You’re excited about your new B2B eCommerce platform. You’ve crunched the ROI numbers and can see that profitability per online order will be much higher. But these efficiencies will only be realised when you manage to convince existing customers to start adopting and placing their orders online.
So how can you ensure your B2B buyers will start to change their buying behaviours and adopt a self-service model?
In this post, some of the most experienced advisors from our expert B2B panel offer insights and outline best practices to help businesses shift their offline B2B customers to online purchasing.
1. Bring Your Customers On The Journey Early
In the world of B2C, new features and functions are communicated early before each roll-out. This needs to happen more in B2B, so as early as possible in the project start communicating new developments to your customers. This can be via an email or a video and should outline the progress of the project and what they can likely expect when the new platform or features go live. Once you’re up and running you’ll want to showcase exactly how the customer experience has evolved and improved. Scheduling an online meet-up and inviting your member base to flesh out some of the more intricate features and functions is another smart way to get your customers excited with you. And if you record it, you can provide the video to your members via email too.
2. Ask for Feedback
It’s key with any transformation to understand the drivers and value that each customer is seeking to derive from the eCommerce platform. This is inherently more complex when you consider the wants and needs of the B2B customer. For this reason, you should be continually asking your customers to provide feedback on new features and functionality. This feedback can come via online chat, structured workshops, or online surveys. By receiving continuous feedback, it allows you to be more customer-led in how you prioritise your ongoing investment into the customer experience. This approach will strengthen your overall customer and technology adoption rate.
3. Take a Phased Approach To Customer Onboarding
Businesses that are beginning their B2B transformation and moving to online should look at phasing the onboarding of their customer base. A good baseline is to start with the 20 per cent of your customers that make up 80 per cent of your revenue. The needs of this group often represent the needs of your total customer set. This approach ensures that the user experience implemented is well defined and user adoption is a success. Ultimately, the objective is to make the customer’s life easier, so if you can introduce the eCommerce platform to smaller groups first then take onboard actionable feedback, the overall onboarding success rate will increase dramatically.
4. Deliver High-Quality Content
Ensure your content is enriched to assist in overcoming any online purchase barriers. Not all products/services are created equal, so ensuring your top-selling products have all the information a customer could possibly want to know including images, videos, specifications, measurements, and reviews is a really important starting point. This helps ensure you don’t lose buyers in your eCommerce sales funnel.
5. Incentivise Your Customers
Success here is all about changing behaviour and getting trial. Consider offering your customers an incentive for their first online purchase. These incentives can take many different forms – the obvious incentives are free or discounted merchandise but make sure you consider more creative incentives too. It could be premium-grade marketing materials, free or discounted shipping, or perhaps extended credit terms for the first three months.
6. Incentivise Sales Reps & Use Them as Agents for Change
It’s critical that your sales team is in complete alignment with the company’s decision to digitise ordering. Make sure this alignment starts with giving sales reps credit for both online and offline sales. This immediately removes the risk of your sales team working against the online channel and allows them to become advocates for the change. As with any new program, there is bound to be some level of resistance. To reduce this risk, quickly identify who is championing the change and nurture them to evangelise the new online channel to the rest of the team. Wherever possible, make a song and dance about any online sales wins and offer extra incentives to reps that help clients set up their account and place their first order.
7. Continually Assess Progress
In most cases you should assess customer adoption progress monthly or at least quarterly. If you’re having trouble getting existing customers to adopt eCommerce but they continue to place orders via phone or email, this indicates there is a problem at some point along the digital customer journey. Using analytics, you can assess each stage of the journey from sign up through to check out and uncover where users are dropping out in the funnel. Learning from this data is the key to growth and success in the realm of eCommerce. Numbers don’t lie, and they will provide a clear indication of what is working and where the areas for improvement are.
The Wrap Up
At the end of the day, customer adoption boils down to communication and having a clear understanding of each customer’s journey. This might begin with a call, an in-person meeting, or virtual workshop. It’s important to understand whether your customers are completely comfortable with the product and to collect any feedback that would build on this understanding. Consider hosting training, Q&A sessions, and investing some time in an MVP for the most demanding customers. When you are ready to launch your B2B eCommerce site, start with a soft-launch for the selected group of most loyal and important customers. Collect their feedback once again and act on it. The most important goal of this process is to get the functionality your clients want and not what you think they might want. It also pays to remember that being resistant to change is human nature so also be ready with a set of perks and incentives like special discounts or free shipping for online orders to motivate your customers to try the digital channel.