Top 10 B2B E-Commerce Strategies

Published on August 29, 2023
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Business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce is becoming more and more commonplace. According to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, among surveyed B2B sellers, 65% offered e-commerce solutions to their customers by the end of 2021. In fact, sellers were more likely to employ an e-commerce strategy than an in-person sales channel.

And business consumers have been very receptive. According to the same study, online sales have increased to tie with in-person sales for the position of top-producing B2B revenue channel — with each generating roughly 18% of total revenue on average.

That said, not all B2B e-commerce stores are created equal. If you’re one of the many businesses opening up to the idea of entering the online B2B sales space, you’re likely wondering what hurdles there are to watch out for and what the best practices are for success.

Fortunately, you can take several steps to drive efficiency, performance — and, most importantly, sales — through this new online venture. Here’s what you need to know.

What is B2B e-commerce? And how does it differ from B2C e-commerce?

As the name suggests, B2B e-commerce reflects the marketing and selling of products or services between two businesses over the Internet. Typically, these exchanges occur between manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. Conversely, business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce covers any online sales made by a company directly to a private, individual consumer.

The primary difference, obviously, is the customer segment — a business versus an individual. But this main difference between B2B and B2C e-commerce ripples out, changing the underlying business model, marketing strategy, and even customer experience. Often when comparing the two sales efforts, you’ll find that a B2B channel will require the following:

  • Longer sales cycles
  • More complex distribution and shipping channels
  • Broader stakeholder buy-in
  • Increased relationship management
  • Greater payment flexibility

Top 10 B2B e-commerce strategies for the long haul

1. Provide multiple frictionless payment options

If you want your B2B e-commerce to be profitable, don’t make it hard to buy from your business! One of the major elements you should focus on when creating an e-commerce site is whether or not your check-out process is intuitive and straightforward. After surveying over 400 companies, Balance Payments, Inc. reported that a clear majority of respondents — roughly 83% — stated that a smooth payment and checkout experience was their number one priority in choosing a B2B e-commerce supplier. And 90% of those surveyed indicated that a complicated or difficult checkout process would decrease their likelihood of becoming a loyal customer. Further, 73% said they would abandon their cart entirely if they experienced any friction when finalizing their purchase.

To avoid those lost sales, you’ll want to choose a payment platform that is flexible, easy to use, and accepts multiple B2B payment types. However, these conveniences should never be implemented to sacrifice good security. A disturbing number of criminals are out there just waiting to capture the account details of your customers. And a compromised transaction or payment database can quickly erode any goodwill you’ve built up with the market, prospective B2B buyers, and your existing client base.

2. Make your site’s design simple and intuitive

In order to find your frictionless payment options, people should be able to easily navigate to and through your website, no matter the device used to access it. Use an intuitive layout that can load quickly — even on mobile — and that effectively shepherds prospective buyers to the right product information and relevant details to make an informed purchasing decision. Accompanying copy should be engaging, outlining the challenges that your product or service can overcome. But don’t rely exclusively on text. You should add dynamic offering images as well.

Further, you can boost engagement by delivering a personalized shopping experience for each user. With unique accounts in place, you can easily make targeted product recommendations based on past purchases or offer bundled packages that deliver an attractive price point. Depending on the typical size of your B2B customers, consider offering corporate accounts that can link and distinguish individual users’ unique roles and functions.

Ultimately, it’s most important to remember that a plain but fast and easy-to-navigate website is more valuable than a fancy but convoluted one that’s slow to load.

Learn more in our articles on e-invoicing, the future of B2B payments, and essential B2B payment platform features.  

3. Utilize search engine optimization (SEO) best practices

Not only should your site be easy to navigate, but it should be easy to find. If your customers can’t find and encounter your e-commerce site, they won’t be opting for you over your competitor. This means you’ll have invested much time, money, and energy for very little return. However, by investing in a high-quality SEO strategy for the content on your sales portal and optimizing any meta descriptions that might appear on common search engines, you can become one of the preeminent sites for your product or service set.

SEO is not limited to content, either; technical SEO can ensure the overall health of your site in the eyes of search engines, making your web pages more likely to be indexed and findable.

Search prominence can mean the difference between sales for your business or a competitor. In June 2023 — per data compiled by Advanced Web Ranking — the click-through rate for the first result in an organic Google search was 47%. In comparison, the number two spot dropped to a mere 17.5%.

Just make sure that you partner with an SEO company you trust if you aren’t handling SEO internally. While less common today, black hat SEO practices can actually hinder, not help, your website in the long run.

4. Integrate your software

If you want your e-commerce site to work smoothly with your online payment systems and back office systems, you’ll need to invest in software that offers enhanced integration capabilities. Ideally, your site should be able to pull and send product and sales data to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform through automated workflows, eliminating the need to scan or rekey orders across tools. Similarly, integrating the new environment with your customer relationship management (CRM) solution can empower your sales staff to track prospects better and mitigate the risk of delayed response times.

Further, the payment portal of your e-commerce site should also accommodate multiple formats, from credit cards to wire transfers to electronic checks.

Learn more in our articles on wire transfers and how to automate B2B accounting.

