The same but different—it’s a good phrase to describe B2C and B2B eCommerce websites. Certain fundamentals are required to sell successfully online no matter your market or your product, like high-quality images, simple navigation, and powerful product search functionality. But other features and functionality are more useful in a business-to-business context than they would be for business-to-consumer selling, and that’s where the magic happens (or, sometimes, it doesn’t). Organizations that are focused on this market need to master these aspects if they want to get in on the $6.6 trillion in sales projected for global B2B eCommerce in the next few years.Organizations that are focused on this market need to master these aspects if they want to get in on the $6.6 trillion in sales projected for global B2B eCommerce in the next few years. Click To Tweet
To give you some inspiration for your own B2B eCommerce website, I’ve outlined the functionalities I believe are important for this market and provided some B2B eCommerce examples that do these things well. (None of which are Amazon or Alibaba—not because those sites don’t do them well, but because I’m a believer in spreading the love!)
B2B eCommerce Done Right: Examples & Functionality
1. A top-notch user experience (UX).
You’ve probably heard of MOO, the business stationery company. The way its B2B eCommerce site is designed speaks volumes about its product: They’re not just selling paper products (which are tactile and usually pretty challenging to sell online!); they’re selling paper products that will “help you start conversations, open doors, and strengthen relationships.” The site has a welcoming, upbeat feeling—and quality photographs—that support that sales angle. Original photography takes time and can be costly, but it’s a worthwhile investment for all B2B eCommerce sites, particularly those where sales may rely on more than simple practicality.
MOO even has a tab for “Inspiration,” where you can browse products other customers have bought, making it feel more like a community than a business site. And a clearly labeled tab for “10+ Employees” is an easy introduction to what MOO can do for businesses of all sizes, describing just three simple steps to get started. MOO came into a competitive space and has a much smaller catalog than its competitors, but they are clearly experts in their niche.
Another example of excellent UX is ezCater. The site makes it easy to find caterers anywhere in the U.S. and even compare menus. All you have to do is enter your delivery address in a box front and center on the home page and you’re off and running. Every caterer has price ranges, minimum order amounts, delivery fees, and timeliness ratings as well as customer reviews. There’s nothing that would get in the way of completing an order on this well-designed site.
2. Detailed product information and descriptions.
B2C websites offer up plenty of product details, so why shouldn’t you? Some B2B products are technical and complex, but that complexity shouldn’t stop you from conveying all the details customers care about—especially if your product requires a costly investment. You can convey those details in a variety of ways—thorough, written descriptions; high-quality images; videos; spec sheets, etc.
Other ways to ease your customers’ pain points: Give them a way to determine product availability—something as simple as putting a product and zip code into a query box will do. Purchase decisions get easier when they know whether or not the product they want is immediately available and/or when they can expect it. Also, make it easy to find products that go together. Remember the last time you had to order printer toner or a power cord? It shouldn’t be that hard.
Dell does an excellent job of providing detailed product information. Most of its product pages include tech specs, written product descriptions, videos, awards and reviews, and related solutions and services. And Quill’s Printer Ink and Toner Cartridge Finder is a stellar example of easing customers’ pain points.
3. Customized pricing.
Some functionality, like customized pricing, matters more if you’re targeting medium- and large-size businesses. Large companies are more apt to purchase in bulk, and therefore expect different prices/discounts. It’s a huge expense to furnish meeting rooms with chairs, for example; a large organization would naturally want to speak with someone to negotiate a price. This functionality is often indicated with a “Get a Quote” button, which should be featured prominently on your product pages.
If you company is catering to large enterprise customers, your website needs to offer not only customized pricing but entire buying experiences tailored to specific customers. Some B2B eCommerce websites, like Staples Business Advantage, can customize the product assortment or recommend products to fit the needs and preferences of particular customers.
4. An easy way to buy for others.
In the business world, sometimes the person placing orders is not the one who will be using the products. An administrative assistant in a large office or the manager of a science lab, for example, could be in charge of ordering for a group of people, and he or she may not always using themselves the products they’re asking to purchase. It’s helpful to be able to easily share product descriptions on the site with others via email.
ThermoFisher allows shoppers to create a shared list and invite collaborators to edit it, leave comments, and even complete the final purchase. Similarly, office products supplier Quill uses “shared carts” that can be edited by collaborators, and even allows you to add due dates and automated reminder notices for them.
5. A range of payment options.
Large companies often prefer invoices over paying by credit card, and they may even refuse to buy from an eCommerce site that doesn’t offer invoicing. You can make invoices even easier to pay by adding a payment link, which immediately takes customers to a secure webpage where they can quickly close out a sale.
Another way to enhance your B2B eCommerce site is to offer payment options that match the regional and cultural preferences of shoppers in all parts of the world. That means you need the ability to accept payment in numerous currencies around the world, and a wide range of payment types. Creating a payment experience that feels “local” for customers, no matter where they live, is not only good for them but also good for you, since they’re more likely to complete the transaction if they see a familiar payment type.
6. The ability to set up automatic recurring purchases.
Setting up a buying process that encourages efficient, repeat sales is to your benefit as well as your customers’. Many organizations need the same supplies repeatedly. Rather than requiring shoppers to return to your site time and time again, filling out the same information, give them a way to set up orders automatically. Vitality Medical consistently offers a recurring delivery option for every product bought, and also offers free shipping on recurring orders over a certain amount.
Does your B2B ecommerce website need a more powerful payment gateway?
The payment process is one of the most important parts of a well-functioning B2B site, so if you haven’t evaluated your payment gateway’s performance lately then it’s time. BlueSnap’s All-in-One Payment Platform gives you everything you need for payment processing in a single integration, and can actually help you increase sales. To find out more about our payment platform, visit our product page or get in touch.