If you look at global budget trends among chief marketing officers and compare that specifically to budgets for B2B e-commerce marketers, you’ll find some interesting overlaps and insights. For instance, in the 2017-18 Gartner CMO Spend Survey, which includes CMOs at both B2C and B2B enterprises, a full two thirds of respondents said they plan to increase spending in digital advertising. And on the B2B e-commerce side, a client survey by e-commerce platform Magento found that 91% of respondents said they plan on investing in “content and marketing.” Other popular budget categories for B2B e-commerce include personalization, platform upgrades and selection, data cleansing and understanding, and internationalization.
When we match these types of findings up to a typical marketing funnel, though, there’s a key area that’s completely missing from the budget: Conversion optimization. In fact, almost all these investment areas focus on top, or near top of the marketing funnel.
Why is this?
A key answer is how B2B e-commerce business units and companies are structured. In most B2B firms, marketing is mainly responsible for lead generation, but it’s the responsibility of the sales team to convert the lead into a paying client. That means marketing spends its budget on things like social media and other digital marketing, but they’re not responsible for top-line revenue. However, neither is the sales team, at least not directly; senior executives are. And when it comes to calculating ROI, it’s tracked solely in terms of lead generation, but not conversion.
Generating leads without converting them is like constantly refilling a leaky bucket; by fixing the hole the bucket, you usually find the biggest area of opportunity for companies to drive revenue.
Even when firms add in an e-commerce component to the sales process, marketing departments often don’t adjust their purview to accommodate for digital sales. They’re not paying enough attention to what happens at the end of the funnel. If the Magento survey respondents are representative of the larger industry (which we think they are), many firms are satisfied with building a platform and filling the top of their sales funnel, without much or any accountability for revenue.
In other words: They’re ignoring an essential revenue source. This is why more B2B e-commerce companies need to incorporate conversion optimization into their marketing.
What is conversion optimization?
In the B2B e-commerce setting, conversion optimization is a methodology for increasing the percentage of leads that become paying customers. It is the systematic use of variant testing methodologies to identify the best possible solution.
In other contexts a “conversion” is often counted as having a website visitor complete a goal, which may be a purchase, but it may also be signing up for a newsletter or simply requesting more information. But in e-commerce, companies need to be extremely focused on turning visitors into paying customers. This is where the real revenue comes from: optimizing the bottom of the funnel activities, specifically the checkout process.
Why conversion optimization is needed
We’ve previously discussed the cold, hard truth about B2B e-commerce, and it’s worth repeating: The checkout process is the most vital part of e-commerce. Without it, you don’t have a transaction. If visitors leave your site without making a purchase, you’ve wasted your money on getting them there. Understanding the ins and outs of conversion optimization will amplify the ROI spent on top of funnel traffic.
There are many reasons why customers may not complete a purchase. One survey found that the top reasons included:
- Extra costs (shipping, taxes, etc.)
- Need to create an account
- Too long/complicated checkout process
In other words, e-commerce businesses lose sales when the checkout process is too hard. Unfortunately, many B2B e-commerce companies like to make it hard for their customers. Despite offering a 21st century digital shopping solution, they’re following a 20th century business model that isn’t flexible, doesn’t offer options, and doesn’t have room for testing. Too often, the process is the process is the process. And the old processes simply don’t have a built-in place for modern conversion optimization.
And that’s why it’s so vital to success. Using conversion optimization, you can find out exactly how many different steps customers are willing to go through before abandoning their purchase. You can learn, for example, the most popular payment methods for different types and sizes of purchases.
Ultimately, if you’re not doing conversion optimization, you’re leaving money on the table. What’s worse is that you’re also not seizing the opportunity to learn what your customers really want. And if you’re not listening to your customers are you really living up to your brand promise?
But if you make it easier for them to quickly find what they need and check out, your brand will better resonate with them to gain their loyalty.
Eric Allen is senior vice president of Credit Key, a provider of B2B financing services.