Just how many businesses out there don't think they're selling to other businesses? The numbers may astound you, of course, but they are irrelevant. Many brands have the idea that just because they don't sell exclusively to other businesses, that they aren't doing B2B sales. This is the furthest thing from the truth because they are and they just don't realize it. From selling products wholesale and working a deal to resellers to distributing to larger chains or selling to organizations (like schools and non-profs) is all B2B sales.
It's Easy... First, Adjust Your Mindset Before we get into all the heuristics of site design - and what you should do - we need to work on something else first. Don't worry, it's easy, so long as you don't mind your world be shattered into a million pieces. You must adjust your mindset. This common mistake made is the assumption that you need to be a supplier to be considered B2B. While most B2B sales are from businesses that are strictly suppliers, the lines have become extremely blurred between business to business and business to customer sales. Chances are, and this is where the mindset needs to change, you are B2B. Now that you know this earth-shattering news, the question then becomes, "How can I make more money?" and the answer is simple: site design. Not only can an overhaul of your site boost sales, but also retain customers by making it much easier to create an account and buy from you. We are in a new era. This generation does nearly everything online. The old way of thinking was that a sales rep would make a trip to some small-town supplier, broker a deal, get good rates, blah, blah, blah, then create a purchase order. Done. The old guard is mostly dead. This way of procurement is about as effective as a telegraph for mass communication. Let's give you a moment to grieve over this archaic way of doing business... ok, done? Good. Now, let's make you money, retain customers, and create an environment that's inviting enough to increase conversions. Oh, it should also be noted, that just because you've come around to the idea that you are selling to other businesses, you won't lose out on traditional sales. In fact, you'll be killing two birds with one stone as this list will serve to help you on both sales fronts.
Be Chatty The biggest problem we face with doing business online is that it can feel so impersonal and cold. The sad fact of it, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, is that it is cold and impersonal. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with your laptop? It's not a pleasant experience. Why? Because it doesn't talk back; it doesn't respond. And things like Siri, Alexa, and whatever new talkie home thing is coming down the pipe is not a "fix" for impersonal contact. Sure, you can get loads of information about the product/s you wish to buy, but what if you have a question you can't find an answer for? Google can sometimes seem like it's reading your mind; however, it isn't. There are just some things you need to ask a real human about. This is where the old guard was so good. They knew that the "personal touch" could make or break a sale. Nothing has changed in that respect; however, the delivery of that personal experience has changed. The simplest way to change this for your site is to add a chat function. They're fairly easy to add, don't cost much (some are free, but you get what you pay for), and allow your customer (and potential customers) to reach out to a human with just one click of their mouse. This now becomes a new version of the old way of selling. You not only eliminate the cold and impersonal nature of selling online, but re-introduce personal one-on-one sales.
Customized Sales Here's the thing, Burger King spoiled consumers. Because of them, the customer always thinks they can have it "their way." Unfortunately, BK didn't think about the rest of us when they decided to change the game. It's like finding out that when you have a pet, they're actually the owner. The truth of the thing is that consumers always wanted things customized to their needs, but never quite realized they could ask, and businesses never quite understood that they could customize orders. For an e-commerce site selling to other businesses, unique ordering can be your bread and butter. When you design your site, can include custom quoting tools specifically for your B2B sales. Because of these tools, customers can submit an order exactly as they need it. These tools can then spit back a custom quote in no time at all. The customer can then call or chat with a sales rep to finalize everything. With many backend business suites, you can create specialized customer groups. What this does is make it easier for them to order next time.
Hide Nothing One of the saddest things businesses must deal with are unsatisfied customers. We want everyone to be happy with their shopping experience. when they're happy, they buy, which makes us happy. One of the biggest complaints you'll see - and this is important to customer retention - is that they don't have the information needed to make the right purchase decision. The result is that go somewhere else looking for that information. Chances are very good that they will decide to buy from someone other than you. When you design your site for your newly found B2B segment, you need to be completely transparent. The practicality of weaving content and description together is above and beyond anything else you can do. It's easy to provide information to your wholesale customers through your website. This whole process of hiding nothing from the consumer helps to prove your value. You need to educate them on the product's features, include current promotions, images that best represent what they're getting, customer reviews, instructions, guides, charts, and anything else you can, but do it in a way that's not sterile because, again, they need to feel a personal connection. That builds trust. The added side benefit is that the more they know, the less likely they are to go somewhere else. Adding that chat function mentioned earlier will also be a direct route to someone in sales to answer those other questions.
The Offline Option Some people just like a face-to-face with the company they're buying wholesale from. It's nothing to worry about. Unless, of course, you make is excruciatingly difficult for someone to get in touch with a real human. Ignore the added chat function for a moment. While it's fantastic, awesome, and solves a lot of problems, there are still people who must talk live. Sure, over 90% of people prefer doing everything online, but why leave 7% out of the equation? Sometimes your customers just want to know that they can reach someone. The simplest solution to your site design is to provide your contact information everywhere. Put it in the header, in the footer, have a page dedicated to it. Include phone numbers, e-mail addresses, Skype addresses, social media, and office addresses. This is a callback to having nothing to hide and building trust.
3-Seconds, and Not a Millisecond More
So much about time comes into play when you're a business selling online. this is the case regardless if you're selling to the consumer or selling whole to other businesses. If it takes a long time to find information, load pages, or place an order, your customer retention and loyalty will fly out the window. This is where the 3-second rule is most important. No matter what you do with your site, the consumer must be able to do every individual task in 3 seconds or less. If they can't, then you have problems to address in your design. Your goal is to make sales, right? If a customer is "waiting to load" for minutes at a time, how likely do you think they are to stick around? To be able to keep your customers, you want to maintain this 3-second rule. It is paramount to sales regardless of who you're selling to or what you're selling. There ae 5 key areas of your rebuild that will aid you in this quest for speed. Consider is a handy checklist.
