You know you need to move your B2B business into the ecommerce space if you are going to maintain your position in the market. Your competition is planning to launch ecommerce if they haven’t already. You are excited about the possibilities that ecommerce will provide your organization. But you have a problem.
How will you ever get your customers to buy online?
Your company is not unique. I hate to break it to you, but at the outset of every B2B ecommerce project someone claims that their customers will NEVER place orders online. Their customers are too “old-fashioned” or they “need to connect with our sales person / customer service rep” or they “don’t have computers.” Hog wash. All of it. The reality is that your fears about ecommerce adoption rates are normal. The key in jumping the “they won’t buy online” hurdle lies in creating an on-boarding strategy that communicates the compelling reasons that your customers should order online. I guarantee they are buying from Amazon.com or Zappos.com or Staples.com…so, why not from you?
Develop an on-boarding and ecommerce adoption strategy. Sending out an email announcing that your new ecommerce site is live is not an on-boarding strategy. If you rely on an email blast to secure customer adoption of online ordering, you’re likely to be waiting a long time. A very, VERY long time. Create an on-boarding strategy and site roll-out plan that reaches out to your customers on an individual basis.
Provide incentives for your customers to use ecommerce. Your buyers are human and humans, by nature, are averse to change. This includes placing their orders online if they are used to calling or faxing in orders. To get them over this aversion to change, it can be helpful to offer incentives for them to change their behavior. This might include special pricing only available for orders placed online, free shipping on orders placed online, or some other enticing incentive. Reward the first movers.
Follow up with those who are hesitant to move forward with online ordering. For many organizations who are used to placing orders over the phone or via fax, placing orders online is something of a paradigm shift. Make sure you continue to follow up with customers that don’t make the leap right away–and keep providing friendly encouragement (and incentives) to try placing their orders online.
B2B ecommerce can be wildly successful when you take the time to help you customers see how easy and effective using ecommerce can be. A clear on-boarding strategy will ensure your customers make the leap.