As part of natural evolution, millennials are increasingly occupying decision-making positions in b2b procurement departments. With recent research indicating that around 70% of millennials prefer to do their personal shopping online rather than in the high street, this new breed of corporate buyer brings a different set of values, preferences and customer experience expectations to the b2b purchasing arena.
Because millennials working in b2b procurement favour self-service online research and ordering for business products, the pressure is on sellers to open up and optimise an eCommerce channel. While there is a lot to be learned from the way b2c businesses sell to younger people online, we often see b2b companies trying to replicate this consumer-style experience in their business eCommerce platforms.
In prioritising the core b2c principles that characterise consumer eCommerce, these companies often forget to address the complexities involved in b2b online selling. And all the good things they’ve incorporated from the b2c world are lost because they’ve failed to address critical b2b buyer requirements. Here are a few areas that are worth some attention…
First, you need to be clear about the kind of browsing experience you want to deliver. Slick consumer sites will often bombard visitors with product recommendations, and up-sell and cross-sell promotions using rich media content to engage and persuade. This kind of experience can be a major distraction for b2b buyers who want a simple, streamlined browsing experience so they can complete their purchases as quickly and smoothly as possible – and tick off another job on their ‘to-do’ list. Business-to-business buyers don’t want to jump through hoops – they’re looking for sites to make their job as easy as possible.
Get personal with pricing
Then there’s the issue of payment options. With B2C sites, adding in any complexity to the sales process can result in lower conversion rates. That’s why most B2C sites shy away from forcing customers to set up accounts, instead offering the option to check out as a guest using a credit card. We’ve seen many b2b sellers go down the same route, encouraging buyers to pay by card rather than set up an account. But in our opinion, these sellers are missing an opportunity.
Nearly half of b2b purchases are made on credit terms, and with the longer sales cycles of b2b products, higher transaction values and longer-term business relationships, b2b customers are generally prepared to go through an initial account set-up process in order to benefit from streamlined service in the future. What’s more, where b2b eCommerce platforms are integrated with business and accounting systems such as Sage and Pegasus, customers are also able to benefit from account-specific pricing, special terms and targeted promotions.
Knowledgeable customer support
Customer support requirements for b2b eCommerce also vary significantly from B2C sites. Consumer support teams tend to be set up to deal with a high volume of low-tech calls, whereas b2b support services have to deal with fewer but more complex enquiries that require more detailed responses. This means that b2b teams need to have a good knowledge of the company’s products, specifications and technical details – or at least have immediate access to someone who can answer the customer’s query. Indeed, it may be that members of the sales team are better qualified to answer b2b customer questions.
By the same token, the content that needs to be created for a b2b website generally needs to be more in-depth, informative and professional to support credibility and trust in the business or brand. Consumer sites, by contrast, tend to opt for lighter-weight content, simpler blogs and catchy sound-bites.
Look to the longer-term
Building longer-term business relationships with customers is more of a priority for b2b sellers. While the focus for many B2C sites is on transaction volume and getting every potential buyer through the checkout, customer retention and repeat orders are essential for b2b sellers in order to support longer sales cycles and optimise customer lifetime value. For this reason, user experience strategies and customer service best practices for b2b eCommerce usually revolve around supporting a higher level of customer interaction and communication.