Like consumers in retail ecommerce, B2B buyers crave a user-friendly web experience. Matthias Goehler of SAP Customer Experience offers tips on how to satisfy those cravings.

MatthiasGoehler-SAP

Matthias Goehler

Consumers rarely need to wait in their daily lives anymore. Think about it. Need a ride? Click your Uber app and a car will be there in five minutes. Forgot to grab milk at the grocery store? Click to AmazonFresh and it will show up at your door within an hour. B2C experiences have never been faster.

However, “fast” isn’t a word typically used to define B2B ecommerce. This, on the other hand, can be long, frustrating and cumbersome. The problem is—in today’s digital economy, there’s really no difference between the expectations of a B2B buyer and the everyday consumer. B2B buyers are consumers and crave the same user-friendly web experiences, easy search functionality, navigation, fast checkout and visual shopping features they get from their favorite consumer brands.

Despite these high expectations, fewer than 50% of B2B companies had deployed a B2B ecommerce site in survey conducted in 2018 by Digital Commerce 360 B2B. However, the imperative is beginning to be realized and within one year from now, it’s estimated that more than 70% of those companies without an ecommerce site will dive in and create an ecommerce channel.

So, how do B2B brands optimize their ecommerce channels to provide better experiences and achieve sustainable growth? Beyond using configure-price-quote (CPQ) tools to help centralize product and pricing information to accurately generate quotes for each order, here are a few other tips: optimize UX design, make it easy for customers to contact you, and utilize product recommendations.

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Intuitive user experience is the holy grail   

Arguably the most important piece of a B2B ecommerce strategy is optimizing the website to B2C standards. The website determines how customers experience the shopping journey, how they move through the sales funnel and ultimately, whether or not they make a purchase.

Optimizing UX design doesn’t need to be a laborious process. Brands should follow established best practices like making their calls-to-action stand out, having clickable items be obvious, ensuring important elements are easily identifiable using color or size and, of course, making the navigation experience just as intuitive on mobile as it is on a desktop.

Another key piece of the UX design is the ability for the buyer to manage all order fulfillment scenarios in a single view. Complex scenarios like sourcing, consignment and delivery should be easily accessible in one place online to improve the shopping experience from start to finish.

A transition toward self-service

A B2B ecommerce optimization strategy must also include making it easy for prospects and customers to contact you. This is particularly true for new customers, who might prefer to discuss their particular buying needs over the phone or in-person.

Beyond generic contact forms, brands should think about leveraging customer self-service tools that can provide fast and efficient support while providing increased flexibility for the customer. Chatbots, for example, are a great way for brands to efficiently complete simple communication tasks, gather information and answer commonly asked questions.

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There has been an evolution towards self-service in B2B industries—for good reason. It enables customers to research and purchase on their own terms while reducing overhead costs for the company. In fact, a recent McKinsey study found that 86% of B2B decision-makers prefer using self-service tools when reordering, rather than speaking to a sales representative.

Reap the benefits of relevant recommendations

Finally, B2B brands should leverage AI-driven product recommendation engines that improve the customer experience by serving up personalized, relevant content the buyer might not have discovered otherwise.

The power of the right product recommendation and personalization overall cannot be understated. Accenture found that 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands thatb2b provide relevant offers and recommendations. Further, personalization can lead to increased conversion rates, customer acquisition and improved brand perception.

To put it simply, the more personalized the experience is, the more likely consumers are to pay attention and take action.

What’s the takeaway? Today’s B2B commerce models should put more emphasis on building relationships and less on transactions. When more attention is put on creating an enjoyable, seamless experience, B2B brands will foster deeper relationships, leading to increased revenue.

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Matthias Goehler is the head of Industries & Product Management C/4 HANA, SAP Customer Experience, at business software company SAP SE.   

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