3 B2C eCommerce Features B2B Companies Should Steal
With B2B eCommerce growing faster than B2C, you know the importance of selling your products online. The challenges you face as a B2B merchant, however, make eCommerce less straightforward than it is for your B2C counterparts. With complex transactions, lengthy sales cycles, and tailored pricing strategies, B2B eCommerce involves more than just putting your products on the web.
The hard truth, however, is that B2B buyers expect and want to buy products online. According to a recent study of industrial distribution buyers, 54 percent research using distributors’ websites and 66 percent purchase online.
In addition to the web, B2B buyers also use smartphones, tablets, and social media to research and buy products, much like consumers do. The variety of digital touchpoints available to today’s buyers can make any B2B merchant’s head spin.
Regardless of how complex your business or products are, all online buyers use a few of the same features across every eCommerce site to research, find, and buy the products they need. As you consider launching, redesigning, or updating your B2B website, you can look to B2C to steal three of these features for your own site.
Product Category Structure
Your website navigation matters, whether you sell steel drums or button-down shirts. Buyers who land on your site need to immediately understand what products you carry in order to decide if you sell what they need. If you don’t make your product selection clear to them, they’ll jump off your site within seconds.
Take this B2B website, which sells personal protective equipment, as an example. While it’s clear they sell PPE, the subcategories overlap with one another:
If you were researching reflective vests, where would you click on this website? The high-visibility clothing category seems an option, but then again, so does reflective material. And what about protective apparel? Does this category also include high-visibility clothing?
The answer is: Who knows?
You have about 20 seconds to grab a buyer’s attention before he leaves your website, and a crystal clear navigation structure is one way to do that. Especially for busy B2B buyers on a jobsite with other tasks to complete, they won’t stick around to click through all your confusing product categories.
Now, take a look at the category structure of this B2B website that sells wholesale promotional products:
The categories immediately communicate the site’s product offering. Not only that, but buyers can easily understand the different ways to shop: by team, player, event, or product type. A buyer who discovers this website from an Internet search will likely stay put and start clicking around.
Product Filtering Experience
Once a buyer clicks into a product category, he’s not finished discovering products just yet; in fact, he’s just begun. Product filters help him make key decisions as he narrows products down from a large selection.
Like your product categories, product filters should communicate at-a-glance what products and information he can expect to find.
For example, this B2B website sells industrial abrasives. The gray product filters on the left are supposed to help customers narrow their product selection, but if you look closely you’ll see that’s nearly impossible:
The filters are not only confusing but also too numerous. Since the product filter names are unclear, buyers are forced to click and expand each gray filter just to find out what it means and what products it contains.
B2B buyers simply don’t have time for this. If they can’t efficiently sort through your products, they’ll bounce off your site quickly.
Now, compare that example with a different abrasives distributor’s filtering experience:
Each filter is distinct, clearly named, and lets customers select values via inline scrolling. This setup makes product discovery easy by spoon-feeding each filter one at a time. A buyer who discovers this website will likely stay put because it’s easy to research and find information.
Rich Product Detail Page Content
Once a buyer has clicked on a product category and narrowed her selection with filters, she’ll eventually land on a product detail page. The product detail page is the point in the buying journey when she thinks she may have found what she needs. She’s close to a purchase decision and just needs to confirm that the product will, in fact, meet her needs.
What helps her confirm this? Rich content such as images, copy, spec sheets, and application guides. Since she’s close to a purchase you just need to nudge her over the edge, and rich content that facilitates self-service will do just that.
As an example, take a look at this B2B eCommerce website that sells commercial cooking equipment. The lack of rich content on the detail page is a complete missed opportunity:
At more than $7,000 this oven is no small purchase. Beyond one static image and a few product specs, the page does little to boost the confidence of a B2B buyer who needs to confirm that this oven meets her needs.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a product detail page from a competing cooking supply website:
This page offers a wealth of informative and educational content. A spec sheet, manual, warranty, and brochure accompany paragraph-style details, a list of specs, and clear product measurements. Links to buying guides and information about equipment certification give her even more ammo to click the add-to-cart button.
Give Buyers Confidence In You
Beyond confidence in a purchase decision, these foundational eCommerce features demonstrate to buyers that you’re a trustworthy, reliable source for business purchasing. If B2B buyers think it’s easy to research, understand, and find products on your site, they’ll believe the same about transacting with you.
Now that you know a few basics, check out our free white paper, Consumerization of B2B eCommerce (PDF), to learn how B2B merchants handle deeper eCommerce challenges, such as channel conflict, customizable products, and order management.
To find out how one B2B steel distributor achieved eCommerce success, watch our free, on-demand webinar, Achieve eCommerce Performance as Strong as Steel (registration required).
Brooke Seldin is a marketing content specialist in LYONSCG’s Chicago office. She is a writer, an editor, and a content strategist who specializes in eCommerce, technology, and digital marketing for B2C and B2B organizations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.