When b2b eCommerce should stay clear of B2C practices

Research shows that nearly 70% of millennials prefer buying online to bricks and mortar shopping. So it’s hardly surprising that as millenials increasingly find themselves in purchase decision-making positions within b2b companies, their preferences and expectations for the digital experience are impacting on the actions of sellers.

At the same time, there is pressure on b2b suppliers to move sales and customer services processes online. Many of these companies are subsequently basing the functionality of their b2b eCommerce platform on B2C websites. But by concentrating on consumer priorities, b2b sellers risk overlooking the more intricate nature of the business purchase. When you commission your b2b eCommerce platform, make sure you focus on delivering an outstanding b2b customer experience. Here are some of the factors you need to consider…

Firstly, a lot of B2C sites are based around creating an ‘Amazon-like’ experience, where visitors have the opportunity to engage with large quantities of content, such as alternative product suggestions and cross- or up-sell promotions, as well be entertained by material that supports brand positioning. However, this is not necessarily a browsing experience that will appeal to b2b customers. In our experience, business-to-business buyers are looking for the fastest and smoothest way to make their purchase and get the job done, so they can move on to the next item on their ‘to-do’ list. Anything you can do to help will be well received.

Secondly, there’s the issue of creating a customer account and payment options. In B2C eCommerce, customers usually have the option to avoid the time-consuming, sales prevention process of account creation – they can check out as a guest if they choose to. Any added complexity in the B2C buying process can result in lost sales, which has prompted some b2b sellers to forego the account set-up stage and encourage payment by credit card. But we often see how this approach can lead to lost opportunities and disengaged customers.

Business-to-business purchases are normally made on account, and business customers are more relaxed about account application processes – products tend to be higher value, sales cycles are longer and relationships more long-term. Establishing an account-based relationship with your customers enables them to buy on account, and if your eCommerce platform is integrated with a business and accounting system such as Sage or Pegasus, they can benefit from a more personalised buying experience with customised pricing, discounts and promotions.

All this supports the longevity of b2b customer relationships, and reinforces the fact that unlike B2C, (where the focus is on one-off purchases), for most b2b companies customer repeat purchase and retention are high priority and critical to optimising lifetime value. Building this kind of b2b customer relationship usually involves a greater level of customer support and interaction than for B2C purchases, especially for more expensive or complex products, so your b2b platform needs to be capable of delivering such a user experience.

In the b2b environment, there’s usually a lower volume of enquiries, but they tend to be more complex to address, and here’s much more focus on providing a personal experience. Customer service teams need to have in-depth, detailed product knowledge and a good understanding of how products fit into a customer’s business systems and process. At the pre-order stage, it might be advisable for enquiries to be answered by the sales team rather than a customer support representative.

Finally, it’s worth reviewing your site’s content strategy to check that it’s geared to business customers. Business-to-consumer sites prefer to use short sound bites and simple, easily digestible copy, often prioritising entertainment value over substance. Business buyers want to see detailed product information, in-depth specifications, industry comment and advice on best practice. Such information helps customers make more informed purchase decisions – and it helps your business create a knowledgeable, professional and trustworthy image.