As a B2B business, it’s likely that your success was built on a foundation of personal relationships between your customers and your salespeople, customer service representatives, and other staff at your company.
Greater numbers of B2B companies are embracing ecommerce as a way to grow their businesses. This might leave you wondering whether your business model—founded on personalized service relationships—can flourish in the impersonal space of the Internet.
This is not an uncommon concern.
The good news is that ecommerce does not have to be an impersonal experience. Providing a customer-centric ecommerce experience can be easy, provided you take the steps necessary to create an online experience that closely reflects your person-to-person buying experience.
“But how can an ecommerce site give that personal touch we pride ourselves on?”
Glad you asked.
Think of your ecommerce site as your company’s most tireless and attentive employee–one that immediately recognizes your customers and provides them with customized information that caters to their unique preferences.
The B2B Edge
As a B2B ecommerce site, you have an edge in providing a highly customized and personalized ecommerce experience to your customers. Any business you conduct online is going to:
- Be with customers you already know and have agreed to conduct business with, and
- Require that your customer log-in with a unique user name and password to make a purchase.
This is important because you can leverage what you know about them to ensure they get exactly what they need. For example, if your customer is located in Vermont and you know that they just got hit with four feet of snow, you can advise them of anticipated shipping delays in their area. Likewise, if your customer has certain products that can only ship to certain locations, you can make sure that the shopper only sees the items that he can purchase.
Ways You Can Personalize Your Ecommerce Experience
Here are some ideas on how to infuse your ecommerce experience with a personal touch:
- Create a virtual salesperson. Give your salesperson a face and a personality with a virtual online presence. Show their head shot, provide a brief bio, and supply their contact information, including office phone, desk phone, and email (with link).
- Put the important stuff on the main page. Since no one is going to see your customer’s portal besides your customer, put their most important “stuff” on the main page, just after they log in. That might be their last order, a list of the products they can purchase, a link to invoices, or their account status. Whatever it is, make it easy to find.
- Provide robust customer account information. Since each customer will access your site with a user name and password, provide each customer with detailed account information such as order history, shipping status, invoices, and account status. Make this information as complete as possible with the opportunity to drill down into previous orders and invoices, if possible.
- Put essential product information at their fingertips. Offer key product brochures, user manuals, and how-to documents on your ecommerce site. Provide detailed FAQs to allow them the opportunity to trouble shoot their own issues—and then make sure that contact information for your support department and customer service area are readily available for additional support.
- Give customers a way to share information with you. Consider offering a system where customers can log support tickets on their own, regardless of the time of day. Provide a company directory with details about who to call at your company for accounting, support, order issues and returns. To make the directory feel even more personal, put a face with voice on the phone by including a thumbnail of each employee.
- Supply relevant local information. There’s always the weather and local news headlines to offer, but you could also provide niche product-related information. Think outside of the box for a truly personalized shopping experience and share information that might interest your customers. If you are a sporting goods manufacturer, consider showing the scores of local sports teams when your customers log in. If you are an electronics distributor, consider offering links to the most recent “best of” electronics reviews. You get the idea.
By no means is this an exhaustive list. Chances are, you will think of even better ways to personalize your B2B ecommerce site for your unique customer base. Just be sure to make the experience personal.
Want to learn more about how to make your B2B ecommerce initiative successful? Download the white paper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning and Ecommerce Initiative.