- Is your design clean; or do you have a lot of filler taking up time to load? Make it clean, simple, and focused on your products. Don't clutter the page with bells, whistles, and glitter.
- Do they know what you sell?You need to make this painfully obvious. Put products on your homepage that act as a broad definition of what you sell.
- Is your navigation navigable?Your menu should smack a consumer in the face with how blatantly obvious it is. Is it simple? Meaning, are you showing off several major categories or do you think you're eBay and have sub-sub-sub categories? You want customers to find, not search, for what they want. They're not Dora the Explorer, after all, so don't make them go on journey of discovery.
- Is checking out easy?First, your shopping cart should retain selections from visit to visit just in case the customer gets distracted. In other words, don't let the basket expire. Second, your cart needs to be visible. Either a picture of a cart they can click; or, even better, a cart that follows them from page to page that keeps a running total. Third, make is simple to pay. Don't make people fill out a 5-page form. A simple sign-up that can allow one-click ordering will be a great selling point.
- Are you using pop-ups?This is simple. If you are, stop. No one likes them, and they hinder sales more than you know. Should you try to push other items? Of course. Should you interrupt browsing, reading content, and checking out to do it? Not if you want the sale. Instead, use inline sales techniques based off their viewing and selection data.
Can Your Customers Trust You
Consumers of every type want to trust the company they're ordering from. This is especially the case when you're dealing with other businesses that are buying wholesale. Sales are easily lost because they don't know if their credit cards are safe with you. TrustMarks are important because they alleviate that potential issue. Get your business verified through places like VeriSign, the Better Business Bureau, and TRUSTe. When you do, put their logos everywhere. You will also want to add logos of payment methods you accept. If you only take AMEX (which would be really bad, by the way), you will alienate everyone else. If someone has spent time shopping only to find out they can't buy from you, then you're going to get horrible online reviews. Consumer reviews are equally as important as TrustMarks. Think about it. It's like word of mouth advertising. Always design your site with the ability of a customer to write a review or provide a testimonial on that specific item's page. If you're doing your job right, you will have nothing to fear. Remember earlier about not hiding anything? Right. This goes with that. Don't believe me? That's okay. Oneupweb conducted a study that says reviews and testimonials can up sales by 18% and they also showed that nearly 41% of consumers consider the opinion of others as an important factor in purchasing. When you deal with selling wholesale, having a well-liked product will sell itself. One last note about trust. A consumer wants to know you. In fact, they have a driving need to know you. Your "About Me" page cane become a crucial selling point. Even in the world of wholesale, other companies want to deal with upstanding people. Use this page to introduce your company, give a background, your mission statement, and introduce your top brass with insightful information about them.
Think Like a Business... Get IWD's B2B eCommerce Suite
In this blog, there is a lot of talk about what your site needs to do to get customers, get sales, and retain them in a business to business environment. Selling, in general, can feel overwhelming. Adding wholesale into the mix can feel downright impossible. But, you need to think like a business, and not as a person. Individuals have a tendency to shy away from change. They want to be hands-on and in full control. This is what some of us in business call stress. When you think like a business; however, it becomes much easier. I'm going to put a list of things very soon. It's not too long of a list mind you; however, the things on it are, shall we say, time consuming and labor intensive. I'll be honest, I want to scare you a little so that the solutions to the items listed will be a no-brainer. For your site to be an effective asset in commerce to other businesses, you need the following:
- Effective Order generation
- No-Hassle Bulk Ordering
- Inventory Control
- Custom Orders
- Paperwork-Free Wholesale Registration/Approval
- Order Approval
- Account Limits
- Account-Specific Pricing
- Organic Lead Generation
- Product Matrix
- Multiple Platform Support
- Spreadsheet Ordering
- Full System Integration
- Full Bulk Order and Fulfillment Dashboard
Yes, that is a lot of stuff. A lot of complicated stuff, that could easily cause you to yank out all your hair. This is where thinking like a business comes into the foreground. all businesses use software for various reasons. You need to write a document, you use Microsoft Word. You need a spreadsheet, hello there, Excel, and so on. Even your payroll, time sheets, etc. etc. are software dependent (unless you're living in the analog world). Using programs to solve complex business stuff, and make things easier, is common. So, why not use it for your B2B issues? Like many other sellers, you probably look at your needs, and at the current software solutions, and come to this conclusion: nothing is going to help me. You come to this conclusion because many software suites for businesses focus on one or two things. They then create new software to handle something else. Rinse. Repeat. And soon, you're cash poor, because you've spent thousands on programs you don't fully understand. You need to speed up your site, build loyalty and trust, answer your customer's needs, converting browsers into buyers and retaining them as customers, cause yourself little to no stress all the while fulfilling that complicated list of things you need. There are scores of platforms to help you manage some of the list, but only one to effectively handle them all (and more) and still remain affordable, regardless of the size of your business, and that technology is the IWD B2B eCommerce suite for Magento 1 and 2. From simple wholesale registration to providing sales reps, you can have a no mess situation on your hands. When you "think like a business," you are merely outsourcing the things you don't know, or are uncomfortable with, to someone who is. But for someone who also likes to be hands-on, Magento 2 allows you to dive into many aspects if your B2B sales without having to rely on someone else (if you don't want to). And so, I leave you with this nugget of inspiration: