When your customers need a ride, they turn to Uber. When they’re hungry, they turn to DoorDash. When they want to buy the latest gadget, they turn to Amazon. Online habits like these have set a new level of expectation for the service your customers receive, even in a business setting.
eCommerce has changed expectations throughout the entire customer journey, from the moment customers start researching their options to the post-purchase experience. Today’s customers value control over how, when, and where they receive service.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how important eCommerce has become for manufacturers, with 67% of B2B businesses reporting that digital transformation, including eCommerce, has helped them overcome supply chain disruptions and helped them transition to remote work.
Another survey revealed that 91% of customers prefer going online to find a solution themselves. If your business isn’t offering the same kind of experience, you’re not just sitting on the sidelines, you’re at risk of missing a potential business and losing the customers you already have. As a manufacturing business, integrating your ERP with your website can help deliver the experience that your customers expect today.
Power your website with eCommerce
B2B eCommerce combines automation, customer self-service and integrations with technologies like your ERP to:
- Save time for sales and support staff, who can focus on nurturing customers and meeting more complex requests instead
- Simplify processes, especially in sales and delivery, since the backend does the heavy lifting of managing and updating inventory and product information
- Keep information accurate and up-to-date, allowing for customization while simultaneously eliminating many of the errors that come with manual input
- Meet customer expectations, so you don’t lose customers to competitors the next time they need help.
- Stand out from competitors in a world where work is increasingly done at home.
Whether you’re creating a new eCommerce strategy from the ground up or updating the one you have, let me share the most essential elements of a successful B2B eCommerce website:
1. A customer portal
When customers have questions about your products or their account, where do they find the answers ? 90% of customers now expect sellers to provide an online self-service portal where they can access their information, find answers, and place orders themselves.
Enter the customer portal: the ultimate all-in-one, 24/7 spot for customers to securely access their account-specific information, from invoicing and shipment status, to purchase history and product information, without ever picking up the phone or waiting on a reply via chat or email. They’ll save time getting straight to the answer… and so will you, as your frontline staff won’t need to answer common questions over and over again.
2. Custom reporting capability
No two customers have the same needs. So it makes sense that a one-size-fits-all website won’t impress, no matter how many metrics it tracks or how great it looks. The capability to deliver Custom reports to your customers sets great eCommerce sites apart from traditional ones because customers can access the data they need from you, in the format they prefer, when and how they need it. For example, consumption patterns, invoice status, tax receipts, and more.
3. Catalog management
Paper product catalogs cost too much time and money to design, print, distribute… and reprint when they fall out of date. PDF files aren’t much better: they’re frustrating to download, hard to read, and easily get buried in busy mailboxes, hard drives and shared drives.
That’s why a comprehensive online catalog is so important for B2B businesses. Successful eCommerce websites make it easy for customers to find the right product by providing robust filtering and search capabilities. Without the burden of extra information they don’t need, customers can quickly find what’s relevant, choose to dig deeper into the details, or see more options only when they want to. They can see everything from specs to availability to pricing. Automatic catalog management benefits your team too, as it reduces manual work – and therefore the risk of input errors – as everything from your SKUs to your current inventory is connected with your ERP.
4. Pricing and discount management
Here’s a dealbreaker: the price you list on your website is the same for everyone, or it’s different than the price an existing customer is already getting. Wouldn’t it be great if you could control the price across different industries, tiers or specific buyers? Or even hide prices altogether while you’re meeting with prospects? With the right eCommerce platform you can individualize prices and discounts down to the individual visitor, and with an ERP integration, it removes the manual work of plugging in numbers and the risk of incorrect prices.
5. Search engine optimization
You can build a great website, but can your customers find it? Search engine optimization, or SEO, is all about driving traffic to your site from users on search engines like Google. Strategically using the most-searched-for keywords in your page titles and page descriptions could help you rank higher on the results page. SEO is an important aspect that cannot be missed as it helps you reach more prospects and get more relevant visitors to your website.
6. Responsive website design
Even with the best technology, the best content, and the most comprehensive catalog, customers will click away if your site doesn’t deliver a great experience to your visitors.
The most successful eCommerce websites embrace modern, responsive design that’s as easy to use on a desktop or laptop computer as it is on a tablet or mobile phone. Pair that with intuitive navigation that makes it easy for customers to find the products they’re looking for and dynamic content that engages people so that they keep wanting more, and you’ll stand out from the crowd.
More than a website
eCommerce is more than just your website. It’s part of a digital transformation strategy that impacts every part of your business. And with happier customers, more productive employees, and a competitive edge – especially in challenging times – it’s a necessity you simply can’t ignore.