Published on January 12, 2014 Growing your B2B online shop – dos and donts
at 12:43 am in Marketing 0 Comments
Last updated on October 30, 2018
Here are some ways to grow your B2B business through selling online with wholesale prices.
Selling to businesses has a unique set of challenges compared to selling to consumers. Business customers tend to have particular needs and may be more likely to shop around at the outset when selecting a store to buy from. The upside of this is that business customers value convenience and service, and do not always select the cheapest product on the market but the one that offers the best value. As an online store owner selling B2B, you need to convince your customer base that your store is trustworthy, you have quality products, you can supply their business sufficient quantities on a timely basis and that your pricing and service levels are competitive. If you do this well, you have a good chance of building loyalty and establishing an ongoing business relationship with your retail customers. If you don’t deliver on all of these things, they’ll be shopping around again.
Importance of trust for B2B online sellers
The importance of trust in successful online selling cannot be underestimated. Trust is a key driver in any supplier-retailer arrangement as these are relationships that are designed to be long, ongoing ones rather than one-off transactions that often dominate consumer selling.
Your online shop needs to make the right impression if it is to succeed. You can establish trust for your store in a number of ways:
- Show that you are trusted by other businesses, through recommendations by other retailers and testimonials. Showing logos of your main stockists is one way to encourage other retailers to sign up to distribute your products.
- Make your terms and conditions for signing-up clear and up-front. Retailers do appreciate honest, up-front communication from suppliers and if a supplier makes it difficult for their trade customers to know what they are signing up for, then they may be less willing to make an enquiry about selling your products.
- Show your site is secure. If you are using a PCI-compliant hosted e-commerce solution like Ozcart, then you would be able to publish a page on your website about the security of orders to give your customers peace of mind. Business customers will be even more privacy and security conscious than retail customers, as the livelihood of their business can be at risk if their privacy or security is breached. You might want to publish logos of your SSL encryption provider so that business customers know that their data is encrypted at checkout.
What are some B2B dos and don’ts for selling online?
Communicate, communicate, communicate
The level of communication that B2B customers expect is often higher than what regular consumers expect, as there is a usually a higher level of engagement and involvement in a transaction by a business customer than a consumer. Take advantage of the order communications system in your shopping cart system to add notes to your order, or add additional order statuses to keep your business customers informed about how their order is progressing. If you send items out tracked post make sure you send out the tracking numbers promptly.
When an issue arises how you handle it is what customers will remember. It’s not only how you help them, or whether you even can help them, but your attitude to how you go about dealing with the problem. Many business customers get frustrated dealing with businesses that never take ownership of a problem and get on with solving it, opting instead to try and blame someone else, buy time or protect their reputation. What these businesses do not realise is that in trying to protect their reputation, they can end up tarnishing it through poor service delivery. Be honest, admit a mistake and explain how you will deal with the problem rather than trying to blame someone else. Customers will appreciate the honesty – after all they are looking for the solution to their problem.
Have multiple sites? Do make your brand and position clear
If you have more than one online shop, or are operating multiple brands or websites selling the same products, then making it clear to customers as to what each site is about will help your customers through the buying process and also help you in the search engines.
Ask yourself the following question: what is the main difference between each of your websites – are they offering different products, targeting different types of customers, or selling in a different way with a different tone of voice? This will affect the way you present your website and what they see when they visit it. You might wish to have a banner on each website to explain what the website sells and who it is for, or cover this clearly on the “About us” page of your website.
Having a clear brand position is also important to the SEO (search engine optimisation) process for your online store. This is because of regardless of whether you are a retail website or a B2B one, the process of search engine marketing will be the same. You need to identify key search questions and phrases that customer may use to search for your products and services and ensure that your website is relevant for those search terms. This includes things such as:
- Using headings appropriate to the products you sell throughout your website
- Writing appropriate product descriptions to capture all of the relevant information for your products – remember your retailers will often use your descriptions to describe the products to their own customers, so the more you can help them the better they will sell your products (and come back for more)
- Having high quality photographs for physical products
- Including trust signals to indicate quantity
- Not duplicating content
Google in particular has updated their search engine ranking formula over time to better understand the context of a search, so gone are the days where you need to pick just one search phrase and use it multiple times on your website. You need to have fresh and original content on each of your websites and to do that you need to understand your customer and the search phrases that they might use when shopping for your particular products and services under the brand that the website represents.
If you are selling similar products on each of your websites, you need to ask yourself how is each website different? Who is the website targeting and what is the single most important message you wish to communicate to them? Make this message clear in the way you write the content for each site, the way you present the “About Us” page on your website (a crucial page on any website) and how you price and present each of your products. Otherwise you run the risk of only one of your websites ranking if they share similar search phrases that you are trying to rank for.
In B2B selling, this may be that they are looking for a particular product by part number, or a solution to a particular business problem, products for a particular customer group or product range. You should mention these things in your headings, product descriptions and content pages that you create in the content management system (CMS) of your shopping cart website.
Do Have good business processes in place
You may find that your customers want to communicate with you outside of your website, and your long standing customers may like to send in requests such as “repeat my last order” by email or wish to order over the phone. If you have the right business processes in place to handle these kinds of requests you can position yourself as flexible, which improves the overall perception of service by your end-customer and enhances your reputation. You can accept phone orders in Ozcart by going to the Orders screen in the store administration panel and then clicking a button to add an order. This takes you through an admin-based order wizard from your store admin area where you can place an order on behalf of a customer without having to log in as them on the front of the site and place it that way.
Don’t restrict prices or where your sellers can sell
There is a lot of news attention at the moment about wholesale suppliers attempting to restrict where and how their retailers can offer their products online. It is illegal in Australia to restrict the prices that your retailers sell their products at unless you are official representatives of that brand. The rules are less clear in the area of restricting where your retailers can sell their products but in general, it’s not recommended that you restrict where your customers can sell your products unless it’s damaging to your brand.
If your customers are able to sell more of your products to their own customers, and do this in a way that’s consistent with your brand and reputation, then they will be back for more, which is ultimately better for your business – you have to put less attention into retail selling and can focus on growing your business in other ways.
Don’t compete aggressively with your retail customers
Aggressively competing with your retail customers is a quick way to discourage them from selling your products, which can restrict the growth of your products and wholesale business both online and offline. Your retailers may have access to loyal customers that you do not have, and frustrating them with tactics like heavy price discounting or advertising directed at your retail store will not promote healthy relationships between you and your B2B customers and they’ll be less willing to work harder to promote your products to their customers.
If you are going to compete with your customers in the retail space, you should at least use a predictable strategy based on product availability and fair pricing so that your customers are able to make their own decisions in an informed way and not expect heavy competition from their own supplier.
For more information on supplier pricing, and what’s legal or not when it comes to imposing restrictions, please see the ACCC website page on this topic.
Support your retailers
Your retail customers will appreciate you taking the time to support them. Offer good customer service in answering questions about product availability promptly (so they can offer great service to their own customers), and promote your product line in general as opposed to your own retail store. This grows awareness about your products. You might want to include a store locator as well if your website software supports that, to promote to customers where your stockists are.
Ways Ozcart can help your B2B wholesale business going online
There are a number of ways that Ozcart can help your B2B online business grow. Ozcart allows you to offer different prices to your wholesale customers, and group your wholesale customers into different groups that can see different products or different prices depending on their wholesale status. You can have different shipping methods for different customer groups if you wish and export your orders to a spreadsheet file for importing into your accounting software. For a detailed overview see our B2B shopping cart page.