B2B ecommerce companies probably feel that B2Cs have it easy. Fixed pricing, straightforward product expectations, one size fits all payment options – these are just some of the advantages that B2Cs have. However, B2B ecommerce is expected to hit $780 billion by the end of this year, while B2C reached just $304.9 billion in 2014. So maybe that gravy isn’t so savory.
To help you see the silver lining, we’d like to address 6 of the biggest B2B challenges faced by wholesale ecommerce companies, and provide solutions for turning these B2B challenges to gravy and then to gold!
1. More Complex Path to Purchase
B2C customers see a friend wearing a new pair of shoes, Google that footwear brand, then make a purchase that day. Okay, that’s a gross oversimplification, but when compared to the drawn out B2B eCommerce challenges like the purchase journey, with its extended discovery and validation phases and numerous decision maker touch points, it does seem that basic.
B2B researchers conduct 12 searches before engaging with a specific company’s site and they need more information on product features, benefits and specifications. They may need to understand how your products will fit with other products or equipment they already have. They often need to get multiple quotes to present to other involved parties for approval. As a B2B ecommerce company, your mantra should be “Content, Content, Content.” You should provide as much information about specific products as possible on the product page. You can also house information in a resource or learning center, where you can include FAQs, eBooks, blog posts, white papers and educational or instructional videos.
Creating a responsive site that automatically adjusts to the buyer’s particular device or browser creates a better user experience, regardless of where or how they find you. 42% of B2B buyers use mobile devices for research, so you want to make sure your site is easy to navigate and looks great.
2. Higher and Varying Price Points
B2B products oftentimes cost more than B2C products. B2B businesses also often work with their clients to offer different prices for long-term contracts, bulk orders, first-time purchases and numerous other engagements or promotions. Therefore, listing a single price on the product page and handling payment processing can be difficult. This is one of the most significant B2B eCommerce challenges.
To manage these pricing variations, create predefined rules within your ecommerce platform to determine pricing at various logic levels. Also get yourself set up with a quality CRM system (I think you may have heard of OroCRM!) to allow for pricing based on each unique customer’s contract and relationship.
3. Emergence of Non-Traditional Competitors
You know all the key players in the industry that offer your same brands and products. But the competitive landscape is different online than it is on the shelves. On Google, you’re vying for visibility with the likes of Amazon, eBay, local SMBs, publications, and content aggregators. These companies have powerful domains, churn content out like mad or receive the benefit Google gives to local businesses. For a B2B company just getting into the online space, it’s tough to catch up, not to mention surpass these new era competitors.
The biggest benefit you’ll receive will come from properly optimizing the structure and content of your site. Ensure the right words or phrases–those that are highly searched and relevant to your business–are included in key areas of your site. You must also produce original content of your own, such as the resource or learning center content mentioned previously.
4. Multiple Brands or Product Lines
B2B businesses usually have multiple brands and product lines, all offered under one main brand name. To ensure that visitors can easily find the brand or specific product they are looking for, your ecommerce platform needs to be able to handle numerous SKUs, attributes and data integrations.
Additionally, you need a robust site search engine that allows buyers to filter based on SKUs, sizes, colors, models and every attribute available. SearchSpring is a great option, offering not only advanced search but also in-depth analytics about site search behavior. Seventy-six percent of B2B buyers list Enhanced Search as one of their top three features a website should have, and more than two-thirds of your customers can’t be wrong!
5. Rapid Fulfillment and Delivery
B2B buyers may take a long time to place an order, but they want it as fast as possible. Who doesn’t?! The challenge here often lies in the size of orders; B2B orders are often larger and require freighting services.
You can work with fulfillment and shipping vendors such as Shipperhq or Shiphawk to seamlessly integrate into your ecommerce platform, and provide quality freighting services. You also want to be sure to clearly state terms and pricing for various shipment types and sizes on your site. If the buyer is aware of expected delivery pricing and timing, there will be less headaches if they don’t receive it next day.
6. Payment Terms & Processing
Credit lines and payment plans are often offered to businesses buying large items or bulk orders. A great benefit for them, but a nasty migraine for you if your site isn’t able to handle numerous payment options. Work with a quality company such as Karna to manage payment processing and offer simple and flexible options for your customers.
The average conversion rate for a B2B ecommerce site is 10%, a whole heck of a lot higher than the 3% average for B2C sites. Don’t let a few small B2B eCommerce challenges prevent your company from leveraging the powerful and lucrative resource that is an ecommerce presence.
About the Author
Ryan Shields is the CEO of Indaba Group, a strategic ecommerce agency specializing in enterprise software development, ecommerce platform development, creative services and customer experience management. Connect with Indada on Twitter @indabagroup.