Ecommerce: B2B is the New B2CSince ecommerce appeared on the scene, B2C businesses have stolen most of the ecommerce stage, but no more. B2B businesses are tapping into the power of ecommerce and are reaping incredible results.

B2B ecommerce sites are typically composed of a secure log-in portal for a company’s dealers and distributors and one or two basic pages about the company. All too often the basic pages have very little content on them and their design style might be best classified as “utilitarian.”

For many B2B companies, simply having an ecommerce site is a revolutionary business strategy. The secure portal on the site allows orders to be submitted electronically without placing a call to the company’s customer service team. This function alone allows the company to realize new efficiencies and improves the customer experience. However, B2B ecommerce sites can be more than a dealer/distributor ordering platform. With some careful planning, B2B ecommerce sites can not only increase company efficiency and profitability by allowing customers to place online orders, they can also drive qualified lead traffic to the B2B company while creating a clear brand presence with the world at large.

Content is king in the world of ecommerce. It drives both human and search engine traffic to your site. Where most B2B ecommerce sites fall flat is in the amount of content that the public (read: Joe Consumer or GoogleBot) can see. Too often all the good, meaty content is tucked away behind the secured portal meant for the company’s dealers and distributors. This is good for keeping trade secrets secret, but bad for search engine optimization (SEO) and driving new business to the site.

The good news is that the solution is simple: B2B companies need to start treating their ecommerce sites more like a B2C site–at least for the public pages. (I can almost hear you thinking, “Hmmmph. What does she know about B2B business anyway?” But, stick with me.) Here are some things every B2B company should include in their ecommerce site:

  • Clear corporate branding. Make sure that your visitors know that they are at the right place. Prominently display your corporate logo and tagline on your ecommerce site.
  • Eye-catching design. Does your design reflect your business? If you are a sporting goods distributor, your public pages should have a sporty or athletic color scheme and graphics.
  • Engaging images. Invest in a few “beauty” shots of your product or of images that will resonate with your audience. These will not only ramp up your public image, they will boost your dealers’ and distributors’ site experience as well.
  • On-page search engine optimization (SEO) that you can control/edit. SEO is no longer just for B2C sites. The reality is that EVERY BUSINESS needs new customers and business partners, not just B2C businesses. So, take advantage of this easy (and largely, free) way to boost traffic to your website and secure new customers, dealers, distributors or partners by making sure that your site has fully-controllable on-page SEO. Each page should have a unique Meta title and description, plus keyword-rich H1 and H2 tags. Learn more about SEO and search engine marketing (SEM) practices here.
  • Contact information. Sounds like a no-brainer, but truly, there are sites out there that don’t tell visitors how to get in touch with them. Frustrating!
  • How to buy your products. You may think that only your dealers and distributors visit your site, but think again. Chances are there are at least a handful of consumers that visit your site each day whether on purpose or by accident. Capitalize on these visits and even if you can’t sell them your products directly, tell them where they can go to buy your products using a product/dealer/store locator.
  • Promotions. You might feel that “promotions” are the jurisdiction of B2C sites, but most B2B companies run sales or promotions of some sort during the year. Consider your ecommerce site home page as the perfect “billboard” to promote special offers, pricing, etc. Splashy graphics (borrowed from the B2C world) never hurt either.

Like I said, B2B is the new B2C as far as ecommerce is concerned. It’s relatively uncharted territory, but B2B businesses are catching on. Don’t wait–get your B2B business online with a consumer-friendly B2B site now or risk losing business to your competitors who do.

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.