The right B2B ecommerce strategies can have a huge impact on the success of your business. Even small improvements to your marketing and customer experience can help attract more customers, boost conversions, and generate repeat business.
Fortunately, plenty of businesses have tried and tested a range of strategies so you don’t have to. Here are the best B2B ecommerce strategies to increase sales and stay competitive.
What Is B2B Ecommerce?
Business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce is a business model where businesses sell products and services to other businesses via a website, mobile app, or online marketplace. It functions in a similar way to business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce where products are sold online directly to consumers.
When it comes to getting online, B2B ecommerce businesses have tended to lag behind the B2C market but the Covid-19 pandemic forced a lot of businesses to catch up. A survey found that 83% of B2B buyers now prefer online shopping and 35% are willing to spend $500,000 or more in a single online transaction.
Along with these changes in buying habits come new expectations. Business buyers expect the same quality of experience they would get when purchasing groceries online or ordering a household product from Amazon as a B2C customer.
That being said, there are some important differences between B2C and B2B ecommerce buyers.
B2B customers vs B2C customers
Imagine, for example, that you are buying yourself a bag of coffee beans online. You can probably make a decision fairly quickly. A bag of coffee is a expense and if you don’t like it you can choose a different product next time. Your mood, current trends, and branding may impact your decision.
Now imagine that you are in charge of making purchasing decisions for a chain of cafes. The stakes are higher. You’re going to pay close attention to price and delivery times. You might need sign-off from other people in your business. And you can’t risk buying coffee that your customers won’t enjoy.
These differences in buying patterns should influence your B2B ecommerce strategy. However, there are also some fundamentals that apply to both B2C and B2B ecommerce models.
6 Impactful B2B Ecommerce Strategies You Need to Try
As a B2B ecommerce business, your goal is to attract potential customers to your website, persuade them to make a purchase and keep them coming back for more. There are lots of different ways to achieve this. Here are some of the most effective.
Strategy 1: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is a way of improving your website’s visibility in Google search results. When business buyers search for your business, your products, or questions relating to your product category, you want to make it easy for them to find your website. This is important because more than half of B2B buyers point to web search as a primary research tool.
There are two main aspects to SEO.
1. On-site SEO
Search engines like Google scan your website for topics and keywords in order to rank them in search results. There are things you can do to make it easier for Google to scan your site and find the right things. This can get technical but fixes include:
- Ensuring your website is optimized for mobile devices
- Removing duplicate pages and broken links
- Including keywords in your URL
- Improving your metadata
- Keeping URLs short
2. SEO content
Creating helpful, engaging content, like blog posts or whitepapers, for your websites can be a good way to attract leads. Start by brainstorming topics that your customers might Google. If you have business customers in multiple industries or your product has more than one use case, it’s a good idea to divide your customers into categories and create niche, targeted content for each customer segment.
You can use keyword research tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush to identify specific words and phrases that are regularly searched, but SEO content is not just about keywords. To ensure that Google makes your content visible, make sure it offers real value to the right people by helping them solve a problem, answer a question, or achieve a goal.
Pros and cons of SEO
One advantage of SEO is that you can continue to generate traffic long after you’ve created a page at no extra cost. That means it’s less expensive and time-consuming in the long run.
On the other hand, SEO takes time to have an impact. Most businesses see results from SEO within 3-6 months but many find it takes more than a year. Search engine algorithms are constantly changing and many businesses compete to dominate the same keywords so it can be challenging to keep up.
Strategy 2: Content Marketing
SEO blogs are not the only kind of content to consider. Email newsletters, podcasts, webinars, and social media posts are all examples of content you can create to:
- Increase conversion rates
- Improve brand visibility
- Build trust with customers
- Show off your product.
Content marketing can target your customers at 3 stages of the conversion funnel.
1. Top of the funnel (TOFU)
TOFU is about building brand awareness by tackling topics with broad appeal to draw in a relatively large audience. The great thing about this kind of content is that it feels organic, whereas traditional advertising can sometimes feel pushy and intrusive.
This Instagram post from Shopify is an example of TOFU content. It addresses a problem that many Shopify customers face but it also has broad appeal. It is not specifically advertising Shopify’s product but their brand is clearly visible.
2. Middle of the funnel (MOFU)
You’re building a relationship with a prospect who has shown an interest in your content by focusing more specifically on your product. MOFU content could take the form of email marketing, whitepapers, and webinars.
