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B2B eCommerce Website Best Practices

January 28, 2019
Running a B2B eCommerce business or moving into the B2B eCommerce space? This article covers the B2B eCommerce website best practices that can improve your user experience and optimize online sales. B2B eCommerce is poised to do more business in 2019 than ever before…if industries and companies can master the art of online sales. This lies in aligning technology with your dealer and wholesaler requirements and enhancing your customer experience.

Modern B2B eCommerce strategy borrows heavily from its B2C eCommerce cousin for several reasons. The key is that B2B buyers – many of them Millenials – are used to being end consumers on online stores and expect standard retail purchase flows.

Of course, there are also many distinct B2B eCommerce features that must be implemented for an online B2B sales system to be effective. And, in 2019 and beyond, unique and engaging customer experience is mandatory.

B2B eCommerce Website Best Practices

Want to make your online B2B platform the best it can be? Here's how.

  1. Contract-based Content
  2. Quick Order Options
  3. Advanced Quoting Features
  4. Advanced Shipping Options
  5. B2C-Like Product Detail Pages
  6. Guided Navigation
  7. Optimize for On-Site Search
  8. Product/Part Finder
  9. Upgrade Your SEO

Each section below will cover why the element is valuable for B2B eCommerce companies and suggest what you can do today to optimize your customer experience.

Contract-based Catalog Content

Contracts make B2B eCommerce more difficult to manage than B2C. When an approved B2B buyer logs in, they need to see only what their contract allows. This can be done through personalization software and user-based content privileges.

Since a lot of B2B sales are contract-based, you need to make sure your website shows registered contract clients the following:

  • Products they are allowed to purchase
  • Price at which those products are available (including volume)
  • Contract terms and conditions
  • Downloadable PDFs and Promotional Material specific to customers

Even in small B2B businesses, you may have multiple contracts applied to different business units within a single client. This level of personalization can become complex, but a dedicated eCommerce platform like Magento can provide complete control over user-based content or custom content presentation.

Action Item: Talk to your developer about contract-based website personalization. It may increase the frequency and quantity of orders from contract clients.

Quick Order Options

Your contract clients probably know what they want or may place the same orders month after month. They may even know these products by heart, SKU number and all. A Quick Order feature allows buyers to enter the product code and quantity and be ready for checkout in seconds. It expedites their process, which means your revenue keeps flowing.

Another option that you may already offer is ordered by XML or CSV upload from a customer account. In this case, your eCommerce system validates the inputs or a sales agent does this manually and the order is placed.

There are many sophisticated methods available, from pre-built quick order plugins to smart excel documents that call out directly to APIs.

Action Item: Enhance your ordering software and/or process to make it easier and faster for your customers to place orders.

Advanced Quoting & RFQ

User-friendly quoting functions are a B2B eCommerce best practice and must-have. Placing an ‘add to quote’ button on your product details page allows non-registered users to put together a ‘cart’ for you to estimate.

This is especially valuable if you offer quoting features on configurable items or other unusual order requests. Make it easy for people to understand what buying from you involves and how much it costs.

If you have existing quoting software, make sure it is integrated with your eCommerce platform so the products you offer can be accurately configured and quoted. You want your quotes and website information to be consistent across all data fields.

Action Item: Review your quoting functions. If they are basic or several years old, it is time to upgrade.

Advanced Shipping Options

In B2B eCommerce, your shipping options need to be as adaptable as your customer needs are varied. Some customers’ orders may require shipping to three or more locations. Offering split shipment functionality on your website without the need to call a customer rep directly is part of excellent user experience.

Keep in mind that even a single line in a cart (one item with quantity >1), may need to be sent to multiple addresses. Can your eCommerce platform support line item independence (where items are both connected and independent of themselves and the order) like this?

Other customer preferences include fraud prevention and address verification. Your credibility and order volume will grow if you can prove (or show) B2B customers that your eCommerce technology can protect their investments. They’ll also expect real-time tracking information and updates from your shipping provider.

Action Item: If your system can only support ‘one order one address’ shipping, it’s time to upgrade to a modern system that can adapt to customer needs.

B2C-Like Product Detail Pages

Search and guided navigation may be what customers want most, but your product detail pages are what drive conversions. In B2C, product detail pages get most of your traffic and convince customers that they want what you’re selling.

On a B2B eCommerce website, your product detail page should include:

  • A short, compelling description (100+ words)
  • Part numbers (SKU #, MFR #, cross ref #, etc.)
  • Inventory quantities
  • Images (5+) with zoom
  • Technical specifications
  • Materials
  • Attributes
  • Attachments (spec sheets, manufacturer documents, etc.)
  • Compliance and regulatory information
  • Accessories
  • Alternate / equivalent products
  • Related products

Action Item: Take a look at your product detail pages. Add content until they answer every question a customer might have. You may need to add new attribute fields.

Guided Navigation

Easy site navigation goes hand-in-hand with optimized on-site search. Most customers agree that the most important factor in website design is how easy it is to find what they want.

