Do you know your B2B e-commerce customers? Of course, you think you do…but do you really? If you’re rolling your eyes at me right now thinking to yourself, “Of COURSE we know our customers Rachel!” take a look at the following questions.
Chances are good that you know your customers at a high-level. Think 40,000 foot view. To be truly successful in ecommece, you need to know your customers in much greater detail and then offer an online customer experience that meets their expectations. (Did you notice that I didn’t say “needs?” By providing B2B ecommerce functionality, you’re probably meeting their needs, but that’s a whole different ball game than meeting their expectations.)
Question #1: When do your customers prefer to order? If you’re thinking, “DUH! From 9 AM to 5 PM Rachel. They are BUSINESS CUSTOMERS,” you might want to think again. Today’s workforce is far from working a strict 9-5 schedule and many employees work early in the morning, late into the night and over the weekends. Knowing when your customers prefer to order will help you make decisions on when to handle site maintenance and updates as well as whether or not to staff your customer service department earlier or later than you do currently.
Question #2: What type of device do your customers prefer to place their orders on? Think it’s a no-brainer and that the desktop computer is the preferred ordering method? Maybe. But maybe not. More and more rank and file employees as well as executives are toting smartphones and tablet devices. With integrated internet connections and WiFi available most everywhere, it’s unlikely that your customers will be purchasing solely via computer. Knowing which devices your customers order from most frequently will ensure that you develop ecommerce site designs and capabilities that work well on the preferred platforms.
Question #3: What functionality matters most to your customer? If you could only provide one ecommerce feature on your site, what would your customers insist that it be? Would they demand multi-warehouse inventory management? How about quick order capability? Or would real-time inventory updates matter most? What about side-by-side product comparison? User reviews? Obviously you are going to provide your customers with more than one ecommerce functionality, but knowing your customers’ preferences will help guide how you spend your ecommerce resources.
Question #4: What product content matters the most to your customer? For some customers, all of their orders are placed by SKU number and so the ability to place orders using these unique identifying digits is essential. For others, it’s critical to supply downloads of user guides and FAQ documents. Others want to see multiple images of the product from a number of different perspectives and so product images matter most in creating an effective online customer experience.
Question #5: What motivates your customer to buy? Do your customers order the same items month in and month out? Then offering an automatic replenishment order or subscription will make ecommerce simpler for your customer and will play a critical role in your ecommerce success. Are your buyers purchasing heavy items that incur large shipping fees? If so, you may be able to successfully drive buying behavior by offering free shipping on those items for orders over a threshold amount. Knowing what drives your customer to buy will ensure that you provide exactly the right online experience to keep them happy–and buying.
Knowing your ideal B2B ecommerce customer is more than knowing they work for a specific type of company in a certain part of the country. The more you know and execute on the specific criteria that your customers expect from ecommerce, the more successful you–and your site–will be.
To learn more about how to leverage the power of your B2B ecommerce site, download the white paper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning an Ecommerce Initiative.