my B2B platform is more like Excel online than an online store."
You must have a B2B platform - that's obvious. Much less obvious is the second case. Many companies still think that the B2B platform is something very strict, preferably secret (so that no one can find a link on the site by accident) and generally making life difficult (and for the company and customers).
Frankly speaking, half of the poverty if you only sell to B2B. But what if you have a beautiful online store, to which you have clearly devoted several hundred thousand zlotys, retail customers are delighted, and companies use a panel placed somewhere completely next to you?
Feel a certain omission! Customers will feel it especially when another company gives them a consistent and modern shopping experience, the same as individual customers have. How come - customers who come in for a while and leave little money are supposed to have better than a long-standing business partner?
You should remember this
I have distinguished 7 functionalities that you should take into account when designing a new sales platform for B2B. Of course a lot depends on your business model, assortment, traffic characteristics, etc., but surely most of them shouldn't be missing.
1. Advanced price lists
Price conditions are one of the pillars of long-term business relationships. If you aim at customer loyalty and at the same time want to convince them to use the store on a permanent basis (instead of, for example, placing orders over the phone), you must ensure that customers can benefit from an attractive discount policy and that the terms and conditions are exactly the same as in any other channel they use. The second factor is particularly important for the success of the shop. While the discount policy is part of your sales strategy and may be more or less complicated (it is important that it brings the expected business benefits), its consistency will determine whether or not the customer will stay in the store - because why would he or she place an order online if it's cheaper to call a salesman and you can gossip by the way?
2. The perfect search engine
Your customers will not buy the product if they do not find it. This is not a very revealing statement. However, if there are ~100,000 products in your offer, there can be ~15,000 of them in one category, and they differ in very small details, it gets complicated. The situation above is not sucked out of your finger - in industrial automation, products with several dozen different attributes can only differ in one value, e.g. the number of strands in a cable.
A search engine comes to your aid, which not only gives perfect results but also allows you to search wisely. By clever, I mean:
- searching with attributes,
- search with the manufacturer's symbol / with the EAN,
- categorization of search results,
- filtering search results,
- suggesting phrases in case of an error,
- Properly sort the relevance of the search results.
Of course, the success of the search engine also includes other issues related to UX (location on the site, autosuggestion, usefulness of filtering, etc.), but this should be clear.
3. More payment methods
B2B customers, in addition to price conditions, also require individual business terms and conditions. This applies in particular to possible payment deferments and credit limits (including a foreign number, which is often forgotten). If your company allows customers to purchase with the above mentioned payments, you should necessarily include this (together with actual details, e.g. the value of the credit limit) in the platform.
It is also worth remembering to make your platform as accessible to the user as possible. You must remember about the payments:
- on delivery,
- by credit card,
- ...in installments.
4. Quick order
Check the volume of your orders in the company, especially for the number of lines. If there are several dozen of them, try to place an order in the shop yourself. If you feel tired, this is a sign that you need to speed up the process.
There are many possibilities:
- Adding products from the product list (with the option "add many"),
- adding with a CSV file,
- adding the EAN code, the manufacturer's symbol, etc.
- adding code readers with a scanner,
- adding from handy shopping lists (lockers).
Time is money and your customers should feel comfortable with large orders.
5 Many baskets
Many shopping baskets are particularly useful when your customers are resellers, buyers or franchise owners. If you follow their mode of operation, you will notice that they often complete orders for several customers at once for a long time. You should allow them to do so, keeping this in mind:
- easy switching between the baskets,
- the possibility of naming baskets (e.g. from investment addresses),
- operations on baskets (merging, copying, dividing, moving, etc.).
Optionally, instead of allowing multi-cart picking, you can provide your customers with multi-shipping functionality, i.e. splitting an order into multiple shipments. Note, however, that this is a class inferior solution, because you force the customer to place an order often before time.
The functionality of sub-contracts is particularly useful in the case of large contractors, when we work with many branches that have their budgets and representatives, but invoices are paid "top". Of course, there may be more business process models, but they all come down to two things:
- The possibility of setting up subaccounts,
- extended allowance levels for subaccounts.
When I say "extended", I mean "consulted with your clients", so that the functionality you give into their hands is actually useful for them.
When I say "offers," I mean, actually, two different functionalities:
- price offers for your customers, that is, answers to inquiries,
- the ability to generate offers for your customers.
The first type of offer is probably not much of a surprise, after all, we all know in B2B that the given price of a product is only an invitation to discussion. You should take care of the customer:
- can easily accept the offer,
- he could print the offer and pay for it (proforma),
- had access to his list of active and inactive offers,
- he could make comments on the offer.
Another completely different case is the offer for your customers. The key here is to develop a functionality that will make life easier for all service providers who use your shop. If your customer is able to make a cost estimate, introduce his own services and impose his own margins - in fact, you will give him a ready-made tool, make life easier and he will spend much more time with you.
Sales for B2B in e-Commerce brings great potential for company development. However, you must remember a few basic factors:
- Keep your customers' conditions offline,
- do not treat your customers worse than B2C,
- Provide customers with tools that will make it possible for them to work (and not just buy) on your shop.
There is another factor without which there is no sale - your customers. You should listen to them most carefully.