Looking to make your B2B eCommerce site a strong contender in the marketplace? Joe Bennett, SVP of Strategy at Unilog, says it’s possible – if you focus on five critical components. Together, they make your site a valuable resource for buyers and a profitable tool for your business.
Bennett stresses that a website is not a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. With technology and customer expectations always evolving, your site needs continual management and improvement to keep it relevant in the B2B marketplace. These eCommerce must-haves, as Bennett explains, not only make website management more efficient, they also create a better user experience:
When you hear the term “content,” most people think of product content – information related to your products – which includes enriched descriptions, specifications, and digital assets such as product images, specification sheets, and user manuals.
But in addition to product content, there’s another type of content that’s key to your site: marketing content. This content is the text, images, blog posts, news, and even videos on your web pages which are used to promote your business and provide useful information for buyers.
Bennett stresses that content matters; not only to buyers, but also to search engines. The more robust and comprehensive your content is, the better your exposure and ranking will be online. That’s why he suggests having a dedicated team in place to regularly create new content in order to inform readers, build trust, and improve SEO.
Organizations rely on multiple internal systems and third-party applications to run day-to-day operations. Enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence (BI) systems must communicate and integrate with each other, as well as other platforms that make it possible to manage customer accounts and online transactions. But Bennett admits integrations are tough if you don’t utilize the right tools and technology.
To build a true omnichannel business, he recommends working with your eCommerce partner to integrate all your software and systems – from ERP and CRM systems to punchouts and freighting systems. Unilog’s proprietary middleware products and built-in API tool set allow its eCommerce solution, CIMM2, to integrate with nearly every ERP and third-party application out there. Effective system integration keeps the lines of communication open between applications, and creates a faster, more efficient way to do business.
Bennett contends the fundamental premise to on-site search is simple: provide a lot of information on your website so that visitors can ask it questions and find the information they want. On-site search is directly tied to your content, which means the more robust and comprehensive content that’s available, the better the search results.
Search accomplishes four main goals:
- Indexing – Converts online documents into a machine-readable format
- Querying – Understands the terms asked by the user
- Mapping – Maps the user query to the documents stored in the database to find the appropriate result
- Ranking – Once the engine searches the indexed documents, it ranks the outputs based on their relevance
There are many facets to providing relevant search results. First, utilize a sophisticated search tool such as Apache Solr to process, digest, and analyze the data in ways that satisfy different search behaviors. Next, cleanse and normalize the data so that search can work properly. This includes making terminology and displays of terms consistent and understandable for site visitors. Also, get to know your customers in order to improve their search experience. When you understand the language they use and how they search, you can ensure a more efficient and productive online search.
Today’s buyers expect the online experience to be unique to them. Personalization tools allow you to create that experience by making aspects of your site relevant for each visitor – from the banners at the top of the page, to the products they see and the events you promote.
With personalization, you can define and manage user experiences based on their behavior on your site. What they search for, which links they click, and what purchases they make can all be used to trigger system rules or algorithms that show buyers more customized and relevant content that keeps them engaged on your site.
Change is constant, which is why Bennett says you must be prepared for technology changes that will have nothing to do with you or your ERP provider. For instance, it used to be standard practice for a business to have two websites – one for desktop computers and another designed specifically for mobile devices. Today, that’s no longer acceptable. In fact, search engines penalize you for not having one site optimized for both desktop and mobile use. Google and other search engines now search for mobile-friendly sites built with a responsive design and rank them higher on the search engine results page (SERP).
Distributors should expect their customer needs to change as well, and Bennett believes we have the more evolved B2C shopping experience to thank for that. With an increasingly sophisticated shopping experience available to consumers, more buyers are demanding the same from the B2B marketplace.
If you’re looking for ways to boost site traffic, build engagement and increase conversions, consider incorporating these five components into your eCommerce strategy. Implementing a website is just part of the eCommerce journey; you must continue to build upon it and evolve it in order to maintain a competitive edge.