Improving B2B E Commerce AdoptionWhenever you change the way you do business in some way, it is likely that you will experience some level of attrition as customers adjust to the new technology. E-commerce is no different and requires a strategic on-boarding plan to increase the number of your customers that adopt e-commerce as their preferred way to buy from you. As human beings are creatures of habit, a simple email notification that states, “You can now buy online,” won’t be enough. The most successful B2B e-commerce organizations walk their customers through the online buying process one step at a time, one-by-one.

Wondering how you can create a comprehensive on-boarding program that will increase your B2B site’s adoptions rates? Here’s how:

Step 1: Tell your customers what they need to know about your e-commerce site through email. While email alone is unlikely to convince your customers to buy online, email notifications are a key part of any successful B2B e-commerce on-boarding program. Emails are excellent communication tools and can even incite action when there’s a great enough incentive for the reader to do so. Unfortunately, most recipients won’t change their behavior (e.g. start ordering online rather than phoning or faxing in their orders) just because you send them an announcement email. (Humans tend to be averse to change, you know.) However, starting with an announcement email is an excellent way to broach the subject of change, gives your customers pertinent information about your new website that they can read at their leisure, and primes them for the next step in the on-boarding process.

Step 2: Call each customer–focusing on key e-commerce contacts–and walk them through how to place an online order. Once you’ve sent an introductory email, it’s time to pull out the big guns and call your customers. Yes–each and every one. Here’s why: People are averse to change. People like to delete emails that suggest something in their world is going to change. Phone calls and a personal touch are harder to dismiss. What’s more, a personalized phone call will not only instruct each customer on how to use the website, it will also give you an opportunity to interact with your customer about the site, your products and your business at large. The personalized phone call is the one step in the process that you simply cannot skip. Without it, your on-boarding efforts are likely to be overlooked.

Step 3: Send your customers a follow up document with step-by-step instructions on how to place an order online. After your personalized call, send each customer an email that thanks them for their time, explains the benefits of ordering online and includes a step-by-step set of instructions for them to reference when they have questions. This is also a good time to thank them for their business, provide your personalized contact information for any questions they might have, and offer an incentive on a future online order.

Step 4: Offer an incentive that your customers can redeem on their next online order. Remember how earlier I said that humans are not likely to change unless there’s something in it for them first? It’s true. Simple change of process will not likely be enough to get them to move to a new technology. That’s where an incentive for their next order comes in. It could be as simple as free shipping on their first online order or a percentage discount of that order or as complex as reduced prices across the board for orders placed online. (The overall cost associated with an e-commerce order is substantially less than those placed via phone, fax, or email. In light of this, some organization’s choose to pass those savings along to their online customers through reduced online pricing.)

Step 5: Follow up with your customers via telephone after they place their first solo order, or if you notice that they haven’t placed any online orders since your call. This is your opportunity to do two things. 1) For those customers that are actively placing orders on your site, this call allows you to proactively ask questions about their experience on the site, get feedback on things that need to be fixed and make the overall process that much better for all parties. 2) A second personalized call allows you to reconnect with customers who have not placed an order online to understand why. It could be that they’ve lost their notes, ran into a problem or couldn’t figure out how to log in. This second call closes the loop to ensure that they have what they need and that they know that there is an incentive available for those who move over to ordering online.

With a well-crafted on-boarding plan, B2B organizations should be able to increase the odds that their customers will readily adopt e-commerce as their preferred ordering method.