Guided navigation, then, is giving visitors the simplest way possible to navigate a large data set or product catalog. Clear dropdowns, categories, subcategories, and granular data must all be presented in a linear and logical way.

Nobody searches for content in exactly the same way. Most B2C users appreciate multiple entry points or filters to refine their search and reach what they are looking for.

Since B2B products are often complex, technical and have lots of data attributes, guided navigation is even more important for B2B eCommerce. Making it easy for new and repeat customers to find what they want (sometimes in catalogs of 100,000+ SKUs) is a powerful way to improve the user experience.

When asked to cite the top features or functions they would most like from suppliers in the selling process, most business buyers chose enhanced search functionality on their website (60%). – MultiChannel Merchant, 2018

Action Item: Make sure your navigation and product catalog are easy to use. You may need to reorganize the site, but it will be worth it for SEO and user experience.

Optimize On-Site Search

In B2C, on-site search is now the primary way users find what they are looking for. It’s time to apply that lesson to your B2B website . While you still need a clear navigation structure (more on that below), pushing your search box to the front and center of your page can have a profound effect on your conversion rate. Make your search box available on all pages and give it a call to action like, “search by product name or numbers.

You'll also want to give users the ability to filter their results to help them arrive at the right product. Since most B2B products are all about specifications and many B2B businesses have large catalogs, then allowing customers to look for their specifics by filtering for certain voltage, weight, capacity (for example) will give them the right choices to buy.

Your on-site search must also be smart. This means you not only need quality software but also need to ensure that all your products have consistent and rich attributes to aid the search software. You’ll also want to plan for variations in query formatting and units of measure. For example, customers may write 24 foot as 24ft., 24 ft, 24 feet, 24', or some other way. Your search must be smart enough to adapt to these variations.

Search assist tools like Type Ahead, which opens up a box with matching results as the customer types, are also critical. Other enhancements, such as allowing users to search by competitor part numbers or matching queries across a broad range of attributes, may also help with conversions.

Action Item: Prioritize on-site search for this year's technology upgrades. The smarter and more convenient your search box is for customers, the more conversions you'll get.

Parts Finder / Product Finder

This is related to the improved on-site search functionality discussed above. Most eCommerce platforms come with default search options, but they can be limited.

A dedicated Parts Finder tool that is calibrated to your catalog and customers, can provide a more convenient way for users to find what they want. These tools can support advanced filters and multiple product criteria to cut down search results to only the most relevant SKUs.

Advanced Parts Finder functions include customization options like:

  • Add unlimited backend product filters based on product attributes
  • Improved user experience on front end thanks to more complex filters
  • Product import and upload assistance that can save time
  • Automatic redirects to product pages when only one product appears in results
  • Autosave filter options for repeat customers

You can also brand your parts finder and make it a signature feature of your website or app. New customers will have an easier time getting used to your content and repeat customers will come to rely on the parts finder functionality.

Action Item: Optimize your Parts Finder functions to help customers get what they want. You may need a new utility, so ask your developer!

Upgrade Your SEO

We all know the SEO benefits of having the right title tags, image alt tags, meta descriptions, and interlinking structures. But on-page SEO is just the beginning for B2B eCommerce.

One powerful B2B SEO booster that you may be staring at without realizing it is your product catalog. Many B2B eCommerce sites hide their product catalogs behind login screens so only registered customers can view them.

This is outdated B2B eCommerce thinking. Hiding your catalog this way means Google will miss all those pages, products, attributes and specifications. This data is essential for strong SEO and by making your whole catalog indexable by Google you can generate a lot more traffic.

You don’t have to give access to pricing or inventory either. That information can be reserved for registered users (more about that in the Contract-based Content section).

Action Item: Work with your developer to make your product catalog (excluding certain information) indexable by Google and visible by non-registered users.

Finding a B2B eCommerce Development Partner

If you are running on an older platform, it is possible that your current developer may also need an update. To optimize your website user experience and functionality, the best investment you can make is in a knowledgeable and skilled eCommerce developer.

Whether you need to migrate your current eCommerce platform to something newer like Magento 2, or want to add features like a new ERP or CRM, it pays in the long run to choose a developer you can rely on.

You can find an excellent list of cutting-edge eCommerce agencies on DesignRush. We suggest you reach out to several of these to get a sense of how they work and how they can apply today's B2B eCommerce best practices to your website.

Future-Ready B2B eCommerce

At the end of the day, B2B and B2C eCommerce share a common goal: to got to give your customers what they want, when they want it and how they want it.

While you can (and should) mine your data and analytics, research best practices, and implement up-to-date technology, your best resource is actually your current and prospective customers. Put together a brief survey and ask them what they like about your service, what they dislike, and what would make their lives easier. You can also call them directly or chat about your service at your next in-person meeting.

In B2B eCommerce, if you've got quality products that customers want, you need a compelling customer experience that makes it fast and simple for them to buy from you.

For more information about B2B best practices and eCommerce strategy, contact us today.

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