As businesses continue to shift their operations online, B2B stores have become an increasingly relevant part of the eCommerce conversation.
Although significantly less common than B2C eCommerce, B2B eCommerce is a highly profitable and rapidly growing field. With the right strategies, B2B stores can leverage their online presence to drive more sales and keep up with changing trends.
To help you get started, here are some tips and tricks for driving more eCommerce sales in your B2B store in 2023.
Let’s get started!
Understand your customers and their needs
1. Take the time to research & gather data on your target audience
Understanding your customer pain points is one of the most challenging, yet important factors of any business.
It’s challenging because it often requires having many conversations with your target customers and “digging” for what their true pain points are.
It often challenges our assumptions and proves that what we want our customers to want isn’t always what they actually want.
Yet, it is by far one of the most important things to do for any business, especially in business-to-business eCommerce.
Targeting the wrong type of customer is a costly, resource-intensive mistake you will certainly only make once.
Collecting raw customer data and building out your buyer personas (that’s the next tip) is one of the most important things you can do at any stage of your business, but especially in the beginning.
Here are some of the most effective ways to gather data:
- Over-the-phone or in-person interviews
- Web analytics
- Existing sales data
- Social listening tools
- Research in online forums or message boards
- Attending in-person events like meetups and conferences
When gathering data to build buyer personas, some key pieces of information to look for include:
- Demographics: Age, gender, income, education level, location, etc.
- Behavioral data: Purchasing habits, product usage, brand loyalty, etc.
- Pain points: Problems or challenges customers face that your product or service can solve.
- Goals and values: What customers hope to achieve and what is important to them.
- Buying process: How customers research and make purchasing decisions.
- Communication preferences: How customers prefer to be contacted and receive information.
- Industry/Job role: The industry and job role of the customer, if it is relevant to your product or services.
When conducting surveys or interviews, some questions you may want to ask include:
- “How do you currently solve the problem that our products/services address?”
- “What are your main goals and objectives when it comes to [products/services category]?”
- “What are the biggest pain points or challenges you face when it comes to [products/services category]?”
- “How do you typically research and make purchasing decisions for [products/services category]?”
- “How do you prefer to receive information about new products or services in [products/services category]?”
- “What are your thoughts on our company and our competitors?”
- “Can you tell me about your job role and industry?”
The more detailed information you can gather about your customer, the more accurate and useful your buyer personas (and customer groups) will be.
2. Develop personas for specific customer types
Once you have gathered the necessary customer data, it’s time to use that information to create buyer personas.
A buyer persona is essentially a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on real data and research about who they are, what their goals and values are, how they make decisions, etc.
Having detailed buyer personas can help you build a more effective B2B eCommerce sales strategy by providing you with insight into who your target customers are, what they need, and what motivates them to buy.
When creating buyer personas, some of the key aspects to consider include:
- The customer’s goals and values
- Their buying process
- Common objections to buying
- Communication preferences
- Motivations for purchasing
Buyer personas have many helpful uses, including acting as “North Stars” for marketing and sales copy, product features, and pricing structures.
They’re also a necessary prerequisite for creating customer groups, which we’ll explore in the next step.
The more accurate the buyer personas are, the better you can tailor your eCommerce site to meet the needs of each customer type.
3. Utilize advanced segmentation techniques to create customer groups and improve user experiences
Another benefit of building out detailed buyer personas early is the ability to segment your buyers into isolated customer groups.
Segmentation is incredibly valuable in B2B eCommerce, especially when you’re dealing with a wide range of customer types who may have very different needs and expectations.
Advanced segmentation techniques allow you to customize the user experience for specific customer types, resulting in more targeted messaging and offers that are tailored to their individual needs.
For example, if you know your customer persona is tech-savvy and prefers to shop online, you can create a custom checkout page that offers additional features.
Additionally, if you know they have specific product needs, you can provide them with personalized recommendations during the purchasing process.
Segmentation also helps reduce customer acquisition costs by helping you target customers who are most likely to convert.
This allows you to spend less money on marketing and more money on engaging customers who are already interested in your product or service.
By utilizing advanced segmentation techniques, you can ensure that your B2B eCommerce store is providing the best possible user experience for each customer type.
For example, if you’ve ever been in B2C or traditional eCommerce, you’ll quickly realize that business clients are a whole different animal.
