The secret to business-to-business e-commerce is simple. It is simple to understand but hard to put into practice. It’s not about customer experience, complexity or integration. It is not about consumerization, mobile devices, or social. So what is it all about?
The secret to B2B e-commerce lies within this simple statement:
B2B customers come to your web site because they have to.
It is their job.
It’s a job they do every day, nine to five. Mark Cuban says in his book “How to Win” that in the workplace, more than anywhere else, people look for the path of least resistance. That means your site needs to be about making your customer’s job easier. We are all lazy in some aspects of our job. We all have tasks that we hate doing, but have to because we are paid to do them.
What Features Should You Implement?
Trying to figure out what features to implement? Look at your customers and how they do their job. What features make them most efficient in their job? Efficiency is a corporate term – so ask what features will help them do their job the easiest.
So, what about all the features and functions that are commonly discussed in B2B e-commerce, like search, navigation, cross-sell, delegated user administration, custom contracts? Simply evaluate these features against how your customers do their jobs. Would their jobs be easier if they could search and browse? Do they have to call for their pricing after they find the product, or do you give them their custom catalog and contract? Should you offer self-service so they can view and pay their invoices regardless of the channel they used to make a purchase? How about offering punch-outs, which let customers click to buy a product and have the order sent to their own financial management system to generate a purchase order and update their own order records?
If you evaluate these questions through the lens of making your customer’s jobs more efficient, the answer is clear. Even better, instead of talking about features first, map a journey through your site based on your customers’ jobs. Then go back and look at how to deliver.
How Do I Know What My Customers Want?
Don’t know what would make it easier for your customers to do their jobs? Think about employing a usability lab or simply visiting your customers at their locations and see how they use your site (and your competitors’ sites).
What gets exciting is when you start brainstorming and finding unique ways to service your customers. You will create tools and features outside of the purchase funnel that no one else has thought of. These innovations build lasting relationships with your customers. They will come back to your site, and often. They will buy and spend more. It will build loyalty. You will have the opportunity to continuously talk about new products and categories.
That is the secret to B2B e-commerce. As Curly Washburn from the movie “City Slickers” would say, it is the “one thing”: Make your customer’s job easier.
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