DocuSign’s whitepaper, for example, targets a narrower audience – sales departments looking to go digital. It includes information about how DocuSign’s product can help that audience reach their goals.
3. Bottom of the funnel (BOFU)
BOFU content is for the decision stage of the buying process. You’re persuading a new customer to make a purchase by providing detailed information like a product demo, FAQs, or testimonials. Airtable’s product demo video is one example of this.
You can also create content to target existing customers to keep them engaged with your brand.
Shopify’s podcast, Shopify Masters, for example, helps their customers grow and improve their ecommerce businesses.
SEO is one of the most popular marketing strategies with 60% of B2B companies using this approach. If you decide to try it, start by identifying your target audience. Figure out what they care about and which channels they use most. You’ll need to set clear goals and consider which part of the funnel you want to tackle.
Include a call-to-action (CTA) at the end of articles and videos to encourage your audience to act e.g. subscribe, or visit your website, request a phone call.
Strategy 3: Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Getting traffic to your ecommerce website is only useful if some of those website visitors turn into customers. In this context, conversion rate optimization (CRO) is about improving your website to increase the percentage of visitors who perform desired actions e.g. browsing your products, filling in a form, watching a product demo video, or making a purchase.
The average ecommerce conversion rate is about 2.5-3%. If your conversion rate is low, there are several things you can do to improve it. Generally, the idea is to make a purchase as easy and as enticing as possible.
1. Improve page load speed.
According to a survey, 62% of online shoppers will wait 5 seconds or less for a page to load before leaving. If your pages are slow to load, you’re losing potential customers.
2. Improve the user experience.
You want to make it as easy and seamless as possible for a visitor to find the information they need and take the actions you want them to take on your online store. A clean layout, intuitive navigation, and detailed product pages can all improve the user experience and boost conversions. Use tracking to figure out where your visitors are hitting roadblocks or opting out.
3. Add reviews and testimonials
As we mentioned above, B2B buyers need to do more due diligence before making a purchase. Positive reviews act as something tangible that a decision maker can point to as evidence that they’ve done their homework. In fact, Forbes reports that 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to make a purchase after reading a review.
4. Offer multi-channel customer service
B2B buyers say they are using 10 or more channels during their decision journey. If you have the resources, it’s worth trialing live chat, video and phone calls, and email in addition to self-service options to find out how your customers like to communicate. Make sure you make it easy for prospects to find these channels at the right point in their journey.
5. Optimize for existing customers
The probability of selling to an existing customer is 5-14 times higher than the probability of selling to prospective leads. Gather data to determine which products your current customers are likely to want and use automated recommendations to offer upsells. To go back to our landscaper supplier, a customer who buys turf is likely to want lawn food.
Making it easy for repeat customers to reorder previous purchases, perhaps even offering subscriptions or automated reordering, is a good way to encourage brand loyalty.
6. Test transparent pricing
B2B ecommerce pricing can be complex. It will often take into account order volume and shipping logistics. However, if you provide customers with transparent pricing, you can increase efficiency, by reducing the need for emails and phone calls, and building trust.
On the other hand, opaque pricing gives prospective business customers a reason to engage with your sales team which can increase conversions. Use A/B testing to determine which strategy is most effective.
Strategy 4: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
PPC is an online advertising model where advertisers pay each time someone clicks on their online ads. You can place ads on search engines like Google, social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, news sites, and ecommerce platforms like Amazon. There are a number of unique advantages to this marketing strategy.
1. It’s targeted.
PPC platforms allow businesses to filter their audience by criteria like age and location. You can also target users who have previously visited your website or users who have been searching for products similar to yours. Businesses can run different ad campaigns for different customer segments.
2. It’s data driven.
PPC providers make it easy to track your advertising campaign. You can keep an eye on data like cost per click, impressions, and conversion rate. That way, you know if you’re making a good ROI and you can use A/B testing to improve your ads.
3. It’s quick.
Once your ad goes live, your product is immediately in front of an audience so you can start to see results quickly.
The drawbacks of PPC are that it can be costly in the long term. Unlike SEO, if you stop paying for PPC, you stop getting results.
Strategy 5: Referral Program Marketing
A referral program is a formalized process by which customers can refer your business to someone else. Customers could be given a unique link or code to share or asked to fill in an online form with their contact details. There may be a reward involved for both parties.
According to Social Media Today, 78% of B2B marketers say a referrals program generates quality leads and 54% say it has a low cost per lead. Referrals can be especially useful for B2B decision-makers who are often committing to large purchases and need to justify their decision to multiple stakeholders.
