Grow B2B sales through e-commerce personalisation
In the world of B2B e-commerce, personalisation means tailoring the entire buying process to the needs and preferences of your customers. When you provide buyers with a unique and relevant B2B experience, from marketing through to your website, you build relationships and boost long-term loyalty.
According to Gartner, personalisation could increase your profits by as much as 15% by 2020.
While the most forward-thinking B2C companies are already investing in personalisation, most B2B e-commerce companies haven’t kept up. Unfortunately, relying on the old ‘one size fits all’ approach is no longer enough. If you want to maintain or grow your sales into the future, personalisation will be a key requirement.
Why is personalisation in B2B e-commerce a revenue driver?
According to Econsultancy, investing in personalisation improves conversion rates for 93% of companies.
Forrester’s Total Economic Impact study highlights how personalisation software (RichRelevance specifically) has impacted and benefited their clients, creating an overall revenue uplift of +10%:
Personalisation improves conversion rates, sales and customer trust for several reasons:
- Personalisation helps B2B buyers do their jobs more quickly and effectively, which is a priority for them. They are therefore more likely to use your e-commerce website than that of a competitor who hasn’t personalised.
- When you put exactly what a customer needs in front of them, it’s a simple decision for them to hit the Add-To-Cart button.
- When you continually add value with customised content that also helps them make good buying decisions, you engage your customers’ interest and draw them into your site to research further.
- When customers feel like you’re talking directly to them and trying to meet their needs, they feel understood and valued. They enjoy using your website, making them more likely to buy from you.
- Personalisation helps you build a personal relationship with your customers, which in turn builds trust and long-term loyalty.
How to use personalisation in B2B e-commerce
Personalisation for B2B businesses can happen on several levels and in different formats.
Let’s look at some ways you can personalise your B2B customer’s online experience, encouraging them to buy more from you over time.
A: Personalisation for your open or closed online catalogue
Let’s start by explaining our use of the terms ‘open’ and ‘closed’ catalogues:
This is your online product catalogue that is accessible to the public and optimised for SEO. Your products and other content show up in search results and help you attract new buyers.
This is your online product catalogue that only registered and logged in customers can access. All the information is tailored to their needs and often to their contract with your company. Once they’ve logged in, they only see their specific products, prices, and volume discounts. This closed catalogue is typically integrated with your ERP, from which it pulls customer-specific data.
How e-commerce personalisation works
Personalisation, very often driven by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning software, is a very broad subject. The way it works (and the correlating results it provides) can range from fairly simple through to very advanced.
In very simplistic terms, personalisation software for either type of catalogue works like this:
- The software gathers data on your visitor’s behaviour, such as:
- Whether or not it is their first visit, or when they last visited
- Searches they conducted previously
- Historical page or product views
- Purchases in the past
- Previous order totals
- For first-time visitors, this data is then used to identify correlations with the behaviour of other customers or of your customer segments. This helps the software to personalise content, offers and recommendations for this first time visitor.
- For returning customers, the software looks at their historical behaviour and provides them with content, products, offers and dynamic pages that they may be interested in and that others like them have been interested in too.
Ideas for personalising your open or closed B2B e-commerce catalogue
Depending on your business and your customer segments, here are some ways you can personalise your catalogue:
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The research below shows which forms of personalisation on catalogue sites are favourites and what personalisation businesses have planned for the future:
Implementing personalisation for your B2B online catalogues
When you’re ready to implement personalisation for your open or closed catalogue, there are a couple of ways to do this:
a) Integrate with third party tools
Some website platforms provide some of these personalisation features as part as their ‘out of the box’ solution. Generally though, the best way to get personalisation done expertly on your online product catalogue is to integrate with a third party tool like Monetate, Barilliance, Evergage, 4-Tell, Certona, RichRelevance, or one of many others. These tools usually personalise the customer experience using AI, machine learning and predictive analytics.
b) Custom code your platform
If third party tools aren’t an option for your business, your platform can be customised to your needs. This can be more expensive and is sometimes less powerful than reputable third party tools, but occasionally it is the best option.
Speak to us about your specific e-commerce personalisation needs.
B: Go deeper with B2B e-commerce personalisation
As a B2B merchant, you can (and ideally should) further personalise buyers’ experiences by integrating your online website with your ERP and other back-end systems. This allows for customer-specific information to flow to the website. Products, prices, stock levels, discounts, account information and buying restrictions can then all be tailored to the specific customer buying at that very moment.
