Do B2B customers expect the same eCommerce experience as B2C?
In the USA, the B2B eCommerce market is already worth twice that of B2C, and the rest of the world is catching up fast. Frost & Sullivan estimates that global B2B eCommerce sales will top $12 trillion by 2020.
With an increasing number of businesses turning to the internet for everything from stationery and computer equipment to uniform and office decor, eCommerce cannot afford to ignore the sector's needs. But what exactly are those needs and how do they differ between B2B and B2C customers, if at all?
Armchair shoppers have for some time now been able to enjoy the benefits of a carefully crafted, seamless end-to-end buying experience. Responsive, easily searchable mobile sites, fast and secure checkout, next day delivery and a premium unboxing experience are all part and parcel in B2C eCommerce these days.
Naturally, many are beginning to expect the same experiences when ordering from the office, too. Clunky websites, 7-10 day delivery times and a lack of personalisation are soon to become a thing of the past.
Busy business executives want to be able to find exactly what they’re looking for in as little time as possible, so getting your eCommerce site in front of them during their search phase should be a priority. B2B retailers should invest time in SEO, both on and off-site to maximise sales.
Working around tight business budgets is no mean feat, and it goes without saying that B2B customers will be on the hunt for the very best bang for their buck, without compromising on quality. Think carefully about your price-point in relation to your competitors, as well as well as any extra value that can be added to your offering that could set you apart as a unique B2B retailer, such as a loyalty cards or tracked delivery as standard.
It may sound like stating the obvious, but not having in-demand items in stock will inevitably lead to lost sales. Many B2B firms, especially those offering popular, bespoke or personalised items, have lengthy leads times which could see customers deciding to look elsewhere. Ensure your website is backed up by live stock feeds and order data, and use the reports as insight when ordering in shipments.
B2C retailers for the most part tend to sell not only via their own websites, but through multiple online channels, such as Amazon, eBay or AliBaba. As B2B eCommerce grows and diversifies, consumers will look increasingly to a wider range of sites when researching a business purchase.
Expanding on the above point about stock availability and lead times, B2B customers also have changing expectations with regards to speed of delivery. As next and same day services grow in popularity in the B2C sphere, so the millennial workforce expect this to be extended to B2B eCommerce too. The fact still remains that not every customer requires their order to be delivered within 24 hours, but being able to cater for those last minute urgent purchases is an essential when it comes to beating out competitors.
Many popular B2C retailers are renown for excellent customer service. Whether the customer enquires via a web form, live chat, social media or over the phone, being able to deliver consistently good (and quick to respond) customer support is part of what makes these companies stand out to online customers. As expectations begin to cross over from the B2C world, business customers will demand the same excellent treatment.
There’s nothing worse than placing an order for something urgently needed, only to open the box and find a completely different item inside. Whether it’s the wrong colour, wrong size, or wrong product altogether, not getting it right first time can seriously damage trust for customers in both the B2B and B2C spheres.
When selecting a fulfilment provider or even choosing software for use in-house, it’s important to consider the accuracy of the system and operate in a way that makes it very difficult for those responsible for the pick and pack process to make mistakes.
While perhaps not as prevalent in the business world as in say, fashion retail, returns still happen. The return itself is often the last stage of the buying process to be considered, but forms a crucial part of the customer experience. A robust returns system should offer visibility to the customer on the status of their return, so that they know when to expect their refund or exchange.
Making the process difficult, costly and time-consuming could leave a sour taste in your business customer’s mouth. Providing a fast, frictionless returns experience could mean the difference between gaining a repeat customer and them going elsewhere.
Are you a B2B eCommerce firm?
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Interested? Contact us today to discuss your requirements.
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