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The exponential growth in b2b ecommerce means that a rapidly increasing number of manufacturers and distributors are now seeing significant returns on their investment in online channels through more sales, lower costs, improved productivity and increased margins. This growth is being supported by a generation of business buyers in their 30s who, mirroring their personal purchasing habits, have a preference for researching and buying products online.

For your business to capitalise on the huge opportunities that come with an online sales channel, there are four key areas of focus that can help to optimise your b2b ecommerce system.

The customer experience:

Customer expectations for b2b buyers have been driven by the user experience offered by today’s best b2c sites. So attractive design, simple navigation, accessibility from any device, useful content, ratings and reviews, and an easy checkout are all essentials. But b2b buyers need even more. They want to see order histories, stock availability, payment options, delivery information and account-specific pricing, as well as detailed product descriptions, specifications, images and explanatory videos. It’s all about providing high quality, relevant content on a smart technology platform.

Your site content:

Good content includes all the information a buyer needs to make a purchase decision – from manufacturer descriptions and product specifications, to part numbers and price. Show plenty of images and graphics that demonstrate key points and use videos to explain complex features. Also, give buyers the option to read or download datasheets, user guides and installation manuals. Ensure that content presentation is standardised to enhance the user experience and enable easy product comparison. Other content such as articles, blogs and news stories can help to support market credibility and increase site visitors. It’s also worth investing in content SEO to make sure your site can be easily found on search engines.

A personalised approach:

Personalisation is a crucial part of the b2b online customer experience. It means that prices, offers, promotions and additional product suggestions are tailored to individual buyers based on factors such as their previous shopping behaviour, purchase history and geographic location. Creating a personalised customer experience is totally dependent on the technological sophistication of your b2b platform, its ability to systematically and accurately capture customer data, and its successful integration with your business management and accounting systems.

Business process integration:

To create customer features such as relevant, personalised content, account-specific pricing, real-time stock availability, and ultimately a best-in-class customer experience b2b ecommerce requires deep and seamless integration with your key business systems and processes. Integration with management and accounting solutions such as Sage enables your ecommerce platform to interact with customer records, pricing details and inventory availability, as well as credit card payment gateways, tax and delivery information. Increasingly, there are new opportunities to integrate with behavioural analytical tools, recommendation engines and third-party marketing databases.

In conclusion: Whether you’re just embarking on b2b ecommerce or are thinking of upgrading an existing system, a focus on the four areas above will help ensure you choose an online platform that enables you to realise the full potential of trading online.
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