Suppose you’re new to the B2B eCommerce space. In that case, you must have seen the trends of the changing customer behavior with more migrate B2B customers online.
So you ask yourself, “how do I migrate my customers to online channels?” The goal of course, is to ensure customers remain loyal to your brand throughout the process.
Transitioning customers to online channels has been one of the primary focuses of B2B eCommerce for the past five years. In a survey carried out in 2017, 75% of B2B transactions were already taking place online. Yet, buyers wanted to access more products and services online.
Unfortunately, many B2B sellers are still wary of migrating online due to fears of not meeting customer expectations regarding quality service delivery and personalized customer experience.
Build a B2B eCommerce migration strategy.
With the right strategies, you can deliver a better and more personalized customer experience online.
But before we go into how B2B sellers can create better customer experience online, what exactly is driving B2B customers online, and why?
Several factors are responsible for these behavioral changes. First, the ease of making purchases online is appealing to customers. For example, having access to an online catalog for products that can include product details, catalog search, order history, etc has improved customer experience, thereby increasing the need for more.
In this article, I will explain how you can migrate your B2B customers to online channels, convince reluctant customers to remain loyal buyers, and increase sales and overall brand awareness.
Educate your customers on the benefits of moving online.
Today, millennial buyers would instead purchase through streamlined digital channels than speaking to a sales rep. This study by Forrester shows that millennials have gained more purchasing power in organizations. This means that to succeed in the B2B eCommerce space, you have to continue to meet the expectations of the modern B2B buyer.
Before 2010, B2B marketing involved traditional approaches, such as cold calling, using faxes, etc. These approaches have phased out as the digital space evolves and customers tilt towards online purchases.
However, despite the increase in the number of B2B eCommerce users, there are still B2B customers who prefer the old way of doing things. Without easing them into the online buying experience, you can’t reap the full benefits of moving your business online.
Migrate B2B Customers online.
So, how do you make it easy on the buyer? The first step is to educate them. To achieve this, you must identify longtime customers who may be unwilling to move online. You have to go through your records to check customers who are yet to make online purchases.
Once you have this list, commit human and marketing resources to teach your customers about the benefits of migrating online. You will have to provide a step-by-step guide – from helping them set up accounts to finding products they need.
For example, you can create instructional videos on searching for products, placing orders online, or using self-help services. These how-to videos will help them understand the benefits of using online channels.
It is also an opportunity to increase your brand awareness and attract new customers.
Communicate with your customers early on.
Once you decide that you’re migrating to online channels, tell your customers about it. Customers want to be involved in the changes, and communicating such changes with them will increase brand loyalty.
Change is not always comfortable. If you think change is natural, try brushing your teeth with your left hand if you are a right handed person. Real change is not always comfortable at the beginning. You can ease your customers into your migration by communicating the “why’s” of your shift to eCommerce.
When communicating, begin with why you are migrating your customers to online channels. Letting customers in on why you’ve taken on a new strategy helps to remove any space for assumptions.
Successful messages are those that show value as opposed to telling customers about value. Communication that demonstrates the point is far more compelling than a message that feels a bit stale.
The clearer you are with your customers, the more empowered they’ll feel to make the smart decision of continuing to support you through your migration and beyond. When you communicate clearly enough to show why you are making such a change, you are able to showcase how you have their best interests at heart.
Create a system to migrate B2B customers.
Create a system of reporting progress and asking them for their feedback on the proposed functionality and features you’re about to reel out. This will excite them.
On your part, you can use their feedback to improve customer experience. It also makes it easy for the customers to accept the transition because they are involved in the entire process.
Another way you can communicate with them is by using a traditional method to announce your transition to online channels.
Imagine you send your “not-so-interested-in-online-store” customer a letter through the mail. In the letter, you write about how they have been crucial to the success of your business and why you wanted to inform them first about the changes you’re about to make.
How would you feel if you were the customer? Exactly! That’s the kind of emotions you want to evoke.
Beyond making them feel special, you also show the customers that you’re taking them seriously by putting your time and effort into communicating your intention to improve the services you’re offering them.
When you make customers feel part of your business by communicating with them directly, you will build a brand they can trust and successfully migrate B2B customers.
