With the current pandemic crippling normal operations for B2B companies, getting an eCommerce storefront up and running quickly is key to providing a critical channel for sales revenue. B2B eCommerce implementation is typically a painstakingly long and complex process, however, with the right tools, information, and planning you can launch an MVP and start growing your business in a matter of weeks.
An important step in getting the first version of your B2B eCommerce site live is taking a look at your customers and anticipating their needs and requirements.
If you’re starting from zero and building as little as possible, it’s important to realize that you’re really designing the minimum experience that your customers need. The storefront has to be viable enough to provide value to your customer, but small enough to enable you to launch quickly. The most logical step to better cater to your customers is by incorporating them directly into your processes with a customer portal. Today’s B2B buyer wants the ability to manage their own account information and expect the same self-service features they are accustomed to as consumers.
Let’s take a look at things from your customers’ point of view. We’ve put together a quick-launch priority list from a B2B buyer’s perspective to help you get started:
Your Customer: “I know exactly what I want - I have the model number or part number and want quick access to a search form to find it.”
Our Advice: Build your site around both types of customers – those who know exactly what they want and have purchased from you before and those who are brand new. For the existing customers who aren’t using reordering or purchase history to buy again, giving a product search based on model number or product name is critical to quickly finding exactly what they’re looking for.
Your Customer: "I’m buying the exact same list of supplies and replenishment items each time - I want the ability to reorder without having to search and shop each time.”
Our Advice: As soon as your customers are creating accounts, building quotes and placing orders online, the “My Account” portion of your customer portal takes on a huge amount of value. Reducing the amount of time it takes customers to reorder, either the exact same or similar products is critical to delivering on the buying experience they’re now expecting. Fewer phone calls, more 24/7 sales processing and placement.
Your Customer: “If I’m on the road and need to replenish supplies or do basic research, I need the site experience to be mobile-friendly.”
Our Advice: We’re on the road, away from our desks, and need information – not only do your customers want that immediate access, they expect to be able to get “complete-ness” of your products. Name and model number might not be enough – product description, summary, key data points, specifications, and technical notes are key to completing the detail on a product for your customer when they’re using their phone for research. Of course, with a complete dataset, your customers are also more likely to make purchasing decisions.
Your Customer: “If the product catalog is extensive, show me a breakdown that I understand. Or better yet, using my purchase history, show me what you think I’m going to be interested in.”
Our Advice: B2B product catalogs can be overwhelming especially for new customers. How can you break down your catalog into a flow and filter options that make sense to a new customer? Based on your experience, can you apply that knowledge to determine the first and second steps a prospective customer would want to take to find the appropriate product(s)?
Your Customer: “Researching products, accessories, parts or larger purchases means having a complete set of information to make the purchase or request a quote. I don’t want to have to make phone calls, fill out forms, or go through a long process.”
Our Advice: If the goal of the kickstart process is to get online quickly and meet the expectations of your customer – one of the starting points is to assess the amount and quality of product information to display on the site. Can you get enough information online for the products that matter? In the initial stages, you don’t need a complete database, but enough of the top-selling products with enough information to drive business.
Your Customer: “I’ve been placing orders with your company for years, I should be able to purchase using a PO as well as a credit card. Oh, and keep all of my account information saved - I don’t want to have to re-enter it every time.”
Our Advice: Defining exactly what payment options you want to provide and the extent of the order review and approval process is key to ensuring customers have choices in how they’re conducting business with you and yet, you retain the option to make sure orders and order expectations are matching up. Of course, saving those payment options (addresses, credit cards, and more) is key to the speed with which customers can checkout and use the mobile experience.
Your Customer: “Not only do I want to be able to find product information on my mobile device, but I also need to be able to start the ordering process and replenish supplies.”
Our Advice: Starting with a customer portal not only gets product information in front of your customers on-demand, but they’re also gaining access to a new way to order. Displaying pricing information, alongside a buying or quote generation button means they can at least start the buying process when outside of the office. With complete mobile support, your customers can start the ordering process when the need is top of mind.
Your Customer: “If a product is out of stock or not available, I need to know before I start the order process.”
Our Advice: Often a buyer’s decision to order from company A vs. company B comes down to who has the inventory and when it can be delivered. The ability to give up-to-date and accurate availability information becomes instrumental in gaining and retaining customers while minimizing the workload of providing manual estimates over the phone.
Your Customer: “I’d like to be able to access my account to view my order history (and re-order, see above) or print invoices, etc.”
Our Advice: Allowing customers constant access to order history and the ability to place additional orders on a regular basis is critical to creating long-term relationships. B2B buyers now expect immediate access to purchase history, details on an invoice, and even quotes. As a result, when the customer is planning to spend more time on your customer portal and builds a relationship history with it, they will be more likely to place their orders there.
Your Customer: “Things change - I’ll need to update basic account information like email addresses, phone numbers, shipping information, and stored payment methods like credit cards.”
Our Advice: Beyond the convenience for your customer, how many times have you heard that contact or personal information is out of date? Your customer database becomes more valuable to your business when it’s relevant, but it’s also key to the customer’s ability to use your portal for their business and reducing reliance on an account rep for basic management. Finally, credit cards and payment methods – give your customers the chance to manage their payment information and reduce the number of change-backs, expired cards, and PO/invoices sent to the wrong department.
Putting your customers' needs at the forefront of your digital transformation is key to meeting your eCommerce goals and standing out from your competition, however, it goes beyond this and you’ll need a platform that supports your initiatives. If you’re looking to launch an enterprise B2B storefront quickly and efficiently with a limited budget and minimal resources, Slatwall’s B2B Kickstart Launch Kit enables businesses to launch a ready-made storefront and customer portal in weeks while remaining flexible to grow and add over time.