4 Actionable Elements to Influence Your Future B2B eCommerce Sales

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September 16, 2020//-B2B eCommerce is changing fast as 2020 progresses and the modern B2B buyer expects much from the companies they do business with. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has modified procurement processes in all industries that purchase physical goods. With both sales reps and their customers working from home, retailers and manufacturers are striving to establish greater trust, transparency, and availability in their branded commerce experiences, all this while facing tough competition from platforms such as Amazon and eBay.

Today 51% of all companies purchase 50% of their goods and services online, according to the DC 360 B2B survey.

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With exponential digitisation, consumer’s expectations have also increased manifold, and the full shopping experience matters now so much more than ever before. Consumers want more value for their purchases and equally so, want a seamless resolution to their issues post-purchase.

In the “State of the Connected Customer” report, by Salesforce which surveyed over 8,000 consumers and business buyers worldwide, 89% of B2B buyers said the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.

No doubt about it, 2020 trends in B2B eCommerce are putting new pressure on retailers and manufacturers to define their digital identities. In the last couple of months, we saw online B2B increasingly migrate from the simple web store, towards platforms that combine e-commerce with a range of services.

So apart from product information and specifications, customers are slowly able to make appointments for one-to-one advice or book services that match the product, such as online training.

As we slowly come out of lockdown, whole industries are trying to figure out this new business landscape. Whilst some have been busy adapting their products to the “new normal”, some have been developing new products altogether.

Yet still, others cautiously weighing out the pros and cons of business continuity and some are waiting on cues from economic reactions or some signs of recovery in their various industries. However, despite it all one question remains, what will the after-lockdown effects be on B2B eCommerce.

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Given these B2B eCommerce trends, what can we learn from them? How should our marketing efforts adjust and prepare for the future going forward, if at all? In this vein, what marketing strategies can be implemented? Below I highlight some essential but simple and actionable elements to include in your omnichannel marketing strategy based on some of the latest B2B trends.

1. Customised storefronts

B2B buyers in essence come to suppliers in search of niche products that address their company’s’ specific business needs. Their very nature of B2B agreements are rooted in unique deals and as such, each customer should have access to their own “version” of your company’s eCommerce site.

Fully integrated with custom price lists, custom catalogs, and creating dynamic content, that gives opportunities for complementary products for up-sells, down-sells, cross-sells, product updates, etc.

The site should be presented in a user-friendly way that not only allows customers to complete transactions but allows them access to help sections and prompt answers to any of their queries. This can be achieved via the increasingly popular chatbot.

In a 2018 study by Relay it was revealed that B2B companies have more chatbots than B2C companies, yet only 1% of B2B companies use theirs. So by adopting chatbot technology into your digital marketing arsenal, your company can easily be ranked in the top 1% of companies that provide self-service to its customers.

2. Omnichannel presence

More brands will leverage geolocation and AI technology to offer omnichannel experiences and with so many options of different online, offline, and social media channels available, there is hardly anything like a typical customer journey anymore. A great well-laid-out omnichannel marketing plan will allow you to approach your prospects and address their needs irrespective of the channel.

The average B2B buyer uses six different channels to engage with brands along their path to purchase. Unfortunately, the same report shows that 65% of these buyers experience frustration many times along this journey.

For your omnichannel efforts to be effective, your brand needs to be present, active, and consistent across all channels, this need has never been more important for B2B companies. So, whether you are communicating through a graphic, a text, or a design – you need to make sure your message remains coherently unified.

3. The old cliché “content is king”

study by Walker, demonstrated that the price and the product will be outdone by customer experience as a differentiating feature by 2020.

 The modern B2B buyer invests in a lot of research before they commit to doing business with a supplier. They do most of this research without ever contacting a representative of your company and this demands bridging the gap with content.

This gap in performance provides an opportunity for your company to stand out amongst your competition. It becomes key to focus on creating content for your buyers at each stage of the sales funnel, from the awareness-stage right through to the decision-stage.

A precise content plan is hence indispensable, it is the heart of your communication. There are a myriad of platforms that can help you develop the right topics for your consumers. Some popular ones such as Quora, Ubersuggest, Buzzsumo, and Hubspot Blog Ideas Generator can really help you to achieve this.

That being said, how you deliver the content is critical. Be a storyteller. With storytelling, Stories add credibility to a brand’s persona. Additionally, stories can invoke curiosity and capture the imagination of consumers.

Stories can magically transform your dry sales pitch into an emotional rollercoaster for your audience and this will determine an organisations ability to thrive in the upcoming decade.

4. Watch, listen, and re-evaluate

The advent of digital transformation has opened up so many options for customers and prospects alike, so focusing on what the customer actually wants—not what you might think they want has become paramount.

However, this can’t be accomplished without data. Analyse your customer’s behaviour across all channels, pay attention to social mentions of your brand and industry, listen to and act on their feedback timeously.

These data sources can include data from Google analytics, insights from social media, or even personal interviews through feedback forms.

A great example of watching, listening, and learning is that During the pandemic, we learned that consumers, including B2B customers, value products and services that reduce their anxiety and risks while providing safety. As such we saw a whole new set of customer values emerge.

We are now living in a world with record-high unemployment rates, economic uncertainty, and general anxiety. And now it’s time to pivot.

Craft a message that is sensitive to the current situation, that takes into account your customers’ new situations and concerns and is honest, transparent, and human. Evaluate your current images, language, and tone of voice.

One of my favourite brand reactions to the COVID-19 crisis and the resultant lockdown was by Nike. It was human, it was uniting and it was thought-provoking, and rather than despair, it gave the world hope.

In closing, B2B eCommerce businesses that continue to innovate through the crisis, who anticipate customer changes, habits, and requirements will build stronger relationships. For some, it will be a reinvention and a revisioning and for others will be a brand new beginning.

Whilst another effect of post-lockdown on B2B eCommerce will mean more opportunity to capture markets formerly held by brick-and-mortars. I believe that the number one priority for B2B retailers over the coming months will be to ensure they can provide the same services online as they do or did, via physical channels.

Farai Mutiwanyuka

Digital Marketing Strategy and Design Architect | Brand Strategist | Writer

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