Everyone likes incentives. According to a report by Oberlo, one of the top reasons people shop online is because of the option of free delivery. Offering similar incentives that provide an easier experience to your customer can encourage them to continue purchasing your products by shopping online.
Incentives can come in different forms. From offering free installation to a money-back guarantee to providing guides and tutorials on purchases, you can incentivize your customers to make that transition to digital channels.
For example, in preparation for Prime Day in 2020, Amazon offered new customers a 30% discount on its Amazon Business. This is a form of incentive that can improve customer experience.
When a customer makes the first purchase, and they experience the benefit of using your online channel, they’re likely to stick around and use the platform more often.
Also, if you already have an existing loyalty program, you can transfer your customer’s offline profiles to their online accounts. This is key to successfully migrate B2B customers.
Invest in user experience.
The buyer’s journey is defined by how you make them feel from start to finish. Poor customer service accounts for why 58% of people stopped doing business with a company.
On the flip side, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. So if you’re wondering how you can improve customer experience, here are five tips that can help you migrate B2B customers:
- Create an interactive website.
- Excellent mobile experience.
- Excite your customers with rich product content.
- Make the purchasing journey seamless.
- Personalize customer experience.
- Use Digital Asset Management (DAM) to maintain brand integrity.
1. Create an interactive website.
When you’re moving your B2B business online, your website is your digital store where customers walk through and choose the products they want to buy. Indeed you want to make this experience worthwhile by making it easy for them to access all you have to offer.
Like a physical store, customers are influenced by what they see when they are on your website. According to Blue Corona, 37% of customers say they leave a poorly designed website without purchasing.
Flashy graphics, unclear brand message, and poor UX design are some of the factors that can make your B2B eCommerce website terrible for users.
To create a positive user experience, your website must be interactive. Make sure your brand’s message and value proposition are evident through images, texts, interactive design, and graphic design.
Additionally, you can enable the push notification function on your website. This will allow you to keep in touch with your customers even when they are not on your website. Customers love to receive relevant updates from their favorite brands, and push notifications can help you plug that gap.
2. Ensure excellent mobile experiences.
This is crucial. While you invest in creating an interactive website interface, you must remember that 91% of B2B buyers use their mobile phones to search for products online.
Additionally, 80% of B2B buyers use mobile at work, while 60% claim mobile experience significantly influenced their recent purchase. This points to one fact: a memorable mobile experience is vital.
When customers use your website on large monitors, they expect the same experience when switching to their mobiles. To buttress this point, more than 90% of B2B buyers are likely to patronize the same vendor again due to superior mobile experience, compared to just 50% of those who report a poor experience.
Creating a responsive website means adapting to mobile devices while making sure that all functionalities are available. An ideal mobile experience offers the user a simple, quick-loading, and integrated experience.
3. Excite your customers with rich product content.
Ensure your product catalog has all the relevant information a customer could think of when examining a product.
This could include descriptions, specifications, images, measurements, reviews, videos, and any other information that will keep your customer on the website for a longer time.
You should know that, like consumers, B2B buyers also research a product to determine their purchase. So, providing straight-to-the-point and quality content around your products will grab their attention.
You can use Product Information Management (PIM) to manage product data effectively and update information in real-time to ensure your customers always have accurate data consistent with the brand.
4. Make the purchasing journey seamless.
Customers have high expectations and want to spend less time in their purchasing journey. So, from finding your products to making an order, the demand for faster experience is on the rise.
For example, If your customers can’t find your products quickly, they’re likely to leave and that will increase bounce rate. To avoid this problem, ensure that you simplify your product catalog.
This can be achieved by creating categories for your products, keyword search, and a log of results showing customer preferences through previous search requests.
Additionally, intuitive search functions on your website that help customers repeat orders of frequently purchased items will show your customers that you understand their needs and want to make the process easier for them.
As a result, they don’t have to start their search from scratch every time. This can foster customer loyalty.
Also, quick order and fast shipping options are integral to a fulfilling purchasing journey—the more convenient the process, the better the customer experience.
5. Personalize customer experience.
A personalized customer experience is the most crucial. According to Gartner, B2B eCommerce websites with personalized experience will outsell competitors who don’t provide a personalized experience by 30%.
