7 Features Driving the Best B2B eCommerce Experience
by Kris Harrington
A significant area of concern when redesigning or creating a B2B eCommerce site is establishing which features are necessary to provide an intuitive buying experience. As a result of selling and purchasing online becoming widely adopted by businesses, B2B buyers have become more demanding. According to research cited by DigitalCommerce 360, in a sample of 700 B2B sellers, 84% of respondents stated that increasing eCommerce expectations by customers is their biggest external threat. To remain competitive, B2B sellers will need to successfully address the needs of B2B buyers. Whether upgrading an existing B2B eCommerce offering or starting from scratch, verifying the platform can support the following features should be paramount.
Responsive Web Design
The primary goal of responsive web design is to allow web content to render differently depending on a user’s device or screen size. The benefit is that users can load a website with no distortions and be able to consume its content regardless of the device.This creates a positive mobile experience for users–which increases repurchase rates and builds customer loyalty.
“More than 90% of B2B buyers reporting a superior mobile experience say they are likely to buy again from the same vendor compared with only about 50% of those reporting a poor mobile experience.”
– Google & The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
Another benefit to responsive web design is that as of 2015, Google takes into consideration the responsiveness of a website in determining its ranking within its mobile search results. This additional SEO search engine optimization tactic provides better brand visibility while also creating a positive user experience.
Requiring customer registration is crucial for B2B eCommerce because it allows sellers to verify that a buyer is indeed a business. Doing so has the added benefit of providing the order history such as invoices and purchase orders via buyers accounts. This information is useful to both buyer and seller in the event that there’s a problem with an order or its details need to be viewed. Restrictions which deny access to elements such as pricing and checkout can be provided for non-registered users. This allows anyone to view a site, but only approved users to take appropriate actions.
User Friendly Product Searching
Equipment manufacturers will benefit the most by offering a user friendly search functionality due to the complexity of their product offerings. The ability to narrow search results by part numbers is essential for any buyer utilizing a manufacturer’s eCommerce site. Buyer uncertainty should be avoided to the best of a seller’s ability throughout the entirety of the purchasing process. If a buyer is unsure whether they are purchasing the correct product, the seller will likely be required to dedicate more resources to customer support. This is an inefficient use of resources that can easily be avoided by investing in a platform that supports this functionality. For customers that don’t know the exact name of a product, it’s crucial to provide them with search suggestions. Any product containing a search term should be displayed, preferably in an organized manner (i.e. categories, department, etc.). Too many results, however, will only negate the benefits of providing suggestions—displaying the most relevant suggestions first should be a primary strategy. Facets and filters are another useful feature to implement within search fields. By allowing users to narrow search results by product-specific attributes, finding the correct product is much easier. This also provides a valuable opportunity to upsell by suggesting products that meet search criteria. Integrations such as Google Analytics and Google Keyword should be taken advantage of because they enable sellers to identify popular products and organize displayed search results accordingly.
Quick Ordering and Reordering
Bulk buyers tend to be repeat customers who place orders periodically as needed. To allow these buyers to repeat the same purchase as needed, there are several methods that can be utilized. A reorder button is useful functionality for customers who generally place the same orders on a scheduled basis. The ability to edit the order should be part of this functionality, such as removing SKUs or editing order quantities. This functionality allows customers to spend less time searching for what they already know they need. A quick order screen can also be a useful tool because customers that know their SKUs and quantities can quickly add items to their cart. Both reorder and quick order are valuable because they save customers time.
Bulk Order Options & Discounts
Bulk order options are an effective strategy for B2B eCommerce stores that deal in large quantities. B2B order quantities are typically on the larger side compared to B2C purchases, but not all products can or should be sold in bulk quantities. Minimum order quantities will assure that inventory is moved more quickly while weeding out any bargain shoppers. There should likely be a difference in minimum order quantities depending on the type of product. This is something that should be tested based on long term customers, impact on revenue, and average order value. There are certainly other criteria to be considered, but this is a good starting point to determine what strategy works best.
On the other hand, bulk order discounts are a great way to remain competitive and build customer loyalty. Essentially, by offering bulk order discounts, a seller is leveraging a decrease in revenue for the potential to create return buyers. While proven to be effective, bulk ordering discounts present additional risk that sellers should be aware of. By offering a discount for large orders, products are sold in a higher volume and more frequently—this allows sellers to make room for new and updated products. If a customer was originally going to order a batch of 20, but the seller provides a discount for a batch of 30, the likelihood of them ordering 30 becomes higher. This too will require some testing in order to determine what provides the most ideal return on investment (ROI) while still influencing the customer enough to buy in on the savings. This is a relatively standard practice that can expedite product turnover.
Real-Time Inventory Updates
Inventory management is a crucial feature in B2B eCommerce, yet it is often overlooked. Not only does this keep buyers happy, but it allows sellers to remain competitive and successful. Dependability is paramount when dealing with B2B eCommerce, customers need to know that they can rely on a seller to have what they need when they place an order. Providing accurate inventory levels is integral to this functionality. The customer needs to be able to trust what they are seeing. In the event that a customer places an order for X but the seller doesn’t have X in stock, the buyer will feel misled. Real-time inventory solutions assure sellers that they are providing customers with the most accurate inventory information possible. This functionality also provides valuable analytics for sellers as to what items need to be replaced or replenished more frequently. Both the buyer and the seller should feel confident about inventory management to maintain a successful relationship.
User Role Permissions
User role permissions are an effective way for buyers to maintain an efficient supply chain. This functionality allows customers with multiple buyers or a layered organizational structure to interface with a B2B eCommerce site. Maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) user types benefit the most from the designation of roles because there are typically multiple people involved who all work for the same customer. Permissions grant only specific user types the ability to carry out actions on a sellers B2B eCommerce site. The functionality of user role permissions can potentially mitigate the complexity of their tasks while completing the same goal. Offering this functionality to customers is a valuable way to provide a solution that not all B2B eCommerce sites offer.
All of these features play a large role in the economy of B2B eCommerce. As a starting point, sellers should examine their sales models to determine which features they would benefit the most from. An effective first phase will provide a solid foundation to implement further features to drive the customer experience, and remaining flexible enough to deliver a consistently positive user experience is crucial. Regardless, a B2B eCommerce offering is only as effective as its provider, and before any action is taken, sellers should ensure that their eCommerce platform and development team can facilitate these implementations.