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[Updated] Personalized eCommerce: How to Identify and Satisfy Customer Needs in 2021-2022

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Originally published January 24, 2017, updated September 9, 2021

Personalization is the automatic tailoring of sites and messages to the individuals viewing them so that we can feel that somewhere there’s a piece of software that loves us for who we are. – David Weinberger

We have entered the age of the personalized web. Consumers want to be treated like unique, complex human beings, not just another IP address or faceless, clicking bot. And B2B buyers are no exception. According to Salesforce, 72% of customers demand personalization. Accustomed to personalization perks during their B2C online shopping experiences, they expect the same from their B2B websites. This point is especially true for self-service B2B eCommerce sites.

Let’s discuss a bit of context here. At Oro, we categorize B2B eCommerce businesses into three distinctly different models by the type of interaction with their buyers:

  1. Self-service B2B eCommerce businesses: Where a purchase can happen without any interaction with a representative of the company.
  2. Businesses with buyer-seller interaction: It’s a traditional B2B model, where purchases occur via negotiations with sales reps of the company.
  3. Marketplaces: Allowing third-party vendors to sell and advertise their products and handle transactions on their end.

These three models are very different in terms of operation and client acquisition, and in this article, we highlight personalization tips most applicable to self-service B2B eCommerce businesses.

How is B2C Different from B2B eCommerce Personalization?

All businesses are intrinsically different. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to handling the needs of each eCommerce site. When it comes to B2B versus B2C, we see that one of the most glaringly apparent differences is the make-up of the customer.

A B2C customer purchases with their heart, not necessarily with their heads. Their online shopping can often be quick, one-off buys requiring little need for follow-up. They will respond to targeted marketing that speaks to their persona while they are in the intention phase of their purchase.

But the B2B customer is a different entity entirely. There are often multiple individuals involved in the buying process. Their buying decisions are logical as they tick off their checklist of needs. Often, there is a hierarchy composed of stakeholders and decision-makers. Moreover, each department may have a buyer representative. Hence, the sales department may shop for different products relative to accounting or HR. And, there is little emotion – it’s a challenging, cold, wise, and careful buying decision. This is not the realm of an impulse buy. These customers require a buying process that feels secure and informed. 

They don’t need a site full of flashy bells and whistles. They look for information that talks to their needs and stand-out customer service in the shortest time frame possible. They need to know you can solve their problems. Another point worth mentioning: a B2B customer might take longer to convert. Handle the client right and you will be rewarded with large orders over a longer period.

What Exactly Can You Personalize in B2B Retail?

A Gartner study revealed that while B2C customers appreciate helpful information, B2B customers are overwhelmed and crunched for time. Thus, they are particularly receptive to information that is both helpful and actionable. It is vital to embrace the B2B personalization process if you wish to stay ahead of the competition.

So what does B2B retail personalization consist of?

Offer informational assets

You want to give the prospect valuable, insightful information relevant to them. This can take the form of: 

  • explainer videos that deconstruct your concept in easy to understand terms; 
  • spec sheets that show vital stats and raw numbers that the customer is seeking;
  • eBooks or whitepapers that outline the solutions to your buyer’s problems;
  • demos, webinars, and tutorials to demonstrate the capabilities of your product.

Optimize your website

These days, most people have a relationship with B2C eCommerce sites. So B2B customers will want a little bit of the customer-friendly functionality of a B2C site. Perhaps it’s time to include a landing page offering promotions, an excellent site search engine, and different navigation options. 

The saved shopping cart and wishlist options are a normal function that users have a strong relationship with online. You want to improve the personalized content for customers arriving at your site, so they feel their ongoing relationship with you has been recognized. It needs to look a little more like a B2C site but tailored to the needs of a B2B client.

Add a quick repeat functionality

B2B customers usually know precisely what they want and will order again. Make their repeat purchase even more accessible with an order feature that allows the buyer to request the same set of items repeatedly.