In addition, personalized customer experience accounts for why customers spend 48% more time on your website. In comparison, 50% say it is a crucial feature they consider when deciding whom to build a relationship with.
To successfully personalize your customer’s experience, you must leverage machine learning, AI, and customer data.
Ultimately, offering personalized content that matches customer wants and needs will lead to more conversions, faster orders and helps you build customer loyalty and successfully migrate B2B customers.
6. Use Digital Asset Management (DAM) to maintain brand integrity.
When you are moving online, you want to make sure your brand’s message remains the same. For example, this may involve converting your physical marketing materials to digital resources.
After you must have reproduced these materials in digital formats, you need a system to store, manage and share these resources in a way that matches your brand’s message.
With Digital Asset Management (DAM), you can manage all your digital assets – from videos to images to marketing materials – on a central platform.
The benefits of using DAM include helping you avoid re-creating content that you already have, maintain brand consistency, distribute up-to-date content across multiple channels, etc.
This will help you create a buying experience that keeps the customers coming.
Be Persuasive and Continue to reassure customers.
Transitioning all your customers to online channels will not happen quickly, even when you give your best efforts. By nature, humans are reluctant to change.
This means some of your customers may still insist on using traditional offline channels to patronize you. You have to understand that a brand is based on relationships and trust built over a long period of time.
Some customers, who are used to interacting with physical sales reps, may be skeptical about trusting a virtual sales rep.
In this case, you must reassure them that the same value they get offline, they will get the same and more online. So here is how you can go about it:
- Highlight the benefits
- Let your sales reps become familiar with the process.
- Combine the online and physical experience.
1. Highlight the benefits.
Convincing customers who are reluctant to move online, you will have to promote the benefits of making the switch. This means you have to be in their faces constantly. But, of course, not in an annoying way.
While your reluctant customers don’t want to shop online, they still use online channels where you can reach them. So this is where you should take your promotional activities to.
An example is using email marketing. According to Gartner, Email marketing is one of the most effective strategies to convert customers and increase sales.
By running a targeted email newsletter campaign, you can get this category of your customers to learn more about the benefits of opting for online channels.
Social media is also an excellent place to reach them. You can hire a social media manager to create tailored content to persuade them to take the online buying route.
2. Let your sales reps become familiar with the process.
When your sales reps are familiar with the way your online channels work, they can convey the message better.
One way to teach them is to have them go through the process. This will help them understand the customer experience and enable them to communicate the benefits persuasively and reassuringly.
3. Combine online and physical experience.
One of the reasons why some customers insist on using offline channels is because they trust and value the human touch involved. So you have to assure them of the existence of personal relationships even when they move online.
To achieve this, you can have your sales reps walk customers through the online buying process. First, accept to take their orders offline. Then, make sure you set up online accounts for them.
Your persuasive and reassuring sales rep can show them how they can make orders online and get it faster at the point of delivery. By allowing your sales reps to take the lead, customers can gravitate towards moving online when they witness the seamless process in real-time.
To keep them engaged, sales reps can call customers, or send emails to follow up with comprehensive information about the online buying process, how they can manage their accounts, the benefits and encourage them to try it out when making future orders.
This will assure them that they can enjoy personalized services while receiving an improved and more efficient buying experience, and successfully migrate B2B customers.
Leverage marketing automation.
In today’s B2B eCommerce market, the goal is to automate every process. It is why B2B marketers are constantly after the latest marketing automation strategies.
Millennials are driving the demand for automation. It is estimated that by 2025, 75% of millennials will represent the global workforce.
When you’re migrating your offline customers to online channels, It is crucial to incorporate marketing automation strategies that will help you match buyers’ expectations and increase sales.
Currently, 51% of companies use marketing automation, while 58% of B2B companies plan to adopt it within the next few years. According to Moosend, leading brands use marketing automation to stay ahead of their competitors’ ROI and sales.
Undoubtedly, marketing automation has proven to drive more revenue for many companies. It helps you guarantee faster response times, create high-quality leads, and save you money.
With a proper marketing automation strategy, you can harness the benefits of marketing automation when you’re moving your customers online.
What is Marketing Automation?
In simple terms: marketing automation is the use of automation solutions to manage all marketing procedures in a company. Your company can use various tools such as social media post schedulers, content marketing, email, and SEO.
