Business-to-business eCommerce platforms have to offer much more than just automated ordering. As well as facilitating transactions and making it as easy as possible for buyers to complete low ticket, often repetitive purchases, eCommerce solutions must also promote the development of buyer / seller relationships. Such relationships are vital to supporting more complex, higher value transactions with long-term customers.
In the business-to-business arena, there’s still a lot of personal interaction involved between sellers and buyers. Account-specific pricing and individual terms of business, specific product configuration requirements, large product catalogues and higher value purchases mean that the addition of a simple B2C-style shopping cart to your website cannot replace the need for personal attention. A fully featured, fully integrated eCommerce platform is required to deliver the kind of customer experience expected by B2B buyers.
In many companies, the provision of personal attention often centres on supporting menial, repetitive tasks. These are the tasks that an eCommerce platform should automate and make easier for customers to complete. At the same time, an intelligent eCommerce solution should also enrich the customer experience by providing customers with all the information they need to make informed purchase decisions and enable them to explore different possibilities as a self-service option. This results in customers who are more confident about buying your products.
While the opportunity for customers to gather insights that support purchase decisions is important, in the relationship-orientated world of B2B, the main focus should be on optimising the value for customers – and that means simplifying the user experience needs to be a priority. For example, research shows that if you’re offering site visitors valuable gated content in exchange for contact information, asking them for a minimum amount of information, (such as a name and email address) will result in higher levels of engagement.
With the right B2B eCommerce platform, regular customers can easily access information about the products they’re interested in, real-time stock positions, their personal information, order history, and even tailored special offers. But businesses have the chance to offer customers more value by providing additional information such as contract and correspondence records, product roadmaps and service histories. Such resources can be used to add even more of a personal touch to the customer experience.
It’s an approach that B2B sellers can continue to evolve by engaging customers and potential customers in new and different ways. Once an eCommerce solution is established, sellers can provide customers with an ever-increasing range of personalised purchasing possibilities with the addition of almost zero marginal cost. For example, while new or prospective customers could be given access to a limited (but expandable) range of opportunities, current and longer-term customers could have a much broader range of options, perhaps including items such as tailored product extensions or contract renewals.