These B2B buyers have come to expect simple, streamlined online experiences that mirror their B2C transactions. If your business is to stay competitive, it needs to adapt accordingly. Read on as we explore how you can utilize buyer journey mapping to optimize your B2B e-commerce offering.
This is the decision-making process a buyer goes through when purchasing from another business. It involves research, consideration of risks, price negotiation, and final product selection.
In B2B, the sale takes place between two business entities, while in B2C, goods and services are sold to a customer for their personal use.
The B2B buying journey is typically more complex; whilst B2C can be as simple as a customer ordering a product online, B2B may involve input from several departments within a business, and take in considerations including scalability and integration with existing systems.
B2B transactions also tend to have a greater element of personalization; prices are negotiable, and product assortment and catalogs are customized with unique segmentation to meet each business customer’s requirement.
Gartner forecasts that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers to occur in digital channels1. Despite this, research by Sana2 found that 50% of B2B e-commerce sites are not fully meeting the expectations of buyers, whilst 94% of buyers report suffering from customer experience challenges when they buy online.
By understanding their buyers’ journey, businesses can deliver better experiences that will nurture leads through the sales tunnel.
The new generation of B2B decision makers is shifting the procurement process. In fact, research by Gartner found that 33% of all buyers now desire a seller-free experience3, and have become increasingly comfortable placing even high-value orders via self-serve online.
Buyers want the experience they’re used to when shopping as a B2C customer: a user-friendly website with fast loading speed, clear and intuitive navigation, product recommendations, easy checkout (with minimal form entry), multiple payment options, and flexible delivery.
A self-service portal where your customers can perform tasks and complete wholesale B2B e-commerce transactions independently. Shopify’s dedicated B2B e-commerce platform, for example, allows users to set up a profile to:
A powerful search function. McKinsey surveyed key B2B decision makers across the world4 and asked them “what ways of interacting with a supplier would be most beneficial to you when researching/considering suppliers going forward?” The most popular answer was onsite search. Without a sales rep to guide them, buyers visiting B2B e-commerce sites will instead rely on a powerful search engine to help them find what they’re looking for, so ensure you invest in this function accordingly.
Flexible payment methods. Online buyers want a fast, seamless checkout experience and to pay via their preferred method. However, B2B payments are more complex than B2C; many wholesale customers pay after their shipment has been delivered, invoices are often required, and payment by check is still common.
That said, there are dedicated B2B e-commerce payment processors you can integrate to facilitate a seamless experience for your customers. Payment platform Stripe, for example, has developed online invoices with a built-in, electronic payment option. Customers can pay vendors directly, in the method and language of their choice. The company says that Stripe-hosted invoices get paid, on average, three times faster5 than typical invoices.
To optimize your current B2B offering, it’s important to first understand the different stages of the buyer journey, and the factors which influence their decision making.
The buyer identifies a problem or need within their business, or an opportunity they want to pursue. They begin researching products, services or businesses that can provide a solution. They may consult reviews and referrals to help them.
The buyer evaluates their options, comparing things like pricing and features. They may consult other teams within their organization (such as the operations department) to ensure the potential product’s specifications fulfil requirements.
The buyer makes a final decision and contacts the supplier to negotiate terms and prices. This interaction may be done face-to-face, but is increasingly conducted online.
By mapping out your business’s own unique buyer journey, you can see where it is falling short of meeting customer expectations. You’ll gain insights to optimize and improve your service and convert more sales.
It goes without saying that your customers will have the most useful insights about your current B2B service. Reach out and ask them what they like most about your brand, what works well, what’s lacking, and their biggest frustrations. You could send customers a survey by email, or invite feedback on your social channels.
90% of B2B buyers expect a DTC-style customer experience from B2B vendors6, so the goal is to streamline each step of the buyer journey.
List all the touchpoints a customer has with your brand, such as your website and contact forms. Then list all the actions they are required to take at each – e.g., registering an account or filling in details – and then identify how you can simplify the process. For example, this might mean allowing them to pay with an existing PayPal account rather than having to enter new payment details.
Further improvements can be made to your buyer journey once you understand their common frustrations. Customer feedback will provide some of these insights, as will your website data. For example, analytics may show that lots of customers abandon their purchases once asked to register an account which is where offering a “Guest Checkout” feature can help.
Once you understand your business’s pain points, you can research which new systems and technology you may need to invest in to make improvements.
After you have made changes, you can analyze your website analytics to track your progress. Look closely at where you are losing buyers to see where improvements still need to be made to optimize their journey.
As B2B buyers’ expectations of online procurement continue to evolve, so too should your business. By adopting the above strategies, B2B businesses can stay relevant in a fast-changing industry. The key is to deliver B2C-like experiences – fast, intuitive and seamless – which is where DHL Express experts can support your business. We can help you offer the key e-commerce features your customers will expect – including On Demand Delivery, tracking, order history, and automatic tax calculations for cross-border shipments.