With complex systems, overloaded dealers, and a tidal wave of information, it seems like the B2B market can’t possibly fit into the fast-paced world of modern online retail. We can see lots of money being poured into digital sales, but the percentage of conversion is laughably low.
It can be hard to admit where you’re going wrong, but hopefully taking the time to honestly examine sales practices will allow the entire industry to move forward.
How Did the Elephant Get Here?
There’s been a huge uptake in the B2B eCommerce segment, and it’s projected to keep growing over the next couple of years. Customers have grown to expect ease and speed from their online retailers, both things that are extremely valuable when it comes to procuring parts. The longer you wait to get your hands on a part, the longer your entire operation is at a standstill.
The challenge comes when these expectations have not been met. The current system for getting the right parts requires time and assistance from experts, and there hasn’t been much of a push to automate these steps.
Buyers on B2B sites will not be going into the market with the same energy as they do for other forms of online shopping. They have a set budget and a clear need for one or two parts. There’s no time or desire to pursue it. Speed and efficiency are of the utmost importance.
Something that exacerbates this difference is the customer expectation coming in. Many of us have gotten used to the ease of buying things online with companies like Amazon. You can quickly search for what you want, click buy now, and have it within a day or two.
With the advent of technology like the Industrial Internet of Things, we are moving towards predictive maintenance that would allow customers to know exactly what they need and when.
This expectation is completely missed when they have to spend copious amounts of time going through catalogs that are immense, and whose complexity is extremely disappointing.
The Benefits of Change
Getting an online storefront that satisfies expectations is a complex and cumbersome process, so why should B2B manufacturers focus on it when what they’re doing is successful already?
Many aftermarket eCommerce Portals have a conversion rate of 1-5%, which is staggeringly small considering their customers are coming in with an immediate need and a clear-cut budget. Everything within the B2B marketplace should have its sellers set up to reach conversion rates between 15% and 75%.
When your OEM’s portal becomes the default search site for products, its conversion rate should skyrocket to that of Amazon Prime users for whom Amazon is their default marketplace. Generally speaking, people are not pursuing these sites for fun. They come with a goal in mind and that energy can be leveraged to create a sale.
Tackling this issue not only provides customers with the experience they are craving but also provides valuable data to discern what customers demand. When you know what your customers are searching for and how they order over time, you’ll be able to make more data-informed decisions and plan for their behavior. This will lead to more meaningful catalogs being rolled out with the products that people consistently need.
Oftentimes, with so many layers in the aftermarket business, it can be difficult for manufacturers to know exactly what parts of their machines are breaking down and why. More transparency can help curb this, giving companies the information they need to improve their products.
Coaxing The Elephant Out
To deal with this issue head-on, manufacturers must work to align consumer needs with their desires.
To minimize downtime, there’s a desire to have 24/7 service. This kind of constant availability raises an issue, however, when it comes to the expertise of dealers.
Buyers need help to find the proper parts to do the job, and that need makes it almost impossible to fully automate an online storefront. Precision is key. These parts are not simple t-shirts that you can return if they don’t fit. If the wrong valve is ordered for the brake system of a train, real lives are in danger.
With the consultation faze being so vital to B2B commerce, it can feel like there’s no real way to speed up the process and satisfy customer needs. However, with a focus on automating what can be automated and simplifying the process where possible, success can be found.
The solution is not to completely do away with things like speaking with an expert but to find ways that the online storefront can expedite that same process. Where things work offline, they can work online with more speed to bring the benefits of both.
One of the biggest challenges to an eCommerce portal is its complexity. Involving dealers in the experience that can continue to serve as the main point of contact allows companies to cut through the confusion that can build up when a customer is faced with a wall of information.
An online portal can automate many functions that the dealer fulfills such as searching and dealing with technical issues so that they have more time and energy to focus on providing value to the customer.
An example of this technology being put to work is a tool like Partium. Among other things, It allows a user who is searching for something to transfer that task to another person. This is great for allowing customer inquiries in the middle of the night in one country to be transferred to an expert in another time zone.
Another great option is implementing a chatbot to get most of the repetitive information out of the way before a real human needs to take over the conversation.
Anything that saves time and makes the online experience more convenient while keeping the customer in contact with the experts is a great investment.
How To Improve B2B eCommerce
There are a few things you can do right now to start aligning your portal with your customers’ expectations.
Tip One: Focus On User Intent
Instead of approaching the portal design as you would for other eCommerce, where users can see all the products available from a seller, focus on getting them to what they are actually after.
If a buyer needs an electric motor for something, they aren’t going to be interested in valves or pipes. Their main focus is getting the right part and putting their operation back in motion.
This is why having a clear path to find what they need is so vital. This focus on user intent can boost your conversion rates by 10–20 times.
Tip Two: Keep Things Simple
If there is too much information on a page, it can lead to confusion. If they are overwhelmed, they’re more likely to leave the page and try another option.
Only display the information that is crucial for the buyer so they can get what they need quickly and easily.
Tip Three: Focus On Connections
Getting customers in contact with dealers and experts that can help them get exactly what they need should be at the core of every improvement you make. A personal relationship will keep customers coming back again and again.
As you look into automation, make sure they serve the purpose of freeing up your experts’ time to provide value to customers.
No company is going to be able to change overnight, and it’s not a given that they should. Finding certain areas for improvement will allow you to move in the right direction without losing the expertise and relationship that brings success to B2B manufacturers in the first place.
As technology continues to advance, the expectations of customers will only get higher. Starting to look at optimizing your online portal and focusing on speed and user intent will allow you to get ahead of the curve and outshine the competition.