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A Guide to Using B2B Personalization in eCommerce

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B2B Personalization in eCommerce

Personalization is the automatic tailoring of sites and messages to the individuals viewing them, so that we can feel that somewhere there’s a piece of software that loves us for who we are.David Weinberger

We have entered the age of the personalized web. Consumers want to be treated like the unique, complex human beings they are, and not just another IP address or faceless, clicking bot. And B2B buyers are no exception. Being used to personalization perks during their B2C online shopping experiences, they now expect the same from their B2B counterparts. It is especially true for the self-service B2B eCommerce sites.

Ok, a bit of a context here. At Oro we categorize B2B eCommerce businesses into 3 distinctly different models by the type of interaction with their buyers:

  1. Self-service B2B eCommerce businesses – where a purchase can happen without any interaction with a representative of the company;
  2. Buyer-seller interaction businesses – a traditional B2B model, where purchases occur via negotiations with sales reps of the company;
  3. Marketplaces – platforms that allow third-party vendors to sell and advertise their products on their sites and handle transactions on their end.

These three models are very different in terms of operation and client acquisition, and in this article we highlight personalization tips most applicable to self-service B2B eCommerce businesses.

How is B2B Different from B2C Personalization?

All businesses are intrinsically different, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to handling the needs of each e-commerce site. When it comes to B2B versus B2C we see that one of the most glaringly obvious differences is the make up of the customer.

A B2C customer purchases with their heart not necessarily with their heads. Their online shopping can often be quick, one-off buys requiring little need for follow up. They will definitely respond to targeted marketing, that speaks to their persona while they are in the intention phase of their purchase.

But the B2B customer is a different entity entirely. There are often multiple individuals involved in the buying process. Their buying decisions are logical as they tick off their checklist of needs. There is little emotion –it’s a hard, cold, wise and careful buying decision. This is not the realm of the impulse buy. These customers require a buying process that feels secure and informed. They don’t need a site full of flashy bells and whistles but more information and stand out customer service in the shortest time frame possible. They need to know you can solve their problems. A B2B customer might take longer to convert but will then be a repeated client with large orders over a long period of time.

What Exactly Can You Personalize in B2B Retail?

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A Gartner study predicts that by 2018 B2B e-commerce sites that have employed personalization will outsell their competitors who have not adopted the trend by 15%. It is vital to embrace the B2B personalization process if you wish to stay ahead of the competition.

So what can you personalize in B2B retail?

  1. Offer informational assets: You want to give the prospect valuable, insightful information that is relevant to them. This can take the form of:
    • explainer videos that deconstructs your concept in easy to understand terms;
    • spec sheets that show vital stats and raw numbers that the customer is seeking;
    • eBooks or white papers that outline the solutions to your buyer’s problems that your product can easily solve;
    • demos, webinars and tutorials to demonstrate the capabilities of your product.
  2. Re-Energize your website: These days most people have a relationship with B2C e-commerce sites. So B2B customers are going to want little bit of the customer friendly functionality of a B2C site. Perhaps it’s time to include a landing page offering promotions, an excellent site search engine and different navigation options. The saved shopping cart and wish list options are a familiar function that users have a strong relationship with online. You want to improve the personalized content for customers arriving at your site so they feel their ongoing relationship with you has been recognized. It needs to look a little more like a B2C site but tailored to the needs of a B2B client.
  3. Add a quick repeat functionality: B2B customers usually know exactly what they want and will order again. Make their repeat purchase even easier with an order feature that allows the buyer to order the same set of items repeatedly.
  4. Enable corporate accounts: For B2B purchases there is often a team of decision makers involved. Perhaps you could set up a multiple user role functionality within the same account to simplify the buying process.
  5. Offer personalized product suggestions: We are all familiar with sites offering us product recommendations based on our buying and search history. B2B e-commerce could adopt this practice to drive further sales, for cross selling or upselling opportunities.
  6. Streamline your checkout process: The B2B checkout process is way more complicated than B2C. For example, you should take into account that different people (roles) in the company could be compiling and paying for the orders. So you need to make sure that shopping carts can either be easily shared or can be submitted for review to another customer role in your system.
  7. Create a coherent user experience across all screen resolutions and devices: If you can access your shopping list on the B2B e-commerce site you must be able to see the same information on your mobile device.
  8. Segment & incentivize: Use the information gathered on customers such as their click activities, personal interests, geographic location, buying and browsing history etc. to deliver personalized marketing content. This will capture their attention with your specific incentives to buy the product.

B2B e-commerce is set to grow twice as large as the B2C marketplace by the end of the decade. It is predicted that B2B online sales will reach $1.13 trillion in the U.S. by 2020 (Source Forrester, 2015). Personalization is one of the key competitive advantages in this burgeoning market. This industry is changing fast and B2B e-commerce sites are going to have to work hard to keep up with the pace. It is essential to know your customers’ needs. You need to constantly monitor the efficacy of all of your B2B personalization efforts including your website, marketing strategies and product offering. Your customers are not 100,000 faceless names, they are specialist users and your offering has to include the flexibility to meet their varied needs. The goal is to ultimately match your value proposition to their buying intention to turn leads into conversions.