With automation, you can create a seamless customer experience through customized content campaigns and streamlined landing pages and forms. It is a surefire way to improve your customer’s buying journey.
Here are three marketing automation strategies you can adopt.
Automate your social media marketing
A growing trend in 2021 is the use of automated social media marketing. You can use tools like Buffer and Hootsuite to create social media posts for multiple channels in advance and schedule them to publish when and where you want them.
This will allow you to churn out relevant content consistently, increase your response time, and collect data that will help you understand your customers more.
Email Marketing Powered by AI
Email marketing has always been effective but with AI, you can revolutionize your email marketing campaign.
You can use personalized automated newsletter, for example, to reach specific customers. With the help of AI tools like Seventh Sense, Drift Email, and rasa.io, you can create personalized newsletters for each reader.
Apart from this significantly increasing your email engagement, it also simplifies the entire process. Take rasa.io for instance, it can generate smart newsletter emails, automate newsletter production and provide quality insights for your brand.
Using AI tools will give your brand a competitive advantage, help you build a community of email subscribers you can bank on, and boost your overall email marketing automation.
Since customers like personalized experiences, this will boost customer satisfaction and enhance brand trust.
Automated Product Information Management
At the heart of PIM is the ability to drive product content for ecommerce which includes product specifications, images, catalogs and descriptions.
Why is this important for your B2B eCommerce digital channel?
Because one of the primary expectations of your customers is consistent and accurate data especially when they are going to be buying from you.
PIM has the beauty of providing product information to multiple distribution channels with the highest quality, standardized and consistent manner wherever it is used.
Millennial buyers consume a lot of information from different sources which means they can make comparisons with other brands in order to give a sound evaluation of the appropriate supplier. Now imagine if your catalog has inconsistent product data, it will definitely have a negative effect on the buying decision.
Some companies in a bid to sell quickly online resort to attaching an ecommerce platform to their existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) only to discover their ERP can’t always maintain the multiple data inputs and outputs ultimately leading to inconsistent data.
The good news is you don’t have to worry about such problems because PIM is able to integrate all data into a single repository, becoming the brain behind your operations.
PIM enhances the B2B eCommerce buyer journey.
PIM becomes one of the best tools to ensure there is consistency and reliability at every stage of the buying process. Buyers now resort to ecommerce sites for research, learning and even transacting and without high quality reliable product content your brand will suffer.
There is a need for continuous enrichment of your product content, PIM ensures all your product data is up to date, clean and always of high quality.
PIM allows customers consistent access to detailed and relevant products which will be of value to both your organization and the customer by reducing any kind of complaints or even worse product returns.
With accurate product data is also the protection of shopping cart abandonment; customers are able to enjoy the efficient experience that you are able to give. Becoming efficient and effective is one of the best ways to secure customer retention and satisfaction for your organization.
Product Information Management helps you migrate B2B customers.
Imagine how a customer researches for what they want and only to receive a product that was totally the opposite of what they ordered, in such a situation there won’t be a next time.
PIM protects you from such ugly occurrences. Ideally customers should find what they want and head straight to the checkout section without the help of an agent pushing them to complete the purchase.
PIM gives your customers the control they need to enjoy the buying journey which ultimately leads to customer retention.
With these tools in place you can migrate your existing customers on to your preferred online channel without any fear of losing customers on account introducing new changes to your brand.
To migrate B2B customers online requires you to be strategic. The trends have shown that you must have a solid online presence for B2B eCommerce brands to succeed in the current business world.
Millennials have taken over the B2B eCommerce space, and they are the biggest online shoppers. This means there is an already existing market to explore; you just have to use the right strategies. Despite this, there are still B2B buyers stuck with the traditional method you must contend with.
To successfully migrate customers online, B2B eCommerce companies must create interactive websites with integrated mobile experience, offer incentives to activate buyers’ interest, communicate changes with customers early, and leverage marketing automation to deliver top-notch self-help services and memorable customer experience.
Finally, consistency is critical. The industry is fast-paced, and you must keep up with the trends. However, you cannot afford to be complacent. Use the data analytics to examine each stage of your customer’s buying journey to identify areas that need improvement.