B2B ecommerce marketing has rapidly grown over the last few years, offering plenty of potential as a sales channel for traditional industries.
B2B sales are slowly and quietly catching up to B2C sales, as the industry continues to grow.
This market caters to the large number of businesses around the world who are seeking and selling anything and everything from software and hardware to medical equipment, electrical components, specialised equipment, and other niche products.
According to a 2017 Forrester Research report, B2B transactions will reach $1.2-trillion by 2023. A report by Frost & Sullivan estimates that the number may be as high as $6.6 trillion. There is no doubt that this market is growing rapidly or that it offers massive potential for B2B etailers.
Despite this potential, however, there is still a lack of understanding within this market. Many etailers assume that B2B and B2C ecommerce work in the same way. Although there are many similarities, there are also many unique challenges within the B2B market that require a highly developed strategy in order to see growth year-on-year.
A number of mistakes are also made by B2B stores when preparing for their launch. These mistakes may not derail your entire campaign, but they can make it far harder to start seeing results. Keep reading to find some of the biggest mistakes made by business focused etailers.
Poor product content
A commonly made mistake in consumer and business ecommerce, poor product content can do far more damage than you may realise. You may have a fully developed online store that is functional and even mobile friendly.
Without well-written product descriptions and images, you will battle to see any impact on your conversion. If product descriptions are copied over from the manufacturer’s description, overly cryptic, badly written, not optimised for SEO, too short, too long or otherwise not engaging enough to help customers make an informed decision, you will need to take a good, hard look at how you can improve your descriptions. Likewise, if product images are poor quality, taken from one angle only or too small to provide any detail, you are also losing out on potential sales.
Some of the most important information that is required on B2B product descriptions include model or part numbers, manufacturing codes, price, weight, dimensions, cube value, freight class, and any specific documentation that applies. Adding availability and lead time is also important.
No sales team support
Your product descriptions may be close to perfect, but if you do not have your sales and marketing teams aligned you will soon notice an impact on your conversion. Not in a good way, either.
You will need full support from your sales team for successful implementation. Many sales teams feel threatened by the rise of B2B ecommerce, worrying that they may end up losing commissions when customers place orders online.
Rather than trying to replace your sales team, find ways of working together.
You can turn your sales team into advocates by commissioning them on all orders — whether placed online or ordered directly through the sales reps. You can also offer incentives to further encourage online orders.
No integration with other systems
On a similar note, it is never a good idea to see B2B ecommerce as something that stands in isolation. B2B online orders make up a growing chunk of B2B sales, but offline sales still make up a large percentage of the market. When you integrate your online strategies with your other systems, you will be able to get the best of both online and offline sales.
To see optimal results, it is best to integrate your systems and teams – marketing, design, mobile, UX, branding, buyers, PR, and sales. When this happens, and your B2B strategies are incorporated into your bigger systems, you will see far better returns.
Lack of mobile optimisation
Another mistake that is often is made is failing to consider mobile. A large number of people use mobile devices to browse products — that includes consumer and business markets.
Your store needs to not only look good on mobile, but also act as a fully functional store that can be used to add products to cart, favourite items and even complete purchases.
Mobile commerce is rapidly growing and stores that are not optimising for mobile will miss out on the potential for increased sales. It’s also worth noting that many B2B customers expect to have the same experience that they would on a B2C ecommerce site.
Failing to provide such an experience could end up prompting potential customers to head to a supplier who offers a better mobile experience.
No multi-channel approach
Even worse than a non-responsive mobile store is a lack of multi-channel approach. Mobile and web make up just two channels. There are many other channels that provide a huge range of selling opportunities for B2B retailers.
Lead nurturing, email marketing, SEO, social media, online advertising, and marketing automation all form part of an effective multi-channel strategy. If your B2B strategy is not aligned with your other channels or not supporting your broader digital marketing goals, you will battle to see a return on your investment.
Aim for a rich, multi-channel strategy that is designed around your unique goals and requirements. Create a synergy between channels. Use the channels that are already showing conversion. Create a well-rounded approach that increases awareness, sales, recognition, and loyalty. Incorporate customer retention, cross-selling and upselling strategies.
Failing to consider user experience
Many companies assume that user experience is only important on consumer facing websites. In fact, user experience can be even more important in B2B online sales.
A number of B2B stores tend to be outdated, hard to use, bolted on to existing enterprise systems or designed in a way that is awkward and nowhere near user-friendly.
After putting up such a site (often in a hurry), companies expect orders to start flowing in, and, when they don’t see any sales, they assume that it is the customers or the entire channel that is at fault rather than the user experience.
UX plays a vital role in all ecommerce — B2B and B2C alike. Most B2B buyers expect online stores to make their lives easier and typically expect an experience that is similar to consumer shopping. When there is a poor UX and the site cannot be used easier, customers will end up going somewhere else.
Often, this will be to a competitor who has a better planned site. When you add in complex features such as custom catalogues, buying workflows, customer-targeted pricing, and more complex features, UX becomes even more important. If customers are not happy when the most basic of features are not in place, they will not be happy when more complex features do not work.
Overly vague requirements
Finally, another mistake that can ruin your sales is being too vague about your requirements. This is a commonly made mistake.
When you do not put in the time or effort to create clearly defined requirements for your B2B system well in advance, you will battle to meet your goals.
To see real return, your strategy needs to clearly outline your requirements in a way that lays out your underlying goals. A vague strategy means that you will not have guidance on essential steps at any given stage. Whether that means battling to plan your social media advertising campaign, not having a plan for SEO, battling to move forward with lead generation or even struggling to plan your product descriptions because you are not sure how to sell your products online, a vague strategy can be fatal to any B2B store.
Instead, make sure that you have a clear idea of your requirements – your channels, your goals, your KPIs, your systems, your processes, and even your strategy for the next year, five years and 10 years.
Take a good, hard look at your B2B ecommerce efforts and you will soon see whether there are any areas for improvement. By avoiding these mistakes, you can get your efforts on track and start seeing how much potential this market has to offer.