Here are a few ways your system can be personalised:
1. Customer-specific site experience
A personalised dashboard that shows customers their most recent purchases, along with relevant product recommendations and any associated special offers, immediately engages them and draws them in. Product pages can be personalised based on their past behaviour and relevant content displayed just for them. Useful tools, like a quick re-order option, help them get the job done faster.
2. Customer-specific catalogue
B2B customers want to quickly and intuitively find the products they need – without the aid of a salesperson. This can be complicated by the multiple identifiers often involved, like SKUs or part numbers. With the right integrations though, ensuring accurate product, inventory and delivery information, you can provide them with a personalised B2B catalogue that makes this process simple.
3. List management
The ability to create custom lists (i.e. mini-catalogues) can support every aspect of business, from buying, approvals and re-orders through to making the work of contracted vendors and jobsite crews easier.
4. Customer-specific pricing
With increased competition in the manufacturing and distribution industries, pricing can become more complicated. The prices and margins of each individual product can vary widely between customers, depending on many things, including market factors and contracts agreed with those customers. An automated, multi-tiered pricing system is essential – one that can handle individual contracts, business rules, different roles and live pricing changes, amongst other things, and still rapidly and accurately calculate personalised prices for each specific customer.
5. Customer-specific volume discounts
If customers buy in bulk, they may receive a discount, again depending on the agreement you have negotiated with them. The necessary calculations are automatically handled by your ERP integration.
6. Order process and assistance
Your customers’ ordering methods will always be a mix of self-service and full service (i.e. support through your reps or call centre). To maximise efficiency, regardless of how a customer is buying, all your full-service support staff, as well as the customers themselves, need access to the customer’s specific information. This includes any customised catalogues, quick re-ordering lists, order history, invoices, payment terms and options, delivery tracking and any other relevant data. Some of this may be personalised even further depending on the role of the person ordering. With this accurate, personalised information at hand, everyone is on the same page.
In B2B e-commerce, cross-selling and upselling is usually done by offering customers everything they might need, relative to the product they are buying. This could include accessories, equipment or other related parts that will be required to complete a job using that product. Merchandising therefore requires linking these products with the buyer’s role and then applying business rules to personalise the offers.
8. Other customer-specific information
Customers also want to see other personalised information such as:
- Account information and history
- Purchase history
- All their online invoices
- Tracking information for their anticipated deliveries
9. Customer-specific rules and regulations
To meet either your business needs or theirs, you may have certain rules and restrictions in place for specific customers, for example to manage:
- What payment methods they may use
- Their credit limits
- Whether or not they may place back orders
- Customer-specific stock levels or allocations
Most enterprise-level platforms include built-in personalisation features. Before you invest in a new platform, research the features offered. Find out what’s involved in setting them up and maintaining them. The Comalytics platform already includes customer-specific catalogues, prices, volume discounts and account management, and you can choose to add additional personalisation for your business.
C. Personalisation in B2B e-commerce marketing
To get your ads, emails or promotions noticed amongst the many others with which they are competing on a daily basis, talk directly to your customer. Marketing can be personalised across email, advertising and social media, to name just a few possibilities and it involves much more than just using their first name. Consider these options:
Emails are a great way to engage your B2B customers and grow sales. Moreover, they are the preferred communication method of most B2B buyers, and if they include special offers or recommendations that are tailored to them, even better. For example, you could send them a discount for the item on a product page they viewed or share a resource that relates to their industry or their role. You could also send targeted emails to a specific customer segment you have identified. From your perspective, email marketing is cost effective and it’s easy to send personalised emails out to a large database.
Tip: Ensure that your customers can add their products directly to their cart from the emails you send them. See the sample email template below:
The more precisely targeted an advert is to a customer, the more personal it feels and the more likely they are to pay attention to it. For example, targeted advertising can show a B2B buyer the right ad at the right point in their buying journey, and geo-location makes sure customers see ads relevant to their region. Dynamic remarketing uses pages a customer viewed on your site to show them personalised ads for the specific products on those viewed pages.
Personalised video marketing
When you know a customer’s role, buying behaviour and order history, it’s simple to tailor videos to address their pain points. Software like Vocalcom or CoVideo makes this simple, helping you to engage with your audience and stand out from the crowd.
When you know and understand your customer’s behaviour, you can send them relevant push notifications via your e-commerce app. For example, if they abandon their shopping cart or haven’t visited your site for a certain period, you can send them a message to entice them back. Speak to us about our available apps.
The bottom line…
Creating a personalised experience for your B2B e-commerce customers is now imperative. Personalisation benefits your business in multiple ways, increasing conversions, sales and loyalty. Before you invest in the process, take time to research your options. Choosing the right type of personalisation, and the right platform and tools for your business, will ensure the return on your investment is well worth it.