Looking to make the leap into eCommerce? Many B2B companies like yours are jumping into the digital commerce market because their customers are asking for it, the technology is attainable and, frankly, the competition is already there. With researchers projecting that B2B eCommerce sales in the U.S. alone will reach $1 trillion by 2020, B2Bs don’t want to miss this profitable sales channel opportunity.
Unfortunately, some businesses are launching their eCommerce sites before coming up with a solid strategy – one that outlines business requirements, measurable goals and a multi-faceted marketing plan. As a result, companies can make some major mistakes – some that can bring their e-business to a screeching halt. If you want a chance at eCommerce success, be sure you don’t follow these failed moves:
Way to fail #1: Create a makeshift eCommerce solution
Commerce platforms are not made to be universal, so don’t think you can buy just any eCommerce software and tack it onto your current backend systems. You need a platform made specifically for your type of business that offers features like customer-specific pricing, easy payment options and punch-out capabilities.
The platform must also be able to integrate and communicate with your ERP system if you want to see consistent, up-to-date information related to products, including product specs, digital assets, inventory and more. The best way to make this happen is by having a dedicated product information management (PIM) solution. A PIM acts as a data management system to provide one reliable place to manage, house and share all your product data and content.
Before reaching out to eCommerce providers, meet with your IT, sales and product teams to determine your system requirements and limitations. The software platform is the cornerstone of your eCommerce. Without the proper platform and systems in place, you can expect mounting negative effects such as inefficiency, additional costs and customer frustration.
Way to fail #2: Provide bare bones content
Manufacturers may provide you with information about their products, but have you ever really looked at it to see how helpful it actually is for customers? Just because the manufacturer provides the data doesn’t mean it’s the best or most relevant information for that product. Unfortunately, most distributors tend to use only this basic information on their site, so customers are forced to either call customer service or try a different supplier’s site to get answers. You never want a potential customer to leave your site because your content lacks the specifications and features needed to make a purchasing decision.
Product content fuels your online sales; when that content features SEO-rich descriptions, tags and links, you have a greater chance of attracting visitors and ranking higher in searches. So go the extra mile and include more value-added information about your products by enriching the descriptions, product bullets and specifications. Provide additional images, product videos and important documents like installation manuals, user guides and MSDS sheets. The benefits to beefed-up content are twofold: customers will recognize you as a valuable resource for product information and Google and other search engines will notice your unique and relevant content and help bring more attention to your site.
Way to fail #3: Avoid interaction
Are you an introvert when it comes to social media? Do you feel it’s just a channel for B2C companies or young people to interact? Well, as we told you in a recent blog, social media is fast becoming a popular marketing channel for B2B companies. The majority of B2B companies actively engage in social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to market their company and products, but many of them are also using social media to help make purchasing decisions. This additional channel allows you to interact with customers, industry organizations and colleagues, and is a great way to promote your products, share industry news and provide an online Q&A. The advantage to social media is you’re in control of your content, and your posts and tweets keep you relevant and connected with people.
In addition to social media, interaction is also critical throughout the stages of the customer lifecycle. Send personalized offers to customers with relevant product promotions to show you know them and their buying habits. Offer 24-hour assistance with a customer portal and online chat so that you can provide answers to their questions any time of day. Then, once a customer makes a purchase, follow up by sending them a customer satisfaction survey to collect important feedback. This continuous level of engagement gives you great insight, and makes for a positive customer experience.
Way to fail #4: Offer a Yugo experience
Just because you have an eCommerce site doesn’t mean people are going to flock to it. If you’re not offering a dynamic experience online, you might as well call it a day. Sites without features like internal search, easy navigation or a responsive design do as much good as the Yugo car did back in the 1980s. Cheaply made, underpowered and undependable, the Yugo was one of the worst vehicles ever made. So why would you want to provide a Yugo-like site for customers? The user experience is everything, so if your site is slow, lacks content or makes it difficult to find products, people will go elsewhere. Don’t underestimate your customers; they are digital-savvy shoppers who know what they want, and you can bet they don’t want to spend a long time searching for products or information.
When it comes to B2B eCommerce, you can’t afford to fail. The stakes are high in this increasingly competitive sales channel, so avoid these costly mistakes by building out a structured strategy that provides goals and initiatives for both the present and the future.