Business clients often expect a deeper level of personalization, they often have bigger budgets, and many place bulk orders.
That said, business-to-business sales, even online sales, are almost always slower than the typical B2C sales cycle.
This leads to another difference in B2B eCommerce: wholesale customers.
Wholesale customers are often buying from your business in large volumes, and they make up a different customer segment than regular customers.
It’s important to identify these wholesale customers and create targeted offers just for them, as their needs are often significantly different.
By recognizing that there are distinct customer segments within the B2B world — such as small businesses, wholesalers, suppliers, and more –– you can create a more tailored eCommerce experience for each.
Finally, understanding customer segmentation allows you to personalize the checkout process and offer discounts or promotions that are relevant and targeted at specific customer groups.
This is an effective way to increase conversion rates and ensure that customers have a seamless shopping experience on your site.
4. Collect & analyze user feedback
Regularly collecting feedback from existing customers helps B2B eCommerce businesses identify areas of improvement so they can continue providing the best possible brand experience for all users.
By regularly engaging with customers and asking for their opinion, businesses can gain valuable insights into what their target audience needs and values.
This information can then be used to help improve the overall user experience by providing customers with more personalized services or product offerings.
Additionally, customer feedback can help businesses identify areas of improvement in their sales process and marketing strategy.
For example, if you find that customers are having difficulty navigating your website or finding the products they need, it could be a sign that your eCommerce site needs to be optimized for a better user experience.
This is why it’s important to collect and analyze feedback from business clients regularly, as this can help you identify areas of improvement that could drive more eCommerce sales in the future.
Develop a robust eCommerce strategy
5. Establish clear goals (& define the steps necessary to achieve them)
Your business lives and dies by your goals.
Otherwise, you will be distracted by SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome) and never make progress.
You should set both long and short-term goals for your business, and ensure that everyone is on the same page about what success looks like.
Here are some examples of SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-bound) for an eCommerce business:
- Increase the average order value (AOV) by 10% within the next quarter by upselling and cross-selling relevant products during the checkout process.
- Increase the number of repeat customers by 15% within the next six months by implementing a loyalty program and sending personalized email campaigns.
- Improve the website’s load time by 50% within the next month by optimizing images and implementing a content delivery network (CDN).
- Increase the number of leads generated from the website by 25% within the next quarter by implementing lead magnets, such as eBooks and webinars, and optimizing the lead generation forms.
- Increase the number of organic search traffic by 20% within the next six months by optimizing the website for search engines and creating regular blog content.
- Increase the conversion rate on mobile devices by 30% within the next quarter by implementing responsive web design and improving the mobile user experience.
- Increase the number of positive reviews by 25% within the next quarter by implementing a post-purchase survey and reaching out to satisfied customers to ask for a review.
- Increase the number of sales made through the website by 20% within the next 6 months by offering live chat support and implementing a better customer service process and overall better customer satisfaction (business customers care about customer satisfaction, too!).
- Increase the number of B2B referrals by 30% within the next quarter by implementing a referral program and reaching out to satisfied customers to ask for a referral.
- Increase wholesale eCommerce customers by 25% by the end of Q4.
Now before you get excited, don’t even think about attempting all (or even most) of these goals simultaneously. Pick one or two and work on them until you’re successful, then move on to the next one.
This way, you can systematically achieve success without getting overwhelmed with too many goals at once.
Once you have established your goals, it’s time to come up with a plan of action.
It’s important to define the steps necessary to achieve your goals, such as which tactics you’re going to use and how much time/resources will be needed.
You also need to track and measure your progress regularly to make sure that you’re on track with meeting your goals.
Finally, it’s important to adjust your strategy if necessary in order to maintain the momentum and success of your efforts.
6. Analyze competitor tactics & adapt them for your own use
If you’ve followed our blog for any length of time, you know we’re big fans of competitor analysis.
I once heard it said, “never plagiarize, but borrow like crazy.”
The idea is that you should take inspiration from your competitors and use their tactics as a starting point for your own strategy.
This is especially true for competitors who are where you want to be. This could mean having a higher business value, a better website, a bigger team, etc.
Clearly, whatever they’re doing is working, right?
Understanding what other businesses in the same space are doing can provide valuable insights and ideas to incorporate into your own strategies.
