How medium-sized businesses can score points
This year's calculations from Forbes should not be overlooked: 74% of all B2B purchasers first search online for offers for at least half of their orders. 30% make at least half of their professional purchases online – a significantly increasing tendency. Furthermore, almost half of all purchasing research in the B2B sphere is done by millennials. The amount of people who grew up with the internet is growing larger and larger, and will one day account for 100% of purchasers. But what do these figures mean concretely?
The Internet can, at relatively low cost, provide small and medium-sized companies with a level of visibility that they could have only dreamt of before. Any company that offers good service online will be ranked higher by search engines, found more easily by customers, and – assuming the customer experience is good – can build a long-term business relationship with the customers it found on the Internet.
If almost half of all purchasing research in the B2B sector is already being done online and this trend is logically unstoppable, it is worth investing in a platform that meets the needs of this target group. This ever growing target group uses B2C online shops in their private lives – and carries their private experience with online shopping over to their professional lives. That means that B2B online shops must be at least as good as established B2C online shops in terms of usability and user experience.
Simply put: a B2B online shop should offer intuitive search with a suggestion function, or search by article number, that efficiently speeds up the purchasing process. Data should be analyzed so products can be recommended to customers and so the site navigation can be adapted to their needs. Bear in mind the value of professional product photographs and a connection to the ERP system, through which the customer gets information about volume discounts, availability, and delivery times in real time.
When combined, these elements create a consistent, positive customer experience that customers are happy to repeat. Gartner says that by 2018, 70% of the online shops will no longer be B2B or B2C centered, but will rather be tailored to a perfect customer experience. Because who wants to deal with solutions in their work life that are less satisfactory than they are used to in their private life?
When using online shops professionally, customers are not interested in shopping for hours; they want to find a good offer quickly. The shop can support that too – for example, by creating a mobile version of the shop, offering quick reordering of past shopping carts, or providing all its articles with QR codes to speed up reordering and make it less error-prone. The last option offers the advantage to forward information directly from the production department to purchasing, for example.
Spare parts navigation with CATALOGcreator® offers a good alternative to QR code ordering, which is sometimes difficult to implement. This allows customers to navigate to the required spare part in the CAD drawing and place it in their shopping cart. Such add-ons make sense especially when the online shop sells products that need to be reordered often or that customers can repair themselves. These extra features then help to improve customer retention.
Customers of B2B web shops are companies, not private individuals, and have different needs accordingly. Thus an ideal B2B online shop should offer easy management of multiple billing and delivery addresses and fast international shipping. This allows the central purchasing department to conveniently order products for subsidiaries, regardless of whether they are located nationally or abroad. Furthermore, it should be possible to set up multiple accounts that have different permissions. This allows departments to place items in the shopping cart in the online shop and then forward it automatically to their central purchasing department, which can then actually place the order. These are all features that are relatively easy to implement in an on online shop and that offer customers real added value.