It’s estimated that by 2017, 56% of all B2B purchases will be completed online. To remain competitive in the face of such numbers, manufacturers and distributors across the globe are moving quickly to put online ordering portals in place and encourage eCommerce adoption among their customers.

While suppliers who have already chosen to implement B2B eCommerce clearly understand the benefits of online ordering––including increased order accuracy, faster fulfillment, and lower costs to serve customers––buyer adoption sometimes lags behind.

And we can’t necessarily blame them. Many B2B suppliers have customer ordering practices that have been in place for decades, and buyers get comfortable with these methods, even if there are better alternatives available. Moving your buyer online can be a fight against complacency, but thankfully, with some careful planning, tailored messaging, and consistent monitoring, this can be overcome.

eCommerce Adoption Rates: What to Track

First, it’s important to determine how you will measure adoption within your customer base. While the adoption rate you should be optimizing for depends on the exact needs of your business, start simple.

Your Global Adoption Rate is the best representation of the true state of B2B eCommerce adoption in your business. To calculate:

Total # buyers placing regular orders online / Total # buyers invited to your portal

The global adoption rate is the most comprehensive, because it takes into account both:

  1. The quality of your marketing efforts in driving awareness and registration on your portal.
  2. The quality of your buyer experience in driving repeat usage of your portal.

Accordingly, in order to improve your global adoption rate, you will need to improve your marketing efforts, your buyer experience, or a combination of the two.

B2B eCommerce Adoption Strategies

1. Start with the basics: user experience.

It’s important to remember: if you do not provide a standout customer ordering experience, your customers are less likely to adopt your online ordering portal. There are 5 parts of the ideal B2B buying experience, including: a simple user experience, support for both web & mobile ordering, easy access to all necessary product and order information, access to helpful product collateral, and a seamless order confirmation and fulfillment process.

2. Get to know your buyers.

Creating a great customer experience requires really getting to know your buyers. Get feedback on the current ordering process, understand their ideal workflows, and ask about their previous experience with B2B eCommerce.

You may think you’re already aware of your buyer’s needs, but many manufacturers and distributors can learn a great deal from a dedicated conversation addressing the questions below, whether it’s in a series of phone calls, in-person discussions, or focus groups.

3. Use a drip email campaign

The drip email campaign is a marketing tactic used frequently in the consumer world. It’s a sequence of emails that “warms up” your recipient over time before you make an ask. It concludes with one or two follow-up emails to optimize for your desired result.

There are four core emails in a B2B eCommerce email launch drip: an introductory email letting your buyers know that you will be implementing online ordering, a “Coming Soon” email to notify your buyers of the launch date, the Launch email, and a follow-up email.

4. Don’t forget about your sales reps.

As people who’ve built relationships with your customers over time, your sales reps are one of your biggest assets when it comes to promoting your online portal. Your sales rep must be a strong ally and supporter of your B2B eCommerce portal, which means you must have foresight and strategy behind a B2B eCommerce rollout that encourages a complementary, rather than adversarial, relationship.

Commission your sales reps on all orders from their respective customers, even those that come through your portal. If you do not, your sales reps are not only demotivated to promote your portal, they may actively block its usage, asking their customers to order through them instead.

In addition to commissioning your reps on all orders, enlist sales leadership to incentivize their reps to promote your portal. Whether it’s training your customers to use the portal in person or being on-call to answer their questions, ensure that your reps are a true partner to your B2B eCommerce efforts.

These are just a few of the tactics you can use to encourage your customers to place orders online. For more strategies and tips, download the B2B eCommerce Adoption Guide now.