Just as consumers have flocked more to retail ecommerce sites during the pandemic, B2B buyers are also going online in greater numbers. Just Racine of Perficient lays out several ways B2B companies should improve their ecommerce sites to win over these new customers.

JustinRacine

Justin Racine

A recent Digital Commerce 360 research report stated that retail ecommerce sales were up 39% during the first quarter of 2021 vs Q1 of 2020, an interesting statistic that is not as surprising as you may think. There’s no question that during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic consumers looked to digital channels to purchase. However, the pandemic really did not hit hard in Q1. It was during Q2 and Q3 when stores really shut down and consumers had to change their ordering behaviors and habits.

Are you noticing a significant amount of orders coming in through non-digital channels? If so, your customers could be fed up with a poor experience on your ecommerce site.

So, with all that said, why is this not surprising to me? Simple. New human behaviors have been learned and adopted—and they aren’t going anywhere.

Here’s what happened. The pandemic forced us as consumers to leverage new channels to purchase simple things like shampoo, toilet paper, groceries, and other household items that typically we would drive to physical stores to purchase. In some cases, we still drove to stores to pick up the items we bought online. After ordering in these new methods for months, our behaviors as consumers have forever been changed, and new purchasing habits have been adopted that will forever change ecommerce and how we order.

These new behavior changes have likely influenced other areas outside of consumer retail purchases. Where, you might ask? Yup—you’ve guessed it, B2B ecommerce purchasing.

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It’s easy to forget that folks who are making purchases from your B2B ecommerce store also purchase for themselves through B2C ecommerce channels in their personal life. This is critically important because these buyers have new expectations resulting from new experiences they have been exposed to over the last year—and because of the increased comfort level that they have with ordering online. These new experiences have now become the “bar” for their expectations—and if your B2B ecommerce site hasn’t had any new/significant features rolled out over the last year, you could be in trouble.

So, how do you know if this is happening to your business? What can you proactively do to stop it if it is?

Here are some key areas to focus in on:

Deep Analytical Review (on and offline)

If you’ve read my blog posts in the past, you likely saw this one coming—and if you did, great! You must start with all your data and analytics to see what changes in purchasing behavior might have occurred over the last year. But make sure you look at both online and offline data points:

  • Online—Dig deep into google analytics and explore areas like bounce rates, exit rates, conversion rates, time on site, new vs. returning visitors. You should be looking for trends in the data showing where your customers are having poor online experiences. For example, if you see your conversion rates in Q1 of 2021 are 4.5% and they were 3.9% during the same period last year, you have a problem. The next step will be for you to look at your entire checkout process and see exactly where customers might be dropping off.
  • Offline—Look at things like customer satisfaction, lifetime value (LTV), customer service orders and email orders. Are you noticing a significant amount of orders coming in through non-digital channels? If so, your customers could be fed up with a poor experience on your ecommerce site.

Proactive voice of customer/voice of employee

The data review will guide you down the path of categorical concerns, but bringing your customers and employees into the mix and starting dialogues around what you are seeing in the data will help shine a light on the real problems that your site might have. Try to make your customers and employees a part of the process from the beginning.

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This inclusion of customers and employees will help to ensure that you not only deliver and build new features and experiences that are in line with their expectations, but that you’re also staying close with them and that they know you are working to make things better.

Continuous Feature Releases

Once you’ve figured out some of the problem areas your ecommerce site might have, the next step is to build out your backlog of feature releases. Which I’m sure most people reading this article are doing today. What you may not be doing, however, is communicating this release schedule and teasing out features before the launch.

By doing letting your customers know about site improvements soon to launch, you’ll create excitement with both your employees and your customers. This is helpful as it gives your key stakeholders something to look forward to. And because your customers will be anticipating site features they helped to develop through your voice-of-customer programs, they’ll be far less likely to take their business elsewhere.

Consumer behaviors have changed forever, and these changes will continue to change B2B ecommerce.

Are you losing business to competitors

Ask yourself this question: “How much business am I losing to my competitors?” Can you answer it? You likely can’t. No one really knows for sure how much business they are missing out on, and you can’t control what a B2B buyer is going to do.

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But what you can control is your ecommerce site, your online customer experience, and your brand. The pursuit of excellence is a journey that is never attained. Instead, it evolves and pivots as events such as COVID19 disrupt what we are used to. You’ll never “get there” or “be done” with ecommerce, and that’s the point.

During his Oscar acceptance speech in 2014, Matthew McConaughey told a story of someone who came to him and asked who his hero was. “My hero is me, but I’m never going to be my hero,” he said. “My hero is always 10 years away, and that’s fine with me because that gives me someone to keep on chasing.”

Apply that same ideology to your B2B ecommerce business, keep on chasing excellence. You’ll never fully achieve it, but the pursuit will create experiences that your customers will use as the benchmarks that they compare everyone else to.  The rest will be history.

Justin Racine is a senior commerce consultant at Perficient Digital, a digital technology and services agency focused on digital transformation. He is a former director of ecommerce and marketing at distributor Geriatric Medical and Surgical Supply Inc. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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