Dec 04 2018

Are your online competitors stealing your offline customers?

It’s hard to find a market that doesn’t feel saturated. I bet it feels like new players are coming in and stealing your market share. If you’re not online, they’re capturing your customers who would prefer to buy online. The more time passes, the larger that demographic grows. 93% of B2B buyers say that they prefer to buy online once they’ve decided they want to buy. If your plan was to wait it out, then sorry for the bad news.

Any good marketer will tell you that persuading someone to switch to something “better” is way harder than convincing them to switch to something “new.” You might have been the leading lumber company for the last thirty years, but someone else might now be the leading online lumber company. As that category grows, yours will shrink. The good news is that, if you’re not the leading brand in your category, you could be the leading online brand. You just need to leverage your competitive advantage and get into the customer’s mind first.

How to Enhance Your B2B Ecommerce Site

Create Informative Content

Wholesalers and retailers often have similar products, but content can be a big differentiator. A captive audience means you can educate them more on your product. According to a report from Forrester, “62% of B2B buyers say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content.”

According to the 2018 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report, 90% of B2B organizations are using content marketing, and 38% of those companies plan to increase their content marketing budget in 2018. Right now, 94% of B2B companies use social media, 72% use videos, and 71% use case studies and white papers in their content marketing strategy.

Mission RS, a restaurant supply company, provides B2B-focused content geared towards restaurant, hotel, and grocery store owners and chefs. Content includes highlights of various chefs and commercial kitchen best practices.

Clean Freak offers how to’s with step-by-step instructions, a blog with cleaning product news, documents for rebates and warranties, owner manuals and charts, and videos of product assemblies and demonstrations. Offering digital tools that provide facts, know-how, buying guides, and expertise results in a more knowledgeable and confident consumer.

A large company might be able to hire an entire content team that knows how to get content in front of huge audiences. Even so, they simply won’t have the same level of expertise in the industry as an insider from an SMB. Web-savvy content pros can be louder, but insiders can be more articulate (it’s good to know that there’s balance in the force).

Deliver Excellent Customer Service

In B2B, the products are generally stable across the board; which is why when there are multiple competitors in the space, it will typically come down to who has the best customer service. The best way to service B2B buyers is to meet them where they are. More often than not, B2B buyers are away from their desks, so they need a customer service experience that is optimized for mobile devices.

Additionally, you need to rely on customer data to have a holistic view of your customers along with their needs and concerns. If the customer service team has access to customer data, they can immediately jump into problem-solving when a customer calls rather than spending time gathering customer data.

Providing an excellent customer service experience is proven to improve sales, strengthen customer loyalty, and increase conversion rates. In fact, 30 to 40 percent of B2B customers will refer a company if they have a positive customer service experience.

Optimize the Ecommerce Customer Experience

Checkout: The optimal checkout process for professionals is speed. Features such as instant purchase, quick checkout, requisition lists, and quick order forms make it possible for pros to replicate previous orders and check out in a matter of minutes.

Delivery: Having a variety of fulfillment options for B2B buyers makes it easy for them to schedule deliveries within their complex schedules. Visible delivery and pick-up options on the PLP, PDP, and checkout page ensures the user can easily change their preference throughout the entire purchasing process.

Inventory: Displaying inventory by store location is ideal for contractors who prefer to quickly pick up an item at a location convenient for them.

Account Management: An ideal account management tool allows Customers can view custom or contract pricing, limit how much individual users can order over time, designate users as “request users” to route orders for approval, check order status, create order templates for recurring orders or projects, check product availability, open balances and statements, pay invoices, and access the product catalogs.

In-Store Technology: B2B businesses often have tens upon tens of thousands of SKUs; too many to fit in the showroom or warehouse of a brick-and-mortar store. A digital catalog that the sales team can show customers on a tablet, one that allows filtering of inventory, helps make a sale (or at least generate interest in a product) even when inventory is unavailable.

SMBs vs. Large Companies

SMBs and large companies have differences in competitive pressure. After many years, most industries eventually wind up as a one-on-one fight between two titans, with a few mortals holding on desperately to 5% of the market. That’s why, if you’re a medium-sized business, it isn’t good to point to a large corporation from another industry as an example of what to do. In such a case, if their single biggest competitor isn’t online, then they don’t have to be either.

Industries that are mostly composed of SMBs are often young or regional. If it’s a young industry, a stellar B2B portal could give one player the lead. If it’s a regional industry, the first player might become the leading national supplier. Obviously, for the guy still scraping to get a plan together, that’s a scary prospect.

Matthew Rickerby

Head of Marketing

Matt began his career in ecommerce at Blue Acorn over seven years ago. His areas of expertise include persona development, account-based marketing, and content marketing. He has co-written speaking sessions for Bronto Summit, DIG South, GIANT, and Revolve, and received multiple awards for videography, blogging, and copywriting.

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