B2B E Commerce Must Inspire Guide and Prove Authentic“Consumers want experiences that are not intrusive but inspiring, that don’t dictate but guide and assist, in ways that feel authentic.”  -Devin Wenig, President, eBay Inc.

This morning I was perusing InternetRetailer.com and came across the above quote on the home page of the site. While spoken about the business-to-consumer (B2C) site, eBay.com, and generally, about all B2C ecommerce sites, this bit of wisdom applies equally to business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce sites as well. To be successful in today’s ecommerce space, a B2B ecommerce site must:

Inspire its visitors to action. B2B organizations are in a unique situation in that there are few, if any, orders from unknown organizations. Because B2B organizations know their customers before they place their first order, there is a tendency to assume that the B2B ecommerce experience does not need to have the same user-focused online features and functionalities as a B2C site. In fact, many B2B ecommerce sites are little more than glorified order entry systems. While this sort of site may have worked in the past, today’s consumer expects a robust and dynamic online shopping experience whether they are making business or personal purchases. This means that the B2B ecommerce site must inspire the visitor to take action much in the same way that a consumer-focused site would. B2B organizations must invest in dynamic and robust ecommerce capabilities that draw the customer in and move them along in the buying process.

Guide and assist the customer throughout the online buying experience. As mentioned above, in the past B2B ecommerce was little more than a rudimentary order entry system. The thought was that the customer knew what he wanted to order and that he would simply input his order quantities and move on with his day. Information in the way of product descriptions, images, specifications, and support documentation was thought to be unnecessary and so early B2B ecommerce sites offered little, if any, product information. The reality is that today’s B2B consumer is unlikely to place his ecommerce order with a print catalog in hand or even place his order while sitting at a desk with a previous order to use as a guide. This means that your B2B ecommerce site must guide and assist the customer throughout the buying process. Your site must include robust product information, product images—a minimum of one, but hopefully significantly more in the way of alternate views—and historical ordering information to guide the customer through to checkout.

Provide an authentic online experience. Authentic is defined by Dictionary.com as: not false or copied, genuine, real; and, entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience, reliable, trustworthy. With this in mind, an authentic B2B ecommerce experience can be defined as one where the customer immediately recognizes the site as belonging to the expected brand, feels confident in placing an order online, and where the buying experience reflects the shopper’s expectations for buying online. To create an authentic B2B ecommerce experience, it is also essential that your ecommerce site accurately portrays and reflects your corporate culture and values throughout the buying experience.

To learn more about how to maximize the effectiveness of your B2B ecommerce site, download the white paper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning an Ecommerce Initiative.