In this second of a 5-part series on B2B ecommerce success strategies, Kristina Harrington, president and chief operating officer of GenAlpha Technologies, lays out critical steps for launching a B2B digital commerce channel.

B2B ecommerce success. Kristina Harrington GenAlphaTechnologies Headshot2

Kristina Harrington

After you’ve completed the work of identifying the needs of your customers, it is important to put the physical infrastructure behind your strategy, essentially, launch the site that will meet the priorities you uncovered in Step 1 – Define the Customer Journey. Here are three important activities for a successful ecommerce implementation.

Organizational Alignment

As ecommerce is a sales channel, I strongly recommend giving this channel its own budget with P&L responsibilities. Make sure to identify a strong leader, ideally one with ecommerce experience, and surround this person with a project team of influencers from various departments; customer support, technical service, sales, IT, finance, and potentially engineering should all have a dedicated representative on the project. Doing this will build user adoption both internally and externally.

In addition to this ecommerce team, everyone in sales and customer service should be a user of the ecommerce store. Having more employees trained on the site allows for more troubleshooting early on and a deeper understanding of the channel. These employees will be more energetic about the store and bring that enthusiasm and knowledge with them when speaking to customers.

I also recommend meeting with a vendor you trust who is going to take their experience and ask you difficult questions about your business in order to help you make good decisions for ecommerce implementation. Decisions around pricing, inventory, and channel conflict can be very complicated to discuss internally and it can be impactful to have an ecommerce vendor share experiences and offer suggestions.


Product Information Strategy

Having a well-thought-out product information strategy is one of the determining factors for ecommerce success. Good product information breaks down barriers to buying and makes products more accessible to customers. 80% of buyers say they’re more likely to make an online purchase if a site has accurate photos and videos, so things like a high-quality image, a good description, and specification information go a long way. They help to build customer confidence, reduce order errors, and increase sales.

Maybe you have a very large list of products and this seems like too much of an undertaking. At the very least, initially focus on providing detailed product information for the 20% of products that make up 80% of sales. Then over time that can be expanded out and applied to all products so that the digital sales channel can truly be maximized.

Another important step is to clearly display price and availability. Customers like ecommerce because they are able to quickly search for and purchase a product. In the B2B world, customers want to see their agreed-upon or contract price. Make sure you have a mechanism to display the list price to those customers who may not normally buy from you and a discounted price to those who may have earned favorable pricing due to their past engagement with you.

Product availability information is critical to ensuring customers continue the buying journey with you or look for an alternative place to buy. Most purchasers will not buy without knowing if a product is available, make sure you are giving them the most accurate information possible regarding current product availability. The goal of all of this is to save the end-user time, increase their confidence to purchase, and avoid a call to customer support.


Tell Everyone About It

Your new ecommerce site should be a welcome change for customers, make sure you toot your own horn. It’s so important to make announcements both pre- and post-launch communicating the added benefits of using your new digital store. Do not wait for users to find you. Email your entire contact database creating a sense of excitement for the new resources and tools you’ve created to ease the process of doing business with you.  If possible, email a login and password at launch so that customers do not have to worry about registering themselves.

Think about offering a launch promotion to encourage them to place their first order on your site. This has proven to be useful in taking users from visitor to conversion quickly post-launch. At trade shows plan to have a display at your booth with multiple salespeople ready to demonstrate your ecommerce features. This can be a great place to get in-person customer feedback and is a perfect time to make sure the sales team is comfortable using the site and speaking to the important talking points.

About the Author

Kristina Harrington is the president and chief operating officer at GenAlpha Technologies, which provides digital commerce technology for manufacturers. Prior to joining GenAlpha, Kris worked for more than 10 years in leadership positions at two large multinational original equipment manufacturers, Bucyrus International and Caterpillar, supporting the mining industry. In her various positions, she worked with internal stakeholders, dealers, and customers to deliver business results both in aftermarket and equipment sales. She can be reached at [email protected].

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