You should also feel the freedom to go outside your niche into any form of business-to-business sales. Frankly, you can learn something from any business with an online store.
Other businesses, even ones that aren’t online can teach us a lot. Don’t be afraid to look at other businesses for things like:
- How to price products (or overall pricing strategies)
- How to grow sales
- How to reduce costs while maintaining cash flow
- How to manage a supply chain and deal with raw materials handling
- How to market and sell products in bulk
- How to manage high-level decision-making from a business-to-business perspective
Many industries in the business-to-business space have already developed best practices over the course of decades.
Don’t be afraid to dive deep into how other companies work, and how you can emulate their best practices with your online store.
Wow your consumers with a well-rounded online strategy
7. Optimize your website for increased conversion rates and more online sales
Everyone, especially business clients, spends the majority of their time on the internet.
The difference with B2B eCommerce is that there’s a lot more marketing money and resources being poured into capturing their attention.
This means B2B eCommerce online stores must be as professional as the big players; even if you’re still going for that “small business” vibe.
In the world of websites and B2B eCommerce, this is called “conversion rate optimization.” And if you sell online and actually want to run a profitable business, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with this concept.
Simply put, it’s getting buyers to not only come to your online store but perform the action you want them to perform once they’re there.
This could be making a purchase, signing up for a service, or just signing up for an email list.
The specifics of conversion rate optimization are well beyond the scope of this post, but check out this helpful guide for a primer on the topic.
7. Create a seamless business-to-business buying experience for all your customer groups
Your customer groups will typically span a range of many industries, business types, buying styles, and more.
The key is that you must sell directly to each one of them.
Of course, not actually sell directly to them. But make them feel as though their company and their pain points are your top priority.
This is best done through segmentation, personalization, and other B2B eCommerce best practices.
Here are some to get you started:
- Personalize the customer experience with tools such as tailored product recommendations and custom price quotes.
- Automate the onboarding processes to ensure a streamlined and efficient customer journey from start to finish.
- Leverage data analytics tools to gain better insights into customer behavior so you can tailor your approach accordingly and identify areas of improvement in order to maximize conversions over time.
- Employ chatbots or virtual assistants to handle routine inquiries quickly so your team can focus their attention on more complex tasks where human interaction is necessary.
- Implement rigorous security measures for both buyers’ accounts and payment transactions, including two-factor authentication (e-mail/text) whenever possible.
- Create separate websites (or areas of your website) custom-tailored to customers by industry.
8. Use an eCommerce platform to manage your online store
If you’re not set up with an eCommerce platform, stop what you’re doing and go do that right now.
eCommerce platforms, such as Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce are all popular options that allow you to easily manage online stores.
They provide everything you need from setting up an online store to managing orders, payments, inventory, and more.
You can set up subscription-based products, manage your supply chain, set product promotions, discounts, and more all from one convenient dashboard.
It is possible to “Frankenstein” together an eCommerce platform, but it requires a whole host of websites, paid services, and technical expertise.
At the end of the day, you’re much better off going with a managed eCommerce platform with customer support –– save yourself the headaches.
Shopify is probably the most popular eCommerce platform, and for good reason. Aside from its affordable pricing, comprehensive customer support, and incredible host of features, it’s also great for selling and shipping products in bulk.
One key feature of Shopify is its ability to create custom rules for B2B customers. This means you can offer exclusive discounts, product bundles, and more targeting only those customers who meet certain criteria –– such as their purchase history or location.
Just about every eCommerce platform out there will do much of the same stuff. It’s important to evaluate the specific features, benefits, and pricing plans of each to see which works best for your business.
Small businesses that try to do B2B eCommerce without one are doomed to fail.
9. Document, iterate, and implement sales and business processes
As your business grows, you’ll quickly start to realize that it’s very challenging to store all the mission-critical processes in your head.
B2B eCommerce businesses that grow too quickly can fail just as fast as those that run out of cash.
This is why it’s so important to document business procedures (often called standard operating procedures or SOPs) early and tweak them often.
SOPs don’t need to be fancy. Simply create a Google Doc or spreadsheet that outlines each step of a given process from start to finish.
By documenting your processes, you can easily identify areas for improvement and address issues quickly –– reducing the chances of costly mistakes being repeated again in the future.
