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3 Ways to Revamp the Business-to-Business ecommerce offering

June 22nd, 2012 Ashley Harbaugh No comments

Every business has to continually find a better way to engage with its customers and differentiate itself from its competitors. The reason that a customer chooses a certain vendor for products or services is if they find that the vendor delivers value. An ecommerce store can be a huge differentiator for a Business to Business organization. By offering a superior experience, one where customers can quickly and easily purchase the things they need, you ensure that your customers are receiving value for their time and investment. When customers appreciate that they’re getting value from working with you, this translates to higher customer satisfaction rates, higher customer retention, and ultimately higher revenues.

Now is the perfect time to revitalize your online store. With the economy recovering, now more than ever businesses are seeking out vendors and resellers for products and services. According to an article in E-Commerce Times, while business-to-consumer e-commerce gets a lot of hype, "for every small business that markets their products and services to consumers, at least three other small businesses sell primarily to other businesses."

Take a look at these three different tips for making sure your business-to-business online store is best designed to give you an edge over your competitors.

1. Segment Your Customers

In order to more effectively communicate with your customers, and to better provide them with the services and products they need, set up different customer categories. For instance, your results will be less than optimal to run a promotion geared specifically toward retailers to also send to your manufacturing customers. By segmenting your customers, you’re able to get the most out of your customer interaction, with both you and your customers deriving greater value from it.

Ignify ecommerce provides you capability to easily segment your customers. The different categories you can create and assign to your customers can be Corporate Customer, Reseller, Government Customer, etc., with individualized rules for each customer category. By setting up these rules, you enable your customers to perform (or not perform) specific actions according to their customer classification.

With the Excel-like interface of the Ignify eCommerce Manager Panel, you can filter your customer base down to a particular customer category, and then view the order history details of each individual customer in that category.

For example, you can allow certain customer categories to have different payment methods. So for example, you can specify that retail customers can only pay by credit card, but corporate customers can either pay by credit card or put an order on their account. You can also determine whether certain customer categories should be charged for tax (e.g. no tax for resellers), and you can also restrict shipping methods by customer category (e.g. no FedEx One Day for Government Customers). And, just like with payment methods, you can also set up default shipping methods according to customer category as well.

Be sure to check out another article on how to improve customer segmentation and customer profiling for more successfully tailored marketing campaigns.

2. Personalize the Online Experience

One important business-to-consumer store technique that business-to-business companies can benefit by incorporating into their own online stores is providing customers a personalized web experience.

In the consumer world, one of the things that really sets a store apart from others is a personal shopper service – you know you’re not in any run-of-the-mill place when that’s offered. Personal shopper services impart an air of high class and sophistication, giving customers the sense that this store caters to a cream-of-the-crop clientele, and values going above-and-beyond in fulfilling customer service expectations. And for the customers who use those fancy personal shopper services, the additional attention and care to their needs and wants establishes a higher level of trust and loyalty with the company, and creates a higher rate of returnees.

This principle of giving customers additional attention is one that pays off for business-to-business companies as well as it does for business-to-consumer companies, so it’s definitely smart to implement it, feature it, and build around it. Wondering how exactly you can give business-to-business customers this hands-on, personal shopper experience with your online store?

Using Ignify eCommerce, you have the ability to personalize a store with items, pricing, and discounts based on the customer who’s visiting the store. You can configure the store product catalog, even the look-and-feel of its user interface, according to the customer who logs on to your site. By providing an online store tailored to a customer’s needs, you show your commitment to providing high-quality customer care – leading inevitably to happy customers, and, with the increased revenues secured from these customers, a happy company.

One example of a way to customize your online store to each customer is by offering different prices on products to different customer categories. For instance, you can determine different purchasing levels that your customers can earn, and then set prices to reflect those levels. So, say you have three tiers of customer purchasing hierarchies – Silver, Gold, and Diamond. If a customer reaches the specified purchasing amount that constitutes a certain level, then that customer benefits from receiving the discounts associated with that level. For example, a customer that reaches Silver can get 5% off on each order; a customer that reaches Gold can get 10% off on each order; etc.

Create customer level pricing on product categories or specific items. Different customers see different pricing when logged in.

In addition to providing general discounts based on customer purchasing levels, you can also set up item category discounts per customer level. With these, you offer varying prices of products in item categories for the different customer levels. For example, you can offer 5% off on items in the book category for Silver level customers; 10% off on items in the electronics category for Gold; etc. And you can also assign discounts to individual products for each customer level instead of by category.

3. Make Order Entry as Efficient as Possible

For customers using a vendor to secure the products crucial for running their business, it’s a no-brainer that they’d want to order items as quickly and painlessly as possible. Giving customers a speedy and efficient order entry system is a surefire way to establish goodwill and make them return.

With Ignify eCommerce, customers can log in to their accounts and easily search for an item by keyword, item number, or by product categories. If a customer has a go-to list of products they routinely purchase, they can also easily create order lists containing these items and purchase them when the time is right. So for example, if a retail company orders specific items for the holiday season from a vendor every year, the retail company can create a list in their account in which those items are already entered – enabling a simple, straightforward purchase experience. Order lists can also have products added to it, allowing businesses to continually keep their lists accurate and up-to-date.

Customers also have the option of taking an existing product list that’s in an Excel format – a list that contains item SKU codes and quantities – and transferring that list to an order, and subsequently completing a purchase. A shopper doesn’t need to navigate through various catalog pages to locate products; they are all instantly and easily accessible for a fast checkout.

Quick and effective order entry, with the ability to use item attributes, keywords and order lists, is a key factor in boosting customer satisfaction.

To get even more insight on how to enhance your company’s order entry processes, take a look at our articles on better managing customer’s sales orders with Ignify’s Order Entry solution, and finding out the target number of clicks for entering a sales order efficiently.

All about Connection

The common goal that these three different tips share is connection. Creating an e-commerce environment where your customers feel that your company is in-tune to their needs is essential for making lifelong, loyal customers. And by increasing your customer retention, you solidify your foundation for future business success. If you would like more information on how to tailor your e-commerce channel for success, email us at ecommerce@ignify.com.

Ashley Harbaugh is a Product Marketing Specialist at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRM, eCommerce and ERP, software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 5 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011.