Manufacturers and wholesale distributors are under increasing pressure as B2B customers expect the same online purchasing experience that they get when visiting a BtoC Ecommerce site.

In fact, when it comes to meeting those needs, manufacturers and wholesale distributors should steal a few pages out of the BtoC playbook. Gone are the days when BtoB customers had no choice but to phone or fax an order into their supplier. They don’t have time for that and would prefer a streamlined process browsing and ordering online. When the online buying experience causes more headaches than it’s worth, they may consider going elsewhere.  

Many manufacturing and wholesale distributors understand this shift and are making next-generation Ecommerce a key focus area for their business in an effort to meet the needs of BtoB customers and deliver the same consumer-class experience they get when visiting a BtoC site.

Here are five tactics your B2B Ecommerce store could leverage from the BtoC playbook to increase sales and address the needs of today’s business customers:

  1. Save lists of past purchases with one-click reordering capabilities. Most customers tend to re-order the same products, so make it very quick and easy for them to find and re-order those items. 
  2. Provide real-time inventory updates. Buyers appreciate knowing if something is out of stock or in limited supply. It saves them the frustration of having to cancel the order later or wait for a back ordered item, and it can encourage purchases by alerting customers to items in limited availability.
  3. Promote products dynamically on the site. Up-sell customers by advertising products that are related to the ones they're browsing on the site or have already purchased. Too often, B2B marketers assume customers already know what they want. But by dynamically serving up product recommendations in the margins of pages or search results, the seller provides alternatives that the buyer may not be aware of and can increase sales.
  4. Upgrade the search function with B2C capabilities such as faceted search, fuzzy logic and searchandizing. B2B sites too often have primitive search capabilities, making it difficult for a buyer to find what they need without a product number or exact product name, and making it impossible for the merchant to promote the best products.  Faceted search, available in most B2C sites, makes it easy for shoppers to filter down their results and find products by categories and attributes. Fuzzy search interprets misspelled words and returns relevant results. Searchandizing enables a site to promote products it wants to sell, such as overstocked or high margin items, at the top of a search results page.
  5. Integrate more self-service features. B2B customers are frequently forced to call for basic information that should be available to them online. Some capabilities that can be implemented on a B2B site include: tracking the status and shipment of an order, requesting a refund or replacement, viewing a company's negotiated price for an item (rather than the standard price), viewing quotes, making payments, or checking the company's credit limits and current credit status. Typically, many of those capabilities require a phone call, reducing customer satisfaction and costing more to service.  

Bottom line: The sellers that make purchasing the easiest will have more customers.  Utilizing Ecommerce applications made for both B2C and B2B environments—such as NetSuite's SuiteCommerce—allows your B2B business to reduce labor costs while improving customer satisfaction. Your B2B site gains a significant competitive edge and can drive more revenue.

- Baruch Goldwasser, Director of Ecommerce, NetSuite