Let’s be honest. If you’re in the business of business you will never really get away from challenges to your everyday life. Around each corner and bend, there is always a new ‘lesson’ awaiting you. Regardless of whether you run a brick and mortar store, a B2C online store or a B2B online store. Each and every one of these comes with its own set of difficulties and challenges.
For the sake of this blog, we will not overload you with ‘bad news’ on all fronts, only those of the B2B E-Commerce industry. No, we’re only kidding, knowing which challenges await you is actually not bad news. It’s great news! Knowing what awaits you and what you need to prepare for will give you a massive leg up.
Whether you’re still deciding to open up a B2B E-Commerce store, if you’re looking to expand from your existing B2C E-Commerce store or if you want to improve on your current B2B online offering – then this blog is going to help you.
Deciding on The Most Suitable Technology
Choosing the right technology is tricky, especially when you’re not an expert in the tech field. We get it, you do what you do well, and tech probably isn’t that. Allow us to help outline the reasons why selecting the correct technology is so vital for the success of your B2B business and how you can best go about doing that.
Choosing the correct technology allows you to offer your online visitors an enjoyable user experience. This is the most important thing when it comes to an online business. The next most important thing is the order section of your website. The order process needs to run as smoothly as possible. B2B is often recurring and large in volume, so ensuring an easy ‘add to cart’ and ‘checkout’ process is crucial.
You also need to be sure of the fact that you have a great inventory management system. This needs to be able to keep accurate stock of what is going out, what has been received, any and all returns etc.
Another important part to check when choosing which technology to use is whether multiple users / employees of your company are able to access certain information. Employees working in the warehouse need to be able to easily access all inventory systems. Employees working in customer service need to be able to access all shipment information and shipment tracking.
Technologies also have to work together. If you select a certain technology or app for one area of your business, e.g., inventory management. You need to ensure that it is compatible with the systems you have in place for order tracking, for example.
Ensure Great Customer Relationship with your B2B Market
It’s a tad bit difficult to maintain good relationships with customers when you’re in a virtual world. Sure, you can send them a friendly email every so often and give them a ring once in a while, but it’s tricky to keep oversight.
This means that you need to really deliver where it matters, which is really in every interaction they have with you. B2B buyers will regularly be with you much longer than a once off / or once in a while B2C. Their long-term support should mean something to you, and you should nurture it. There is a study that says that 84% of B2B buyers would prefer to buy from a supplier that they have an existing and great relationship with than with a competitor who might offer lower prices, but isn’t as reliable.
So show up where it matters. Offer:
- A seamless user experience
- Reliable delivery
- Bulk discounts
- Stellar customer service
- Great communication
Yes to Data Safety
This is massively important for any online business. It can be the make or break to the success of a company. If your clients do not trust that you keep their information safe or if you have experienced a leak before, you need to be on the forefront of innovation when it comes to the cybersecurity you choose.
It’s especially apparent in B2B buyer interactions. The reason for this is that businesses who buy from you often do not want to have to fill in their details afresh every time they place an order with you. They either want it to be a standard recurring shipment that they receive from you without them needing to contact you. Or they want it to be a quick process of simply logging into their account on your website and clicking ‘order now’ and that’s it.
What this means is that you will naturally be storing a lot of their information. Their names, addresses, payment details, order history, order frequency, etc.
You need to get some serious cybersecurity in place. This is both with technology, so through a rigorous security system, but also human wise. You need to train your staff on how to handle private information carefully. Say you have someone working in client support, and they receive an email that looks a bit like this:
Subject: Order BC23448
Hi there, I just placed this order. Could you please actually send it to a different address for me.
The address should be:
1 Simon Street
Thanks and let me know once done.
Now, someone who has not been trained in data privacy might jump at the opportunity to help a customer. But they would be wrong. The client would first need to pass certain steps before this request can be actioned. They would need to confirm the original delivery address, they would need to confirm the billing address, or they would sometimes even need to cancel the order on their end and re-order.
It goes without saying that as a business that stores a lot of private information, you’d need to make constant updates to your security system, have a password authentication system and stay up to date with local consumer privacy laws.
Visibility and Marketing
As a business that needs to market to other businesses, you certainly have your work cut out for you.
There are a variety of digital marketing tools / opportunities available to you and your B2B E-Commerce store. It’s a bit more tricky to market to your B2B buyers, as opposed to a typical B2C consumer, as there are simply less of them. It is with this in mind that you need to ensure you are marketing to the right buyers. Identifying your audience in terms of your target market is a crucial step toward the overall success of your business.