5. Create means for users to self-help and ask questions if they need to

Just like with any other sales channel, your B2B e-commerce customers will require a steady stream of assistance throughout the purchasing journey. And fortunately, much of this demand can be met through self-service tools.

Depending on the scope of your offering catalog, you can set up frequently asked question (FAQ) pages for each entry or your services. And for businesses with higher volumes of consumer questions, consider employing a chatbot to handle simple customer interactions.

You can also be more proactive in sharing relevant offering information and/or industry information by creating always-accessible collateral that can live on your e-commerce site. Blogs, white papers, instructional videos — there are multiple avenues you can use to drive the conversation forward with potential B2B buyers, providing them with relevant decision-making materials long before discussing individual products or services.

Of course, you’ll want to supplement these self-service efforts with online customer service channels — such as live chat or email — that allow current and potential customers to get their more complex questions answered quickly. Finding the proper balance between these two approaches might take some time.

6. Utilize a multi-channel marketing strategy

Beyond solely relying on SEO, it’s wise to directly notify your current and potential customers regarding what is available on your e-commerce site. Sales promotions, new discounts, or any other relevant information should be distributed across multiple electronic channels — email, video, newsletters, podcasts, and social media.

According to a 2023 study from the Content Marketing Institute, 95% of respondents had used social media advertising in the preceding year, making it the most popular channel for advertising. And 57% of the businesses studied indicated that they had boosted their social media funding for 2023 — a 20% increase compared to 2022 respondents.

One of the major advantages of these digital marketing channels is the ability to create targeted messages for each customer segment, catering the content to only relevant concerns or opportunities. Further, you can use these avenues to distribute any consideration content — white papers, ebooks, infographics, blogs — that you’ve already created, extending the reach of these investments.

Finally, a portion of your multi-channel communications — particularly if e-commerce is a relatively new strategy for your business — should be focused on customer education related to using and taking full advantage of your shopping portal.

7. Practice meticulous distribution

In a B2C e-commerce situation, a missed or late shipment isn’t a major concern. Yes, you’ve disappointed a single purchaser, but the problem typically only involves a lone item and can be corrected for very little investment of time or money.

In contrast, when a B2B shipment falls short, there can be quite an impact. Companies tend to be less forgiving for incorrect or missing shipments — particularly if the absent items are used to maintain their day-to-day operations. Similarly, reshipping a 1,000-unit order can tie up significant capital, leaving your company with cash flow problems.

Ultimately, you want an ordering system that prioritizes accuracy. You should incorporate validation and verification steps into your workflows — which will incidentally help to prevent fraud and other security threats. And for whatever platform you choose to manage your ordering and accounting processes, you’ll ideally want one that offers some level of automation, which will help to eliminate potential human errors.

Learn more about automated validation and verification in our articles 2-way matching and 3-way matching in accounts payable. 

8. Use incentive programs

If you’re looking to encourage repeat sales and greater buy-in from existing B2B customers, create a loyalty program for regular purchasers. Typically, you’ll want to offer pricing discounts, favorable shipping terms, or some other enhanced value to encourage them to stick with your organization.

Not only will such a move encourage consistent sales, but the information that you can gather from this relationship can deliver tremendous marketing potential. By monitoring the purchasing history of these businesses, you can gain increased insight into sales trends and even identify gaps in the market that you can capitalize on. Further, a reward-based referral program can serve as its own marketing channel to attract new customers.

9. Leverage third-party marketplaces

Expand your potential customer pool by making your offerings available in third-party marketplaces. Admittedly, these stores will take a cut of the profits, but for smaller businesses, in particular, the market access you’ll gain can potentially lead to sales increases beyond whatever traffic you can direct to your own site. Common B2B marketplaces include eWorldTrade, Amazon, Alibaba, Rakuten, and Global Sources.

10. Be vigilant

The online world tends to change quickly and continually, so you’ll want to keep a steady eye on performance throughout your e-commerce strategy. Establish clear benchmarks to track the success or failure of any initiatives, platforms, or operations you deploy. And be prepared to adapt your e-commerce experience regularly — consistency is a luxury rarely afforded in the digital marketplace.

At the same time, closely monitor market or industry trends, and pay particular attention to the behavior of your competitors. Admittedly, you won’t want or need to mimic all of their efforts, but their performance could be an effective way to predict how successful a trend might be for your own business.

Invoiced: Automated accounts receivable & payable software for B2B e-commerce

Migrating your sales and marketing processes online requires a number of underlying solutions, ranging from the actual e-commerce platform to ERP software to accounting tools to even chatbots. And investing in the right infrastructure can tremendously impact the efficiency and performance of this new sales channel. Among the various functions and features made available by these platforms, automation is a clear leader in delivering results while reducing costs. 

Invoiced’s Accounts Payable Automation software includes automated verification checks and workflows to help reduce fraudulent payments while keeping processes running smoothly. And our Accounts Receivable Automation platform can seamlessly collect and chase outstanding payments — all without human intervention. We also offer ERP connect and so much more.

To learn more about what Invoiced can do for you, schedule a demo today!

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Published on August 29, 2023
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