As a result, many companies are realising that providing a compelling customer experience has never been more important. Just as it does in the consumer sector, creating such an experience makes it far more likely that first-time B2B visitors to a site will become long-term, loyal clients.
According to a study by Bain & Company, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by between 25% and 95%. Also, achieving a 10% increase in customer retention can result in a boost in company value of 30%.
Research also shows existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend, on average, 31% more than new customers. Having regular B2B clients therefore creates a recurring revenue stream for a business which is much more valuable than one-off orders from clients who never return.
This ongoing shift from physical to digital interactions can require a cultural change within many organisations. Mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure clients receive the same levels of service they would expect in a physical setting.
Much of this shift comes down to the way in which online experiences are personalised for each returning business customer. This stems from the fact that these customers have experienced the benefits of personalisation as consumers and so expect similar service in a B2B context.
Indeed, today, 73% of B2B buyers expect personalised experiences similar to what they experience when shopping in B2C e-commerce stores. Eighty percent of companies see a boost in sales after implementing personalisation.
The importance of personalisation in B2B ecommerce
A crucial part of building such long-term relationships is this personalisation of the customer experience. Each visitor to a B2B e-commerce website should have an experience that has been tailored specifically for them.
Unfortunately, in many cases, B2B personalisation lags behind what is being offered in the B2C space. There, significant investments have been made by many firms to ensure returning customers enjoy a tailored experience based on previous interactions.
According to research conducted by McKinsey, only 10% of B2B firms see digital as one of their top three investment priorities. That is about half the average in the B2C space. In the important customer-facing area of mobile, just 6% of B2B companies have an ecommerce strategy compared with 30% of B2C firms.
In addition to making your checkout smarter and knowing your data inside out, there are a range of key steps that can be taken to ensure personalisation in B2B ecommerce can create a winning online customer experience.
Individualised pricing: If a customer is a returning customer, prices displayed should reflect any discounts that apply to them. The price they see needs to be the price they will pay and this will be achieved through the assessment of previous transactions and the calculation of appropriate pricing.
Proactive suggestions: The site should also know what has previously been purchased and automatically offer companion items. This can be a powerful way to increase the overall value of placed orders and reinforces in the client’s mind that the business understands their individual requirements.
Real-time stock indication: The site should be capable of indicating whether particular items are actually in stock. This will reduce the frustration of trying to place orders for things that are not currently available. It also gives clients the option to order an alternative item or delay the purchase until stocks have been replenished.
Tight ERP integration: Personalisation relies on being able to use prior knowledge of customers. The ecommerce site should be tightly integrated with the firm’s ERP system to allow this access. This integration needs to be robust and able to perform efficiently even during periods of high demand.
Usability: The link between personalisation and loyalty
When it comes to online commerce, client loyalty is driven by useability. People want websites that look good and are logical to use. If someone needs to be trained to use a B2B e-commerce site, something is wrong.
Information and products need to be easy to find, accompanied by clear descriptions and quality photography. The site should be designed so that visitors can find what they are seeking quickly and without having to click through multiple layers of options.
The ordering process should also be logical and simple to follow. Secure payment mechanisms need to be incorporated so that clients feel comfortable with placing and paying for orders.
By following these steps, a business can ensure it delivers a personalised online experience that will increase the likelihood that clients will forge a long-term business relationship.
This personalisation should also take the form of targeted marketing and content made available to customers across a company’s web store. This will lead to stronger engagement, longer relationships, and increased spending.
With the proportion of B2B transactions conducted online likely to increase further, the businesses that can deliver the best experience will be the ones that can capture the opportunity and enjoy strong future growth.