The web is changing the way B2B companies interact with their customers. Here are the top 5 reasons you need to have an online e-commerce strategy if you want to continue bringing in new business in the digital age.
1) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Product catalogs and descriptions add to the overall content of your website, contributing to search engine optimization that helps potential customers find your business online.
More Content = Better search engine rankings, more visitors, and more sales. Search engines qualify websites with more quality content pages as more established and of higher quality, therefore, the more unique pages you can include on your site the better.
Incorporating an online product catalog, whether visitors can make purchases or not, allows them to spend more time browsing your site, which not only increases the chances of making a sale, but the average amount of time spent on your site is also factored into your overall ranking.
2) Product Discovery
Product catalogs and descriptions allow visitors the freedom to browse and find the materials they need without having to go through the hassle of contacting your customer service dept.
The days of B2B customers starting their research via paper catalogs and talking to sales representatives are dying. In fact, according to Forrester research, 69% of B2B companies currently selling direct to business partners online expect to stop publishing their print catalogs altogether within the next five years. In addition, the study finds that nearly one-half of today's B2B customers are now “starting” their product research process online.
No one wants to have to make a phone call if they don't have to. The old way of ordering involves trying to communicate what you need to a sales person, leaving the margin for error wide open due to human error and miscommunication.
Buyers of any product, whether it is for distribution, wholesale, or retail, have become more and more accustomed to the "Amazon" experience of purchasing items online. In the past, complex B2B methods and product configurations have restricted what could be made available for purchase online. However, with the changing landscape of technology and the advancement of platforms that can handle these complicated transactions and product configurations, that time has passed.
B2B customers who turn to the internet to help them make buying decisions are estimated to increase rapidly as more and more companies embrace the change.
If you do not offer this option for new customers who want to browse and compare online before making a purchase, you are at a severe disadvantage and are much less likely to close that visitor into a customer.
3) Customer Experience
If a visitor to your site finds the materials they need, at the price they want, and the buying process is convenient for them, they are much more likely to keep coming back as loyal customers.
B2B companies that have well-developed online and mobile strategies will be far better positioned to take advantage of the high profitability associated with meeting the growing needs of B2B customers, and capturing new business in the future.
B2B customers are demanding tools and technologies capable of serving them on their own terms - and are less likely to purchase from a company that does not provide these options. If you don't offer these options, your customers will find someone who does.
Having an e-commerce platform for your business builds credibility in your brand, positions you as an enterprise level player, and gives potential customers the confidence they need to make purchases from you.
Consumers want to do business with well established, reputable companies, who they know will be able to take care of their needs quickly, accurately, and without costly mistakes.
5) Closing the Sale
E-commerce and online customer service portals eliminate hurdles that make it difficult for interested individuals to convert into customers.
Picture this - amongst all the alternatives that exist, a prospective customer has found his or her way to you. You offer the product they need at a price they are willing to pay. You may assume the sale is yours at this point, but you would be mistaken.
A frustrating buying experience can turn people off, and cause you to lose many potential customers as a result. A seamless buying experience is crucial to closing the sale and bringing in new customers you may otherwise have missed out on. Your customer service reps were busy, it was outside of regular business hours, reps didn’t have all of the necessary information on hand, or there were other obstacles that made it difficult for them to complete a purchase.
A majority of B2B companies across the board indicate that today's customers want new and better self-service tools in order to research, buy, and get customer service. When they don't get it, they move on and look for their materials elsewhere. This idea is not new.
One of the most well-known sales mantras, iterated time and time again, is - "Make it easy for them to buy." The progression of ease and instant gratification has spilled over into almost all aspects of consumerism, and B2B transactions are no longer the exception.