Amazon, with its penchant for disrupting traditional business models, is doubling down on its profitable B2B sales division, Amazon Business. CNBC notes that the division now has more than 1 million global customers in dozens of sectors, and Amazon claims it now generates $10 billion in annualized sales.
Having recently expanded its services into three new global markets in France, Italy and Spain, Amazon Business now has operating bases in eight countries. According to Bloomberg, its recent $1 billion acquisition of an online pharmacy, and deals with insurance and drug-benefit organizations, indicate that it’s all-in on expanding its medical products and services offerings in the U.S. and beyond.
Amazon’s dramatic and successful foray into B2B is a wake-up call to B2B sellers to invest in strategies to position themselves competitively. There’s a lot at stake: B2B e-commerce transactions are expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2021, Forrester Research projects.
To remain relevant in the upcoming years, B2B companies should study Amazon Business’s approach to customer attraction and retention and consider implementing some of the following strategies:
Companies must increase global competitiveness
Providing convenient, personalized customer experiences is rapidly becoming vital to global success—even in the B2B space. Translated, culturally relevant online user experiences for international customers are key to this strategy.
Regionally targeted digital content efficiently increases market share, and can help B2B companies stay competitive against behemoths like Amazon. Unfortunately, most B2B companies either don’t offer localized online experiences, or don’t do it well. Success in marketing and customer retention involve rethinking how companies deploy existing assets.
- Closely mine your data.
A website’s data offers crucial insights into how customers interact with your brand. A robust analytics platform that captures and reports website traffic, user engagement and other KPIs can help point to opportunities for improving the customer experience.
- Offer added value. The products your customers order, including their quantity and frequency, can help companies predict when customers may be due to reorder and when to proactively reach out to start the fulfillment process. Customer behavior patterns also offer opportunities to suggest new products that may better serve their needs or offer greater value.
- Supercharge fulfillment. Use information about the popularity of certain products to localize product inventory and provide efficient cross-border fulfillment. Reduce shipping costs and times by offering local customers the fastest fulfillment options for their regions.
- Provide translated content for underserved markets. Don’t go up against Amazon where it’s strongest. Instead, note that underserved markets offer a great opportunity for growth. Target countries where Amazon has a smaller market share. Make sure to translate your website so it thrives in local search engines and facilitates local customers’ needs.
- Deliver a complete, customized digital experience.
In today’s world, internet connectivity is practically ubiquitous, and B2B customers expect the same excellent online experience that B2C companies provide. It’s important to keep the following guidelines in mind.
- Communicate with your customers in their preferred languages. A fully in-language experience on your website and mobile apps will help win over global customers. They often feel more confident about doing business with vendors when they can research products and transact in their preferred language.
- Brand consistency is key. Your website isn’t the only medium through which customers connect with your brand. Don’t neglect social media, email and offline channels. Build trust, draw traffic and increase sales with consistent messaging across all channels.
- Employ new web technologies. Few B2B companies leverage technologies like chatbots, yet these tools provide a 24/7/365 sales channel anywhere in the world. Localize these channels for maximum engagement.
- Provide a transactional website.
B2B customers’ buying habits look more and more like those of B2C. Google’s customer insights team points out that nearly 90% of B2B buyers use the internet to conduct product research, and most prefer to make B2B purchases online. It’s crucial to provide e-commerce experiences by meeting customer expectations.
To get the most out of your transactional website:
- Choose the right platform. Although most transactional platforms are designed for B2C e-commerce, only a few suit the needs of B2B companies. Employ a platform that is flexible and scales to new markets.
- Localize transaction experiences. Support preferred payment options or use a transactional platform that offers multi-currency support, and display prices—including fulfillment costs—in local currencies whenever possible.
Set up your business to succeed
Not every business can—or should—duplicate Amazon’s model. They should still learn from Amazon’s best practices and apply strategies that differentiate them from the competition.
Amazon Business will undoubtedly dominate most markets, much like its retail counterpart. B2B companies can hold their own—and own niches in their industries—with data- and value-driven strategies.
Meeting customer needs and expanding to serve global markets online will enable B2B businesses that provide an Amazon-like convenience to thrive.
Craig Witt is executive vice president of global sales, marketing and go-to-market at MotionPoint, a company that delivers technology and services for website translation, localization and optimization. Follow him on Twitter @CraigWitt_.