You can promote your referral program on your website, on sales calls, and in content marketing. Make sure the process of making a referral is quick and easy and the benefits are easy to understand. Choose a reward that will motivate your customers to put in the required effort.
Of course, a referrals program is not going to work if you don’t offer a good product, a positive customer experience, and overall customer satisfaction so attend to those things first.
Strategy 6: B2B Ecommerce Marketplaces
A large portion of B2B ecommerce volume flows through online marketplaces like Amazon. eMarketer predicts that just under $60 billion of business products will be sold through Amazon in 2025.
Though this will only make up a small percentage of total business product sales in the US (roughly 2.3%), it doesn’t include other giants like Handshake, Faire, Alibaba, Novi, and Tundra
The main benefits of using these marketplaces include:
- Greater trust lent by the marketplace
- Visibility in their search pages
- Easy advertising
- Additional services like fulfillment and payment processing
- Leverages the existing user base of the marketplace
There are plenty of good reasons to investigate whether a marketplace is a strong strategy for you but there are also a few significant downsides. For one, marketplaces charge fees.
They also take much of the power of customer loyalty away from you by taking control of the customer experience, which can be devastating in the B2B world. Close partnerships with businesses are essential for a successful B2B business and they are much harder to form through these marketplaces.
How to Build Your Own B2B Ecommerce Strategy
Most B2B ecommerce strategies require an investment of resources in order to succeed so it’s wise to focus on just one or two. Questions to consider before selecting a strategy include:
- What are your business goals?
- How quickly do you need results?
- Which strategy offers the best ROI?
- What strategies have your competitors adopted?
- What strategy best utilizes your business’ existing strengths?
- Which strategy is best suited to the preferences of your ideal customers?
Start with quick fixes
When it comes to building your B2B ecommerce strategy, it might be a good idea to start with low-hanging fruit. There are small improvements you can make with minimal investment that could help make your business more competitive. Here are some ideas.
- Update your metadata
- Set up a LinkedIn page
- Sign up for a review site
- Add prices to your website
- Add FAQs to your website
- Offer first purchase discounts
- Offer multiple payment options
- Make your contact details easy to find
Map your customer journey
Once you’ve ticked off some quick fixes you can consider which broader strategies are going to bring your B2B ecommerce business the best ROI. One way to do this is to map out the customer journey. Are the number of visitors to your website low or do you have a high number of visitors but a low conversion rate? Do visitors drop off right away or abandon their shopping basket? How many customers come back for a second purchase? And why are your customers making those decisions?
You can find the answers to these questions by conducting customer surveys and interviews, tracking activity on your website, A/B testing, doing competitor research, and reading reviews.
Set a specific goal
If you discover that you are losing a lot of customers at a particular stage in the buying process or that your competitors are outpacing you in a certain area, you might decide to focus your energy on that area. For example, if you are not getting any repeat business you might want to look at making reorders easier or generating content that targets existing customers.
Be aware of digital marketing trends
The digital marketing landscape is constantly changing. In mid-2023, X (formerly Twitter) saw their traffic tank, reminding marketers that social media platforms rise and fall in popularity. If you’re adopting a social media marketing strategy, it’s important to know where your buyers are spending their time. It’s also worth considering having a more stable audience, like an email list.
On social media and beyond, short-form video is booming. The average video length is getting shorter and 29% of millennials say they prefer video over other content when researching a B2B product or service.
Podcasts are another trending channel. Podcast advertising is now thought to be more effective than TV or radio. Research shows that branded podcasts can increase brand recognition by 89% and purchase intent by 14%.
Digital voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are becoming more popular, leading some businesses to optimize their websites for voice search.
Finally, new technology is altering the digital marketing landscape too. VR offers new ways to demonstrate your products remotely and AI has the potential to change how SEO works. A Boston Consulting Group survey found that 95% of customer service leaders expect their customers to be served by an AI bot within the next three years.
Are These B2B Ecommerce Strategies Worth It for My Business?
B2B decision-makers expect more from an ecommerce platform than they did a few years ago. Businesses that fail to step into the digital era and meet those expectations will likely fall behind. The right B2B ecommerce strategy, well executed, can attract new customers, increase customer loyalty, and drive revenue in a sustainable way. To succeed, it’s essential to tailor your chosen strategy to your unique customer base and your overall business goals.