Enable corporate accounts

For B2B purchases, there is often a team of decision-makers involved. The best approach is to set up multiple user role functionalities within the same account to simplify the buying process for everyone involved. Remember, B2B customers also frequently require complete invoice histories, credit status, and inventory levels in real-time.

Offer personalized pricing and products

We are all familiar with sites offering product recommendations based on our buying and search history. B2B eCommerce could adopt this practice to drive further sales for cross-selling or upselling opportunities.

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Streamline your checkout process

The B2B checkout process is way more complicated than B2C. For example, you should consider that different people (roles) in the company could be compiling and paying for the orders. So it would help if you made sure that shopping carts can either be easily shared or submitted for review to another customer role in your system.

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Create a coherent user experience

If customers can access your shopping list on the B2B eCommerce site, they expect to see the same information on your mobile device.

Segment and incentivize

Use the information gathered on customers, such as their click activities, personal interests, geographic location, buying and browsing history, etc, to deliver personalized marketing content. Perhaps use customized landing pages to convey relevant benefits depending on the customer persona and product requirements.This will capture their attention with your specific incentives to purchase the product.

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Lastly, don’t stop improving

Experts estimate that B2B eCommerce is multiple times the size of B2C eCommerce, and personalization is one of the critical competitive advantages in this burgeoning market. This industry is changing fast, and B2B eCommerce sites will have to work hard to keep up with the pace. And eCommerce personalization is how you get closer to customers. But how do you do that? 

You need to constantly monitor the efficacy of all of your B2B personalization efforts, including your website, marketing strategies, and product offering. Your customers are not 100,000 faceless names, they are specialist users, and your offering has to include the flexibility to meet their varied needs. The goal is to ultimately match your value proposition to their buying intention to turn leads into conversions.

Personalized eCommerce: How to Satisfy Customers By Focusing on Their Needs

Unlike in B2C, there is an additional layer of complexity to the B2B client connection. In fact, B2B customers’ expectations, preferences, and habits are directly connected to an organization’s requirements.

Frequently, employees transfer their private sector B2C buying expertise to their B2B company positions. Thus, B2B eCommerce must keep up with their consumer-facing counterparts. These two primary points, those of the employees and those of the company, must be addressed simultaneously. 

Invariably, many businesses recognize the need to meet consumer expectations to stay competitive. Delivering superior customer service results in increased revenue and other advantages. But how can you address the customer’s needs and leave them satisfied?

Consider customer experience management to start

Customer experience management (CXM) is a term that refers to the way a customer interacts with a company through a variety of touchpoints, including online and in-person encounters. The eCommerce customer experience refers to the digital experience that an organization provides to a consumer. 

Through strategic optimization, orchestration, and actions that influence their behavior, the objective is to lead consumers through the buying process. Therefore, it would be beneficial to analyze what consumers do at each stage of the purchasing process, from how they research to the level of assistance and customized information they need, all the way to discovering more relevant items to purchase.

Shoppers now possess the necessary skills and technology to demand a personalized experience that enables them to confidently purchase a product, locate it, and complete their transaction quickly and effectively.

Undoubtedly, we are in the era of the customer, and companies that want to survive for the long haul must place a greater focus on consumer needs. This, along with other research, shows that when consumers have a positive digital experience, their expectations increase significantly. Further, the right B2B eCommerce customer experience is essential to a business’s ability to survive disruptions, as we’ve seen with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Prioritize efficiency

Nowadays, we take it for granted that everything we buy will arrive on time—next-day delivery in real-time, and on the spot. As a result, B2B customers place a premium on customer journeys since they demand prompt, efficient service. When customers are required to wait longer in the buying process, they have a tendency to dislike the experience. It goes without saying that in the digital age, customer expectations are at an all-time high.

How can you quickly meet B2B customer demands? Start by configuring your eCommerce site so that it’s available 24/7, provide prompt customer service, and include cutting-edge technology such as voice commerce and progressive web applications (PWAs). Progressive Web Applications are usually more lightweight and simpler to use than mobile applications, which may need highly detailed installations.

