Tuesday, September 20, 2016

B2B eCommerce Leaders: It’s time to Optimize your B2B Customer’s Path to Purchase!


Episerver, a leading enterprise platform for Content and Commerce, recently published A Guide to Mastering Ecommerce Optimization. It is a well written eBook that is worth a look by eCommerce leaders and practitioners in any organization.

Manufacturers, distributors, and service providers are learning the difference of success as they invest in digital transformation today. Success in B2B eCommerce requires much more than launching a basic storefront that is well integrated with customer specific catalogs and pricing.

With rapid B2B eCommerce growth and channel disintermediation, B2B companies need to shift their focus to optimizing the path to purchase for their various channels. They also need to ensure that their customers achieve the same level of customer experience they are used to with leading direct to consumer sites. 

This post outlines Rightpoint’s Point of View on leveraging the key takeaways from Episerver’s eBook to drive B2B eCommerce success. Since the book is quite comprehensive, we’ve decided to break up our posts into four parts that align with the sections of the book: Attract, Engage, Convert, and Retain.

B2B Focus – Attracting New Customers

More than 50% of product research is now done prior to contacting a sales rep. Within a few years, most business buyers and decision makers will be millennials, a generation that is used to digital information, processes, and interactions. To compete in the future, B2B suppliers must offer world class customer experiences that are as good, or even better, than those found on the direct to consumer sites they shop on every day.

This means that B2B online store must be built to attract new customers in addition to existing ones. There also needs to be reasons for existing customers to visit your online store frequently. As Episerver points out, key best practices and platform capabilities must be leveraged to personalize the customer experience from the initial contact point all the way through the sales process.

B2B sites must now support capabilities that were mostly thought of as B2C features in the past. These include:

· Landing pages – Tied to specific companies, targeted campaigns, and buyer personas. There will be a time in the very near future when the traditional B2B “home page” will be replaced by dynamically generated content based on company, persona, context, and location. For some the page will be a dashboard with key metrics and actionable items. For others, it will be product introductions and merchandising offers based on their context and persona. In all cases, then content of the landing pages must align to the referral source.

· Structured taxonomies – Historically, the product taxonomy for B2B sites reflects the same one used in the ERP system. This needs to be rethought – the taxonomy of the site needs to support the buyer’s journey, not the product manager’s way of thinking. The taxonomy is the key architectural element that supports search and navigation.

· SEO optimization – Past thinking was this was a wasted investment. Now B2B companies realize that their products and services need to be found through organic search to reach new buyers and new markets. For distributors, this is particularly important because simply passing through manufacturer’s content is not good enough anymore. In fact, Google will actually punish you for straight pass through of content. B2B companies need original product content that adds value and conveys your company’s value add.

· Adaptive web design – Going beyond standard responsive design to optimize the customer experience further on specific devices and for specific buyers. An example is that a senior buyer who only approves orders probably does not want to see a promotional banner on their mobile device, even if its optimized for viewing on their device. They want to get right to the actionable items that align with their role.

· Integrated campaigns – This is key – digital campaigns must be integrated from first contact all the way through the purchase path. Landing pages should be personalized, merchandising and promotional offers need to be consistent. Drip marketing emails or text must support the campaign. Customer testimonials and user generated content should be presented at timely opportunities to move the customer further down the purchase path.

· Personalized content - This is worth an entire blog post by itself. More details below.

As Episerver points out, companies that personalize content see a significant increase in sales (19% according to The Realities of Online Personalization, a study by Monetate and Econsultancy). For B2C sites, personalization is frequently done using cookies, 3rd party data, and site behavior. B2B companies have the opportunity to do even deeper personalization since existing customers likely are authenticated. You should get deep knowledge about the specific buyers as well as their companies and the locations they buy for.

B2B personalization should include:

· Personalized stores for customers that include their logo, campaigns targeting those companies, custom catalogs and pricing

· Contextual content presented to buyers – If a buyer is logged into to your outdoor equipment site to make a purchase for a Florida location in December, don’t show the buyer the standard snowblower promotional offer you are showing for New Jersey locations. Show them your latest weedwacker.

· Personalized path to purchase – An example is presenting a dashboard as the home page for the senior buyer or administrator. This might include actionable links to approve orders, consolidate orders, check status, re-order from previous orders, manage shopping lists, administer users, request a quote and so forth. Alternatively, if the buyer is actually a field service engineer on his/her mobile device trying to order a part, present them with a bar code scanner to scan the existing part information and place an order from a single screen.

· Customized merchandising offers – This comes into play more as we look specifically at converting sales, but it is also relevant in attracting buyers. Rather than always presenting upsells and cross sells or promotions that are “hard coded” by product managers, these should become more dynamic and be powered by actual data from the customer’s buying history, or those of similar customers.

Supporting all the capabilities that I’ve just talked about in your website may be challenging if your platform does not truly support content and commerce. Older B2B storefronts and customized systems typically will fall short. For those of us at Rightpoint, that’s a good thing. Our business is helping B2B customers identify digital commerce strategies, develop world class customer experiences, and choose and implement the right technologies to drive successful ecommerce business outcomes. Full disclosure, Rightpoint is a Platinum Level Partner with Episerver and we work with them on a daily basis to help our mutual customers drive digital success.

There is wealth of more detailed information on best practices for attracting new customers in A Guide to Mastering Ecommerce Optimization. Look for our future posts on Engaging, Converting and Retaining your B2B customers over the next couple of weeks.