When comparing the shopping experiences between the two, it's common to see B2B and B2C companies take very different approaches to ecommerce. On one hand, larger audiences and intense competition have driven B2C ecommerce to grow and evolve rapidly. Meanwhile, B2B companies have focused on industry networking and strengthening relationships with returning customers – often at the cost of allowing their ecommerce capabilities to stagnate.
Slowly but surely, this is changing as more B2B companies are refreshing the design and functionality of their ecommerce sites to mimic some of the strategies for growth and customer retention employed by B2C ecommerce sites. In a way, a business is a group of consumers working together to find a product or service to meet a common need – so it makes sense to provide a shopping experience for businesses that’s similar to one for individuals.
In this post, we’ll point out key areas B2B companies should focus on to improve their ecommerce performance.
Customers expect a quality experience when they’re shopping online – whether for themselves or on their company’s behalf. To give your B2B customers a better user experience, take a hint from what B2C sites do by bolstering your site’s content and making it easy to find. Detailed and well-written content gives users the confidence to take the next step and contact you, or place an order. Additionally, a well-organized site structure helps customers find that information in as few clicks as possible.
Behavior Data & Analytics
B2C sites are experts at analyzing user data to accurately target customers for cross-sells and up-sells. Tracking user behaviors by way of site analytics can provide valuable insights you can leverage to better cater to your customers.
Customer accounts on B2B sites tend to be filled with comprehensive information. But, they aren’t always fully accessible for the customer. Allowing users to view order histories, check account data, and see the status of orders in progress can help users customize their B2B shopping experience while reducing common customer service inquiries.
From fostering repeat business to managing your brand's reputation, your ecommerce company’s approach to customer service is critical for lasting success. But before you can help your customers, you need to be able to help yourself - and unfortunately, many customer service departments struggle with underlying talent management issues that impact performance.
As representatives of your company, customer service agents can be a defining factor in the customer experience your business is known for. While innate people-skills are a valuable trait for agents, it’s useless to customers if the agent has not been thoroughly trained. Don’t exclusively focus on training agents to follow scripts and internal procedures – incorporate the same types of training you give to sales associates. Sales training can help customer service become experts on your products and brand, which increases their productivity since they can answer customer questions in the first response and handle multiple inquiries at once (over chat, email, and/or phone).
But in order to be effective, this productivity must be channeled according to specialization. For instance, customer inquiries can be grouped into two buckets:
- Sales – customers want to clarify product information, shipping, and return policies, or get advice for selecting a product that meets their needs.
- Service – customers want to solve a problem, which could require purchase history research, technical troubleshooting, escalations, and coordination with other departments or 3rd parties.
The workflow for each bucket is drastically different, so expecting agents to handle inquiries from both can negatively impact performance. Sales inquiries won’t get the speedy, responsive attention required because the agent may also be bogged down in technical research. Meanwhile, because service inquiries can take longer to resolve, distracting the agent with sales chats makes the service interaction take longer than necessary. While an experienced agent can handle both types of inquiries, you may see better results and efficiency by having agents focus on one type at a time.
By thoroughly training your agents and having them work on inquiries that follow the same workflows, you’ll increase the effectiveness of your customer service department – and in turn, you’ll have more satisfied customers.
Order fulfillment is a very “behind-the-scenes” aspect of ecommerce. But, even though it’s not a consumer-facing process, order fulfillment has a big impact on customer experience. A recent study from Dotcom Distribution found that the most important elements of order fulfillment affecting customer loyalty were delivery times and premium packaging.
According to 87% of the 558 online shoppers surveyed, delivery time is a key factor when deciding to place another order with an e-tailer. Additionally, 44% said faster delivery would increase their trust with a brand. When it came to premium packaging, consumers expressed many positive sentiments:
- 40% said they would be somewhat more likely or much more likely to purchase from an e-retailer that offers premium packaging
- 68% said that branded packaging makes the brand seem more upscale
- 61% said that branded/premium packaging gets them more excited about receiving/opening the package
- 44% said that premium packaging reinforces that the product was worth the cost
From a fulfillment perspective, improving these areas is key to growing your ecommerce business. To improve your delivery speed, you could look at 3PL providers that are closer to your customers, or you may need to improve your inventory management. For example, by maintaining real-time inventory monitoring, you can then process orders in real-time. The time saved from order processing results in customers getting their packages much faster. Additionally, the benefits of premium packaging are too numerous to ignore – consumers will be more likely to enjoy their experience, order again, and tell their friends. At Fulfillment Works, we have lots of resources to design and produce custom packaging for our clients. Contact us to learn how we can help.
Artificial intelligence is becoming more ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Even ecommerce giant, Amazon.com, is paving the way for advancement with Echo – its smart-speaker running Alexa personal assistant software. But, while Echo and Alexa are consumer products, the technology behind them could soon become a mainstream component in ecommerce business strategies.
The aforementioned Amazon products use advanced speech recognition technology to perform tasks – like searching for information or re-ordering specific products from Amazon. The algorithms that help Alexa understand people can be used to improve efficiencies in many sectors of ecommerce. Speech recognition technology can be used in a call center to understand caller questions, then direct callers to the appropriate responses or call queues based on their needs. While this use of AI is not widespread in ecommerce yet, it’s already used by many banks and telecom companies.
Earlier this year, Facebook launched "DeepText," an AI learning-based tool designed to make sense of all the data on the social network. Potentially, this could help companies strategize their social marketing campaigns – enabling them to send targeted promotions based on an analysis of content posted by users. Similarly, platforms such as Microsoft’s Cognitive Services can analyze positive and negative feedback in customer reviews, highlighting key trends in user sentiment.
Given how quickly AI has developed in recent years, there could be many more applications for ecommerce in the near future. We look forward to seeing what else is in store!
The holiday season is right around the corner, and when it comes, thousands of e-tailers will be clamoring for the orders of millions upon millions of consumers. Consider these tips to help your ecommerce site stand out from competitors and grab the attention (and the repeat business of) customers.
With so many ecommerce sites selling similar products, the way you handle the customer experience can be a key differentiator. Even though the holidays are high-volume, there are still easy ways to ensure that you’re providing customers with a good experience the first time (and every time) they purchase from you.
Coupons and contests are good ways to get attention – but during the holidays, every site is offering them. Think about ways a customer can find added value from choosing you over another ecommerce site. Some examples include membership or subscription programs, alternative payment options, customer-friendly returns, and other ideas.
Demonstrate your expertise
Customers that are interested in a particular category of products (e.g. tools, clothes, or nutritional supplements) seek sellers who are perceived as experts in the area. If your ecommerce site specializes in certain products, showcasing your passion and expertise via blog posts, newsletters, and social media posts demonstrates thought-leadership and trustworthiness – which can drive sales and enhance brand reputation.