3 Ways to Build B2B Relationships with Ecommerce

Ferguson, a plumbing supplier, allows business customers to quickly order products online, making it easier for those customers to do their jobs.

Ferguson, a plumbing supplier, allows business customers to quickly order products online, making it easier for those customers to do their jobs.

When it comes to building relationships, B2B ecommerce is different than B2C. There is still an individual relationship — there’s always a person on the other side. However, in B2B that person is doing a job, typically as a buyer or a distributor.

By helping your customers and distributors do their job better and make their lives easier, you can earn their appreciation, trust, and loyalty. At the end of the day, if customers know they can get what they need easily and are well taken care of, that can outweigh cost considerations — competing on price.

How to Improve Relationships?

Start by thinking through the relationships that already exist through your company’s internal team. Sales and customer service personnel are the front lines when it comes to building and maintaining relationships with your customers. What pain points exist for your company when it comes to sales and customer service interactions?

  • Is your customer service team overwhelmed?
  • What kinds of things do customers ask about? Replacement parts? Installation instructions? Which product accessories are right for them?
  • What issues do your sales reps face, either in the office or in the field?
  • Is the quoting process time consuming for your sales reps?
  • How can your website lessen the sales and customer service load?

Next, consider your relationships from your customers’ perspective. Send customers a survey of their experiences using a tool like SurveyMonkey. Or, for even better feedback, run a usability study with a tool like UserTesting.com to see how your customers interact with your website — looking for areas where your users get tripped up or are running into issues. You can also use UserTesting to obtain video recordings showing how your customers interact with your website on mobile devices.

Where are your opportunities for serving your customers better and enhancing their relationship? And how can your ecommerce site play a role in that?

3 Areas Where Ecommerce Strengthens B2B Relationships

While there are many ways to use your web presence to improve relationships for your B2B business, I often see them fall into three major categories: information, personalization, and online tools.

Information. Consider what information will help customers in using and buying your product. You may be selling to engineers or architects who need documentation, spec sheets, or other material. Videos can help customers install your product. Parts diagrams can help customers in locating the correct replacement part. What information can you provide that will help your customers do their job faster and better?

Product content can often be a lot to manage for your internal team. You have multiple versions of documents, and you likely have them available in several languages. Consider how you can provide the information in a manner that is easy for your customers to find.

One option is to have a top-level page called “Resources” that enables visitors to look through all of the available product content. You can also allow users to access product content from the product page itself, possibly in a tabbed layout. Regardless, offer visitors multiple ways of getting to the product content.

To simplify the management of all the information, consider a content management system with a product content database that enables content to be added once and be viewed in multiple locations.

Personalization. Gartner Research predicts that by 2018, B2B companies that incorporate personalization in online commerce will outsell by 30 percent companies that do not. It makes sense. If your website provides your customers exactly what they need, they will likely check your website first, and be more likely to purchase from you even if your prices are higher.

Here are a few ways you can build stronger B2B relationships by personalizing your ecommerce experience.

  • Related products. A common method of personalizing your site is through an area on product pages that shows “Customers who bought this also bought…”
  • Frequently ordered products. In many cases, only a fraction of the available products are relevant to a particular customer. Personalize this customer’s experience by displaying its own frequently ordered products, maybe even noting the specific equipment at its facility that the products apply to.
  • Sales rep information. Strengthen your customer’s connection to its sales rep by showing a picture of the rep when the customer logs in and providing the rep’s phone number and email address underneath the picture.

Take personalization a step further by displaying content that is customized to your visitors based on what you know about them. Your business may have different types of buyers for your products, such as dealers, system consultants, and residential users. When visitors come to your site from a referral link that indicates what type of user they are, customize the content and images they see on your site to make them more relevant.

Texas Instruments enables visitors to personalize their web experience.

Texas Instruments enables visitors to personalize their web experience.

Online tools. There are many online tools that can help your customers do their jobs better and faster.

  • Online configurator. If you have a telephone process that your team uses to guide customers to the correct product, create an online wizard to determine and configure the correct solution. Your configurator could go directly into a quote request that is handled by your team or distributed to your dealers.
  • Quoting system. If you sell through dealers, provide them with an online quoting system that makes it easier for them to build and deliver quotes to their customers.
  • Quick order pad. For people who know exactly what they want, save them time by allowing them to type part numbers and quantities into an easy order form.
Geiger, which sells promotional items, provides product configurators that enable the ordering of customized products online.

Geiger, which sells promotional items, provides product configurators that enable the ordering of customized products online.

More Than Price

At the end of the day, you want customers to buy from you on more than just price. By personalizing your site, providing the information that they need, and using tools that save your customers time, you can build trust and become the source they will look to.

Lori McDonald
Lori McDonald
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