Improve customer retention

If a business has already chosen to deal with you, then they are probably waiting for your B2B eCommerce operation to exceed their expectations. Demands will continue to evolve, and your eCommerce strategy must be sufficiently flexible to account for these changes.

How can you make the necessary changes now? Before anything else, determine which elements of your service and experience your customers want to see improved. Thus, you can then meet their criteria.

Double down on the omnichannel

According to Forrester Research, consumers who make all of their purchases online spend 5% more than those who make their purchases offline. When customers interact with all of your organization’s channels, you achieve a cumulative impact. If you can succeed in every channel, you’ll establish yourself as a chosen vendor and grow your name and customer base. 

What is the right approach for doubling down on the omnichannel? To execute an omnichannel strategy successfully, you must first analyze your consumers’ behavior and then adapt your processes accordingly. Find answers to questions such as “How does the customer think?” and “How does that manifest itself in their shopping behavior?” Before making a purchase decision, a typical B2B client follows a procedure tied to their company’s objectives. 

Thus, it’s critical to maintain consistency around the content, appearance, and feel of all your media. In addition, providing an omnichannel buying experience throughout the customer journey is one way to earn customers’ trust. Indeed, it’s an effective method to increase consumer loyalty over time.

Emphasize personalization

According to Epsilon, 80% of customers are more likely to buy from sites that offer personalized shopping experiences. When personalized contact is used, your business appears more accessible. Whether it’s a personalized email, a custom-designed website, or a one-on-one chat on your eCommerce site, being personable in today’s B2B market is critical. Customers are more inclined to transact with you if you send them a personalized message that expresses gratitude. Check out these other examples for enhancing personalization: 

  • Learn how and where to earn your consumers’ trust before they make a purchase. Because the buying procedure in B2B transactions may be complicated, assisting your client with ordering can help you make a favorable impression.
  • “Product suggestions” are beneficial in B2B eCommerce since they offer much more value. Help your clients make the right decision for their company with product displays comparing the facts about your products and services.
  • Create a catalog unique to each client: Each customer receives an offer tailored to their preferences and buying history. Depending on the consumer’s agreement, several lists may display when they are presented with offers.

Some Final Thoughts…

Customers in the B2B sector are getting increasingly demanding. Marketers used to reach out to B2B companies to sign contacts, but this is rare today. Indeed, leave the option on the table. Still, note that most company owners prefer a modern B2B eCommerce experience. At the same time, don’t stop at self-service. Work on developing proactive and trustworthy customer connections. Further, implement a customer-centric strategy to improve client loyalty and satisfaction. That is the only way to increase sales and generate more revenue.

Question and Answers

What is B2B eCommerce personalization?

Personalization B2B eCommerce strategies includes offering customized experiences, depending on user behavior, past purchases, demographics, and other personal data. In addition, Personalization in B2B eCommerce is becoming more essential to retailers who want to focus on engaging consumers and boost sales. There are many tactics, from personalized emails to cart abandonment reminders and even customized product pages based on each B2B customer’s preferences.

What are some effective B2B eCommerce approaches for customer personalization?

Every personalization strategy should be customer-driven. Ask how your shoppers would design their buying experience and journey. Customize as many interaction points as possible from landing pages to site search and product recommendations. Other areas to optimize for personalization include offering location-based services, customer portals, and inspiring content.

How can I improve B2B customer retention?

Treat every one of your B2B customers as so valuable you don’t want to lose them. The first step is to map out your strategy for increasing customer loyalty and engagement. How can you get your shoppers to come back for more? What areas of your eCommerce site can benefit from quicker processes and more streamlined navigation? 

Also, take time to understand your B2B customers. Why? The primary goal is to ensure you can exceed their expectations. However, you can only surpass their demands if you know what they are. Last but certainly not least, interact with your customers on their terms by providing an omnichannel experience. Let your customers decide where and how they shop with you.

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