Here are some example SOPs to create for the average SMB eCommerce business:
- Raw materials handling and purchase process
- A list of suppliers, their accounts, and their costs
- Pricing philosophy and pricing calculators for wholesale buyers
- Promotions and discounts process
- How to deal with large business clients (large suppliers or wholesalers)
- Customer support and returns protocols
- How to access financials (chart of accounts, profit and loss, etc.)
One business process that is often overlooked is inventory management. As your business grows, you’ll need to make sure your inventory systems are set up correctly and running smoothly.
This means being able to accurately track what products you have in stock, the current value of those items, and how much of each product you can safely order for the next month or quarter.
Take the time to set up your inventory systems correctly and make sure everyone in your organization understands how to use them.
Documenting these processes will also help keep everyone on the same page and reduce potential mistakes down the road.
10. Target new and existing business clients for maximum profitability
B2B eCommerce is all about building lasting relationships with clients that can lead to long-term profitability.
That means you need to focus on both acquiring new business as well as maintaining your relationships with existing clients.
For example, if you’re selling products in bulk, consider offering discounts or special packages for large orders. This will make it easier for businesses to buy from you and solidify your partnerships.
You can also explore opportunities to add value to your customer’s supply chain. This could involve offering additional services, such as product customization or white-labeling options for larger orders.
Many B2B eCommerce businesses will also flex their pricing based on certain factors like purchase history, order size, and product mix. This is a great way to increase customer loyalty while still keeping your profit margins in check.
FAQs about B2B eCommerce
What are the most important features to look for in a B2B eCommerce platform?
The most important features to look for in a B2B eCommerce platform are:
- Customizable product catalogs
- Bulk order capabilities
- Secure payment processing
- User/role access management
- Integrations with your existing systems
What you need out of your eCommerce platform will depend on your specific business goals, but these core features are essential across all online stores.
Is an eCommerce platform a website, a store, or something else?
An eCommerce platform is a software solution that allows businesses to create and manage online stores.
It provides the necessary tools and features for businesses to sell products and services online, such as catalog management, inventory management, payment processing, shipping and fulfillment, and more.
This means everything is done for you, from receiving credit card purchases to managing all sales processes behind the scenes.
eCommerce platforms, especially when properly integrated into other software, can successfully remove a lot of the manual processes associated with running online stores.
Essentially, it’s a complete package to run an online store, and it can be integrated with a website to create an online storefront.
Many eCommerce platforms come with a front-end website included, such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and Wix eCommerce.
These platforms provide a variety of customizable templates and design options for businesses to create professional-looking online stores.
Some eCommerce platforms also offer drag-and-drop website builders that allow businesses to create their own websites without needing to know how to code.
In addition to this, there are other platforms like Magento and OpenCart that are open-source platforms and you have to build the front-end website yourself or get a developer to do it for you.
What is the difference between B2B and B2C eCommerce?
B2C eCommerce is focused on individual customers, while B2B eCommerce is designed to meet the specific needs of businesses.
This means that B2B sites have additional features like custom pricing, large order discounts, white-labeling options, and integrations with existing business systems.
What is manual order entry in B2B eCommerce?
Manual order entry in B2B eCommerce refers to the process of manually entering customer orders into a system or database.
This process is typically used when a customer places an order over the phone, via email, or in person, rather than ordering online through an eCommerce platform.
In this case, the sales representative or customer service representative would take the customer’s order details and manually enter them into the system for processing and fulfillment.
This method is often used for B2B sales as these customers may have specific needs, large orders, or custom requests that cannot be easily fulfilled through an online store.
What are some examples of B2B eCommerce businesses?
Some common examples of B2B eCommerce businesses include:
- Industrial suppliers
- Manufacturing companies
- SaaS providers
- Consultants and professional services providers
- Retailers specializing in business products or services
The modern eCommerce landscape is a competitive one, and it is essential for businesses to stay ahead of the curve by having a well-planned strategy for success.
It’s essential for B2B businesses to take advantage of the many benefits that come with an online presence, but it can be difficult to know where to start.
In this post, we’ve gone over some of the most important tips and tricks for businesses to maximize their B2B eCommerce success in 2023.
From understanding customer needs to setting up inventory management systems, businesses should be sure to implement these strategies if they want to stay competitive.
By taking the time to create an effective strategy and put solid processes in place, you can ensure that your B2B eCommerce venture is a success.
Good luck, and thanks for reading!