When it comes to starting up your own B2B e-commerce store, one of the first things you really need to understand is how it all works and what sets the best and most successful stores apart.
From powerful customer service to constant improvement and development, here’s how the most successful B2B stores work, and what you need to do to join their ranks.
How Does a B2B Store Work?
Business to business is an exploding area of e-commerce right now. We all know that business to consumer (B2C) has long been taking over from the high street, but in the last few years, B2B has been proving an extremely lucrative area of e-commerce.
There’s plenty of differences between marketing to an individual consumer and marketing to businesses. Elements like much bigger transaction values and transactions sometimes taking weeks or months mean that B2B stores simply have to adopt different approaches than when selling to individual consumers.
Business to Business AND Consumer
One of the important elements to remember is that just because a business specializes in selling to either other businesses or consumers, that doesn’t mean that they’re limited to that.
It can be straightforward to set up a business that caters to both customers and businesses, it just requires an approach that works for both. A great example of this is the Chinese marketplace, AliExpress. Through taking an eBay style approach, but making use of Chinese manufacturing, they’re able to simultaneously sell wholesale to businesses and individual consumers.
That means that as a B2B e-commerce store, you don’t necessarily have to neglect individual consumers, you can sell to both.
What Sets Successful B2B E-Commerce Stores Apart?
When it comes to truly successful B2B stores, there’s a number of factors that really set some businesses apart. With so many new businesses starting up online every day, it’s important to do everything you can to stand above the crowd and be noticed in the increasingly crowded marketplace.
Customer Service – There’s no greater test of a company’s competence in the eyes of the customer than their customer service. It’s just not true that customer service only matters in face-to-face situations; it’s always an important factor when it comes to dealing with a business.
You want your customer service to reflect your business as a whole, knowledgeable and courteous, and always capable of helping. That’s what’s going to set you apart from other e-commerce stores without the people skills to truly succeed.
Honesty about Services and Products – When it comes to buying anything online, one of the most important factors is the honesty about the products displayed on their site. Some e-commerce stores might lean away from displaying mixed reviews on a product, but that variety of reviews allows the customer to trust the honesty of the product representations.
The same goes when it comes to any services you offer. You always want to under-promise and over-deliver. That’s the only way to build a loyal customer base of return customers, and those are the best kinds of customers, especially when it comes to B2B.
As a business, you should embrace honesty and open communication with your customers, even when it involves sharing bad news with them. This might be something you think about covering up, but this openness can actually be fairly endearing to your customer base.
Constant Improvement – Another trait of almost any successful business, but especially of B2B e-commerce sites, is constant, adaptive improvement. That means having a continual finger on the pulse and being aware of any and all shifts and changes in your industry.
You also want to know if there’s any way in which you can be better meeting your client’s needs. If there’s some way you’re letting customers down, that’s something you need to deal with quickly, before you get a reputation for it.
The best e-commerce B2B sites provide an easy, straightforward and memorable buying experience. That’s only consistently possible through constant improvement and paying attention to the way your customers interact with your business.
Branding and Personality – while you might not think that branding is quite as crucial to B2B stores, the fact remains that the businesses buying are still people too, and everyone likes businesses and stores that display corporate social responsibility, personality and self-awareness.
That means things like being aware of social issues and the ways they relate to your business and products, utilizing social media and other branding methods, all geared towards creating a likable, engaging brand that isn’t just skin deep.
Many brands have made elements like this their real USP, including businesses like Lush. They have B2C, B2B, and physical stores, and have built those off the back of powerful branding and social responsibility and awareness.
Reinvent and Adapt – Things continually shift in almost all industries. Whether that’s social trends, technology or any other factor, time and time again has shown that the most successful businesses are the ones that move with the times, and that’s never truer than when it comes to e-commerce B2B stores.
You want to always be ahead of the curve, and ready to adapt and change with every new shift. Without that adaptability, it’s very easy to get left behind by bigger and more adaptive businesses in your industry.
You want a website that’s future-facing, with elements like responsive design, even looking at tech like augmented reality in certain industries.
A good example of this is online opticians using AR to show customers what the glasses would look like on them. This could have big implications for some B2B stores online, so always be ready to integrate new technologies and shifts.
Guarantees can Reassure – If you can tell your customers that you have a next day delivery guarantee, or a money back guarantee, that’s been repeatedly shown to vastly increase customer trust and loyalty.
These kinds of guarantees show real faith and trust in your products which is only ever going to inspire the same in your customers.
Digital Marketing is Always Essential
When it comes to becoming a ubiquitous brand and a real part of the marketplace, one of the most important elements of developing and growing as a B2B e-commerce store is social media marketing, as well as a balanced approach to your marketing.
That means building a strong brand and online presence, with a substantial connection to your customers. You don’t ever want to be a distant online business, you want to know and communicate with your customers as much as possible, humanizing your business and the best way to do this is through social media marketing.
Multi-channel marketing is all about employing an approach that covers as many bases as possible, including SEO, PPC, and social media. By balancing your marketing budget over the most proven and valuable methods, you can quickly grow your customer base and brand awareness.