This post was contributed by Stefan Debois, Founder and CEO of Survey Anyplace.
How do other businesses find your website?
How do they decide that you are the one product or service they want to pursue?
How do you ensure that, once on your website, they journey toward a purchase?
It’s one thing encouraging an individual customer to make a purchase. It’s another thing entirely to accomplish the same feat with a business for a customer.
Because those making these decisions within businesses are so, well, busy.
They are probably juggling a myriad of responsibilities at any given time. Also, they need to answer others about their purchases and prove ROIs.
That’s why it’s your responsibility to guide them through the business customer journey. Basically, a business customer journey outlines the various steps it takes for the business to go from the awareness phase to the purchase and evaluation phases.
In all, there are six phases we will cover in this post:
In this post, we will break each of these phases down and share advice and insight into ways to optimize your B2B customer journey in eCommerce.
Optimizing Before the Purchase
As we covered above, there is a lot that goes into the time before businesses settle on a decision and make a purchase. Businesses have so many options when they are looking to buy something, so you need to make sure your strategies for capturing decision makers’ attention are successful in cutting through all the noise.
During this time, you are responsible for creating solid strategies for the awareness, consideration, assessment and preference phases.
This phase is exactly what it sounds like—creating awareness around your products. During the awareness phase your target audience is searching for a solution to a need they have identified. For example, maybe a coffee shop needs a new espresso machine, or a factory needs a new machine.
These business decision makers know they need something, but they have no idea where to go to fulfill this need. Plus, they need to make a decision soon and find a product that produces a solid ROI.
As a business, it is your responsibility to help your audience better understand their needs. For example, maybe they know they need a new espresso machine, but they don’t exactly know what kind of espresso machine or all the capabilities they are seeking.
One way to help guide them through the awareness stage is by creating content. Blog posts that help them understand exactly what they need in detail—focus on being more educational and less promotional—will help them grasp exactly what they are looking for. It will also help your business gain their trust.
Decision-makers are responsible for their business’s budget, so they need to be savvy. They can’t simply go for the first option—or possibly even the first three options—that they see while researching. They need to dig deep, fast.
As a business selling to other businesses, it’s important to remember that they are also privy to the tricks of the trade. So you need to up your game in order to impress them. You must make sure your business cuts through all that noise and finds a way to stand out from other businesses looking to sell similar products.
Content is also helpful here. You can write about how your product differs from others. Be as clear as possible—why are you the best option?
Other tools such as free trials or even just demos provide decision makers with opportunities to dig deep into your offerings and ask detailed questions that will guide them even deeper into the funnel.
The assessment phase is when things get even more competitive. At this point, your buyer has selected a few of the “best” options available, and they are trying to decide which one is going to win. You are no longer with the chumps now, and you need to up your game even more in order to claim victory. But how? A Product Assessment.
Conveniently, a product or a service questionnaire is helpful during the assessment phase of the B2B buyer’s journey. Assessments are an interactive way for you to guide a buyer into fully understanding the benefits you provide with your product. Include questions that lead to personalized responses, so you make sure the buyers can share their specific pain points, and you can show why your product is the best option for alleviation.
For example, if you are selling industrial air conditioning parts you may want to ask questions like – how big is your enterprise? What type of business are you? if the answer is – a manufacturer, check what kind of products you produce… etc. Based on their answers you can provide personalized recommendations to improve their air conditioning and how your business can help with that. This way, you have:
- Proven your value and expertise without overselling
- Acquired a qualified lead and created an accurate picture of their needs, making life easier for your salespeople
After the assessment, offer customized insights with links to your product or service. This is where your B2B eCommerce presence and storefront functions come in. Your content should be relevant to their use case, complete with the right product information such as specifications, industry certifications, and so on.
Your insights, marketing materials, and product content can be centralized in eCommerce. It can all work in harmony to explain why it’s the best product for them, so the rest of the competition can fade away while your product advances to the coveted next step—preference.
Optimizing During the Purchase
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the next step. Your B2B buyer is now looking to make that purchase with your company. So, you can finally relax. Your work is done, right?
You are now in the preference phase, meaning the buyer now needs approval in order to move forward with the selection. We did note above that your buyers need to justify the purchase before it is made. You have the buyer on your side, now you need the superiors on their side. Help them, help you! Here’s how:
The name of the game here is, if it can be personalized, it should be. That means providing customized prices, catalogs, shipping, and payment options, and much more. You want to show the buyer and their superiors that they are not getting a cookie-cutter solution, but every stage of their needs are meticulously addressed.
While personalization is a nice-to-have for a B2C customer, a B2B customer will simply go elsewhere if you don’t support their payment method or invoicing requirements.
So, if you’re a business selling to other businesses, your digital commerce platform must give customers a highly personalized experience.
The next option is to create an interactive tool such as a calculator to help determine pricing – known as a pricing engine. But what is most important is that you come to the table with your research ready. That research should be based on location and customer data.
If the buyer and their superiors feel like they are getting a good deal with pricing and service, then you will finally get to the most coveted phase of all—the purchase.
Cha-ching! You did it! You’ve won them over, and they are now ready to make that purchase of your product.
Even if you think you are done (we still have one more phase after this—you are not finished!), the purchase can still fall through if you are not careful. Make sure you are available to answer any last-minute questions the buyer might have.
Also, make sure your shopping cart and the check-out process are working well at all times. If someone has trouble during check-out, it can scare them out of that purchase—especially if it’s a big purchase.
Optimizing After the Purchase
We know, we know. You made the sale, and you’re probably pretty tired from all of that hard work you just put into your effort. But, you are still not done! Instead, you are in the last phase—evaluation.
Evaluation happens a while after the purchase. During this phase, the buyer decides whether the purchase was beneficial. Of course, your product is top-of-the-line. You, as a business, only sell the best. But the product is only one part of the equation.
That’s because the buyer did not just purchase the product, they bought a relationship with the business. This makes it very instrumental to have your eCommerce and CRM operations in sync, so that all your employees in sales, marketing, and customer support can get instant access to real-time customer data and so provide the best support possible.
You want to do whatever you can as a business to make this one-time buyer a loyal customer.
A few other ways to do that include offering the buyer easy access to an order history so they do not have to search for their product again. Quick order forms are also helpful, so are self-service portals – basically, don’t make the buyer reinvent the wheel to do business with you.
While we might have led you to believe the evaluation phase is the final one, the truth is that if you are succeeding, there will not be an ending to your relationship with a buyer. They will continue coming back for more, and your relationship with them will only grow stronger.
But either way, congratulations! You have guided your B2B buyer through the customer journey of awareness, consideration, assessment, preference, purchase and evaluation. Because of all of your hard work, they know why you are better than the other options and will keep coming back for more.