When I was an ecommerce and purchasing manager, I spent a lot of time on brand and pure play sites. The most memorable sites for me were the brands that made me cringe every time I had to place an order due to site speed or poor usability. I always wondered why companies made placing orders so cumbersome, considering that a simple and reliable online experience is all you need to free up customer service resources.
Most ecommerce managers think they need to offer the same features to a B2B shopper as they would a B2C shopper. It’s one of the reasons so many don’t even bother. Well, I believe that you don’t. Goal one should be to offer wholesale buyers a “portal” where they can self-service. This can easily be done using eCommerce platforms like Magento and Salesforce Commerce Cloud due to their multi-site architecture. However, before simply replicating your theme and calling it a B2B site, thought should be put into what the B2B shopper needs, and just as importantly, doesn’t need.
What You Really Need
An amazing picture of the product and a branded experience isn’t why a B2B customer arrives on your site. Buyers will most likely have gotten a great touch and feel from wholesale marts or visits from brand reps before the season started. Quick and easy reordering is the most important and most impactful thing you can spend your money on–not the newest design. You don’t need to clutter the page or distract the user with newsletter signups and lifestyle imagery.
What the shopper needs is the modern conveniences of placing purchase orders as reliably and quickly as possible. Purchasing agents use wholesale websites for three main reasons: placing orders, getting product information, and retrieving order information. These features need to be brought to the forefront of the site in order for the end user to quickly and painlessly achieve their end goal.
Purchasing agents may be placing orders for stock replenishment or a drop shipment to a customer. Giving them the ability to easily and quickly place orders is critical. Generally, this is a combination of features, but the most common for B2B sites is the ability to save credit cards, purchase on credit (purchase orders), drop ship, and check inventory.
How to cut back on customer service.
Allowing users to easily check product information, such as inventory, allows shoppers to be self-sufficient, which of course can cut down on servicing cost and time. Depending on the functionality of the ERP and order management systems, giving shoppers the ability to view back in stock dates and open POs for individual SKUs can be a huge time and cost saver.
Every online shopper nowadays wants to know where their order is in near real-time. Allowing shoppers to lookup order statuses and tracking numbers saves a phone call and offers transparency into your fulfillment process. Integrations with third party delivery partners (UPS, FedEx, USPS) are becoming easier and easier to integrate. Instead of redirecting to another site which adds seconds to the lookup process, consider pulling the delivery status into the B2B site for a better user experience.
Lastly, allowing shoppers to schedule shipping dates offers better forecasting and arguably more total orders. Being able to hold inventory that might have otherwise become out of stock or forgotten in the first place.
The philosophy for any B2B site should be simplicity and quickness. Don’t over complicate the page with videos or user-generated content. Purchasing managers are rarely scrolling through lifestyle photography or through hero banners for the latest products. They’re trying to find their list of SKUs and the possibly buy up some closeout items. Using native features offered out of the box with Magento Enterprise and Salesforce Commerce Cloud and the multi-site architecture of these platforms, make it very easy to replicate and transform an already built B2C experience into a world-class B2B site.