Chances are your B2B buyers already know what they need, so what matters as you incorporate eCommerce is how you automate your B2B eCommerce site to serve your buyers—and potential buyers—specifically. Gone are the days when B2B marketing exclusively used physical, hard-copy catalogs and collateral direct mail from brick-and-mortar stores.
Blame it on COVID, or maybe just a natural evolution accelerated by almost-exclusive online transactions during the pandemic, B2B customers today assume eCommerce companies to have intuitive websites and digital promotion that adds value.
B2B customers now demand the same functionality and experience, built over different stages of the customer journey, as B2C customers. (Although some, including the eCommerce platform Shopify, argue that “the online experience for wholesale eCommerce websites should be as minimal as possible. Buyers want products that perform.” They have purchase orders to fill and way to do it seamlessly, with minimal hiccups.
Although you can find multiple topics on B2B eCommerce online, in this post we’re keeping it tight and speaking to a handful of things we think can help you automate your B2B eCommerce efforts. Consider these five tactical (must) ways to automate:
- Create a pricing structure for bulk buying
- Automate recurring orders (bannersolutions.com)
- Embrace chatbots/chat features on website
- Automate emails for order status updates, new products, general email marketing, etc.
- Use platforms with the best automation
Understand Why Your B2B eCommerce Needs Automation
If you only glanced over our five areas because you need convincing that B2B eCommerce is a thing, let’s back up and speak to that topic. You know what’s coming: The data-based support for action.
According to Oracle, the world’s largest database management company, eCommerce automation is a time saver, by programming repetitive labor-intensive tasks.
Automation is a tool to work more efficiently, collaborate more effectively, and engage with customers better. Oracle’s data, although it highlights all eCommerce, shows eCommerce engagement as important to businesses for the following reasons:
- 35% want to streamline marketing and sales efforts
- 34% want to improve customer engagement
- 34% want to improve the customer experience (CX)
- 30% want to minimize manual tasks
- 28% want to increase the number of leads captured
And B2B eCommerce is expanding in the U.S., according to a Statistica report from July 2022, which highlights the following:
- B2B eCommerce in the U.S. is valued at $6.7 T (that’s a big T, as in trillion)
- eCommerce share of total B2B sales in the U.S. is 13%
You may not have needed much convincing, but if you want more, email or call us to start a conversation. We specialize in B2B.
Let’s get on with our five features we think can help you automate your B2B eCommerce efforts.
Create a Pricing Structure for Bulk Buying
You’re probably familiar with how to do this in general, so for eCommerce you need to add in the component of online purchasing and product storage and shipping. You’ll still address fixed and variable costs, willingness of end users to buy your products, competition, market position (and where you WANT to be) and the distinct nature of your products and their availability/scarcity. B2B eCommerce isn’t like buying a dog sweater and treats from Chewy. It usually involves large number of products purchased frequently.
Because we’re fans of Shopify as a platform, we trust you can learn more from Shopify’s wholesale eCommerce advice.
Automate Recurring Orders
Remember the suggestion that B2B eCommerce users want to fill orders and do it seamlessly without a lot of a fuss? If that’s true for your B2B eCommerce customers, then automating recurring orders is a gift.
Within your eCommerce web-cart, instill an option that allows users to order products and then select the order to be repeated on a recurrent basis. For those customers who want seamless ordering of the same products, this is a must. After the first order, subsequent orders are created and processed automatically, using the same product quantity, price, shipping address and payment method as in the recurring order created initially. Again, this is common with B2C eCommerce (Chewy!), but it should be a staple in B2B eCommerce as well.
Embrace Chatbots/Chat Features on Website
According to IBM, whose Watson Assistant is a popular and recognized artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot framework, chatbot use can help reduce customer service costs by more than 30%.
Savings in the customer service space comes, in part, because good chatbot technology can satisfactorily answer between 80 and 90% of commonly asked questions. See more in our blog,
Creative Marketing Strategies for a World of Automation.
Chatbots can qualify leads, provide customer service and automate tasks such as managing service calls and giving quotes, leaving plenty of human time to deal with the more complex customer interactions. The key is to keep the chat function conversational, which has greater possibility with an AI-based chatbot system, which tend to be more sophisticated. But command-based chats know their job, and it involves these elements:
- Developers create scripts and pre-written responses (as opposed to coming up with new texts) for the bots to ask.
- Chatbots start with a question (avoid anything too cutesy) and continue by direct commands.
- Chatbots understand the users written text to interpret what the user wants and to answer a question, the chatbot matches it to a database of created replies (why we love those FAQs).
- If well-programmed, they’re dutiful and grammatically correct (always a win, as it cuts down on fuzzy language-use).
- Chatbots can’t answer oddly phrased or atypical questions, but they can be programmed to redirect users to humans, if their database of replies is tapped out, or the question is atypical or too complex.
Automate Emails for Order Status Updates, New Products, General Email Marketing, etc.
You’re probably already doing this on some email platform, but know that it matters with B2B eCommerce automation. As B2B customers often have bigger budgets and are likely to repurchase, an automated email system to remind them of important quantities and dates can be helpful. Also, because B2B customers often take longer to research potential purchases and purchases often need to be approved by multiple people (read long multi-step process), automated emails can offer guidance and keep steps along the process. (Think of it as ways to speak to efficiency, expertise and ROI, or anything that makes their workflow easier.)
Use Platforms With the Best Automation
Deciding on an eCommerce platform with automation features doesn’t need to be cumbersome. For details on the best platforms, read our blog, Best Platforms for eCommerce. And because we’re B2B experts, you can consider that the best platforms for B2B eCommerce.
Future Topics to Tackle
We promised to keep it tight here, but in future posts, we address hot topics of browser abandonment recovery, abandoned cart recovery, additional post-purchase communication (beyond emails), and how to avoid Including inactive contacts in the workflow.
Or, if you’d like information on those issues today, email or contact us to start a conversation.