Developing Online Strategies to Attract and Retain New Customers

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The line between B2C and B2B ecommerce is blurring. Recent stats from Statista show that globally, B2C ecommerce sales reached $2.1 trillion in 2017 (forecast to grow to $2.35 trillion by the end of 2018), while B2B ecommerce sales hit a whopping $7.6 trillion.

It's clear, therefore, that there are massive opportunities in the world of B2B ecommerce. And yet, only a relatively small proportion of B2B organizations are maximizing them by moving away from legacy systems which neither support growth through this increasingly important channel nor deliver the experiences that B2B buyers expect.

Let's consider what it takes for B2B organizations to attract and retain customers in today's increasingly digital landscape.

A B2C-Like Ecommerce Experience

Online selling in the B2B space was initially put into practice to facilitate sales for existing customers. Now, however, B2B organizations are facing the pressing need to move more of their business online and to use their websites to both retain existing customers and attract new ones - and to do so, they need to be creating B2C-like ecommerce experiences.

The reason that the line between B2C and B2B ecommerce is blurring is that B2B buyers are just everyday consumers at heart. They are impatient, time-poor, and they expect great, hassle-free service every time they go to buy something. They get all this already in their B2C experiences and are used to things like mobile responsive websites, intelligent search, personal product recommendations, useful customer reviews, special offers, order tracking, and the ability to buy anywhere at any time.

As such, B2B customers are now increasingly expecting - or rather demanding - all of this from the B2B online shopping experience as well. Only by embracing ecommerce and moving your business into the digital sphere will you be able to meet the demands of today's B2B customers and retain them for the long-term.

Great Online Content and Product Information

Today's B2B customers do their research into new products and firms online - so that's where your content and product information need to be. The days when B2B organizations could rely on printed catalogs, phone calls, and sales forces on the ground to educate their prospects are rapidly fading. Millennials are now making their way into stakeholder and buying positions - a generation that is predicted to represent 44% of the workforce by 2025 - and they expect to have everything they need right at their fingertips.

Buyers, of course, have the important responsibility of ensuring that they purchase exactly the right products - and that can be a pretty complex process depending on the size of your industry and how many competitors you're up against. As such, to attract new customers, you need to ensure that the buyer has the right level of information and documentation to support every stage of the buying process. You need to make it easy for buyers to find the content they need - and that includes providing consistent product information across all your different channels so that no matter where or how your prospects conduct their research, they can find and access it easily.

Provide your customers and prospects with technical information, pricing information, product specifications, and contact information. In addition, the most competitive B2B organizations today are also making use of blog posts, white papers, online product brochures, infographics, webinars, case studies, and video testimonials to aid the buying process and help their brands get discovered and stand out online.

Enable Self-Service and Provide Familiar Checkout Experiences

The need to develop great ecommerce experiences comes out of the fact that B2B buyers today prefer using self-service tools for reordering rather than talking to a sales representative. In fact, according to a McKinsey survey last year of more than 1,000 B2B decision makers, this is now true for 86% of buyers. Through ecommerce, you will be giving your customers the autonomy they're looking for, which, as the data shows, is becoming imperative for retaining them for the long term.

The checkout process, too, is also crucial. According to research from Salesforce, 74% of B2B customers said they would be likely to switch brands if they encountered a difficult purchasing journey or checkout process. Again, ecommerce provides the solution. By moving your business online, you will enable a much more streamlined purchasing experience by eliminating the various manual steps (telephone, fax, email, etc.) that often make offline purchasing lengthy and cumbersome.

Final Thoughts

The customer experience challenge for B2B organizations is increasingly becoming an online one. As seamless B2C shopping experiences pile pressure on B2B organizations to follow suit, strategies need to be formed to give new customers easier ways to research products and place orders, while at the same time ensuring that reordering is streamlined to ensure existing customers keep coming back for more.

Digital strategies to attract and retain customers will be a hot topic at B2B Online Miami 2018, taking place this November at the Turnberry Isle, Miami, Fl.

Download the Agenda today for more information and insights.

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