Sure, you want to get out there as much as possible to increase your visibility, but what does it help if you’re being shown around but not seen by the people who can actually buy from you as businesses? It doesn’t help. So identify that target market and then get in front of them.
Means of ‘getting in front of them’ would be the marketing part. There are different ways that you can market to your audience. Below are some avenues you might want to explore:
- Social Media
- Through Industry Events
- Email Campaigns
- Collaborations with other brands
- Work with your E-Commerce provider
(places like Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Magento all like to highlight their success stories in the form of blogs on their page etc. so get on those too!)
Competitive Pricing and Inventory Management
When you are operating with B2B buyers, chances are that the orders are pretty substantial. We cannot tell how to price your products. You know more about the cost of sales to each of your items, you know how long it took to manufacture and how many hours of an employee's time (and your money) went into each piece. We cannot say what your competitive pricing should look like, we’re not your financial advisors. However, we can say that you need to convey this pricing in an appetizing manner on your website.
This could mean that you show prices on your website with a line through them to indicate that the buyer is receiving the goods at a discounted price. You could offer some form of reduced price when they pop more than 3 items that reach a certain value in their basket. These are all clever tech things that we can incorporate into your website to make it more enjoyable and exciting for buyers to use.
Another thing that you yourself can do is add some good copy. If your product is of higher quality, then charge more, but make sure that you mention this higher quality on your online store. Write a little ‘Why our products are sustainable’ blurb or ‘We source only the finest ingredients’ at the top of your products page. That is the whole point behind a website, to make sales yes, but also to communicate why and how you do what you do to your buyers.
Returns & Payments
When it comes to refunds, you need to be sure that you have a strict policy around this. If you have made a very large shipment of goods, and they are returned, you must have a system in place that can process this.
Your inventory management system must be as seamless as possible. This will reduce the costs involved in logging each item back on the shelf that you thought was sold.
Furthermore, you need to have a financial system in place that can then process the awaiting refund. It is important that your clients receive speedy turnaround when it comes to refunds, or that you have an accounting system linked that notes the credit they can now keep with you to use in the future.
Complex B2B Buying Process
The B2B buying process is much longer than the one of a B2C customer. When a normal customer shops online, they’re not looking for a bulk discount, or they do not need to consult a team full of advisors before buying a pair of sneakers. No, they see something they like, add it to their cart, pay more for ‘next day’ delivery, and then they’re off to dinner in their new shoes.
Now, when it comes to the B2B buying process, there are a lot of factors that you need to consider when designing / creating your online store. Some of these are:
- Does my store suit the needs of each of my buyers? Can I fulfill each of their specific terms of purchase?
- Can this website handle my extensive list of products?
- Can I subdivide certain products as they are in different ranges?
- How do I set up bulk orders that can be easily and automatically processed to my warehouse team?
- How do I only show certain products to certain countries as some of my items cannot be shipped to the USA if I am in the UK as my products are too fragile?
- How can buyers have their own employee logins to my store that shows them their order history and allows them to track their most recent order?
This is how we can help you
It’s not so easy to set all this up. In our humble opinion, the best option when creating an online store for B2B buyers is with a headless approach.
This means that we will be able to custom build your store for you. It will operate and function just as you need to. You will be able to have a smart, almost intuitive website that appropriately caters to each of your buyers needs.
What’s more is that platforms like Shopify, for example, are starting to support the headless approach, with their very own tech stack called Hydrogen & Oxygen.
Or we can build a unique headless website for you! It’s what we specialize in. We worked with an amazing art supplier called PGM who approached us with an outdated website that could not be expanded to a B2B shop. We solved this for them without a hitch, and introduced a website to them that ticked all their boxes and more. If you would like to know more about what we did for PGM, why not take a look at our case study on them here:
It’s important to note that offering a stellar digital experience to your B2B buyers will not be easy. There are so many more things that you need to consider than simply selling to B2C customers. Not because B2B buyers are more difficult, but because they have more hanging on the line with every one of their very large purchases.
All you need to do is make sure that whenever they touch your online store that everything works as seamlessly as possible. We can help you with that! Why not pop us an email with your current online store, we will take a look at it, and then we can chat about how to make some improvements for you. You can email us on email@example.com or contact us via our website.
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Natalie MillerMarketing Manager
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Learn more about Shopify & Headless?
Take a look at our Guide to Headless Shopify and see, how to leverage the approach to gain freedom and take your e-commerce approach to the next level.