Nine expectations of B2B online customers

B2B expectations featured image

Successfully meeting the expectations of your B2B online customers is critical. After all, the stakes are high – losing one B2B customer can cost you hundreds of thousands, if not millions. And without customers, you’ll soon be out of business. B2B purchasing can be complex though, so the question is, what do your B2B customers really want?

Understanding the needs and expectations of B2B online customers

Keep in mind that B2B customers are not leisure shoppers. They are buying because their jobs demand it, and they want to get it done as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

Many of them also shop online in their personal lives. They’ve grown used to the B2C way of doing things and expect it to follow through into their B2B buying. So they are essentially looking for a B2C experience that also provides for their professional and corporate B2B needs.

  • Although their basic needs will be similar in many ways, we recommend that you develop your B2B system in consultation with your key customers as each industry will be slightly different.
  • Although there are many more features available for a B2B system, these are the needs we most often hear about from our clients.

Let’s investigate the core, and most requested, needs of B2B customers:

1. A seamless mobile experience

While many B2B buyers use a desktop at their office, approximately 42% use mobile devices at some point in the purchasing process. This may be for research, to compare products or prices, or to place their order. If their mobile experience isn’t as simple as using a desktop, they may well disregard you as a potential supplier.

How to meet their needs:

  • Make sure your B2B e-commerce site is fully responsive.
  • Test it rigorously across all devices.
  • Consider additional mobile apps that go above and beyond responsiveness.

Diagram showing three devices, a tablet, Laptop and a phone all connected to the cloud

2. Complete online product catalogues

During a B2B customer’s research phase, they will search for specific products and brands online, most likely using Google. If you don’t have a public, online catalogue that is fully optimised for SEO, your products won’t even appear on their radar for further consideration.

How to meet their needs:

  • Make your catalogue available online to the public.
  • Ensure your online product catalogue includes every item you sell.
  • For each product, include as much information as you can, including good quality images, product descriptions, technical specs and prices.
  • Every product should be SEO optimised so it shows up before your competitor’s similar product.

3. User-friendly navigation and site search

Because B2B customers buy for their company, once they’ve reached your website they are often interested in very specific items from your online catalogue, which may include thousands of product variations. Make it as easy as possible for them to find those specific products by providing well designed “at a glance” category menus, facets and/or filters, and a site search that works for them.

How to meet their needs:

  • Make sure your product categorisation, navigation and search functionality work exceptionally well.
  • Help customers quickly find what they need by enabling features like auto-complete, sorting and error tolerance, so they still get relevant results even if they don’t enter keywords correctly.
  • Update your synonym dictionary with common names as well as more formal industry terms for items.
  • Allow them to search on any aspect, from item name or description through to model or part number (or a few letters or numbers of any of those). You might even consider including customer or supplier SKUs for ease of reference, or competitor product names or part numbers, encouraging them to compare those prices with yours.
  • Once they’ve found the item, make sure critical B2B information is very clear, for example, prices, specs and other product information, so buyers can make informed decisions.

Search navigation bar with a woman standing behind it

4. Information that helps them buy

With so many choices available, it might be difficult for buyers to decide which products match their requirements.

How to meet their needs:

  • Help customers identify exactly what they need by providing useful extra content in the form of specs, videos, guides and other documents. This educates them about your products and helps them compare products against each other.
  • Implement live chat on your e-commerce site, so customers can immediately connect with your online support team and get one-on-one assistance with any questions they may have.

5. Company-specific products and prices

You may choose to enter into agreements with different businesses based on their buying power or your relationship with them. Once you have a personalised agreement with a customer, that customer wants to see their agreement reflected in their customised online product catalogue, including prices, volume discounts and more.

How to meet their needs:

  • Show customised product ranges that reduce time spent searching and prevent non-compliant purchases.
  • Display customer-specific pricing, based on agreements and volume discounts with each company.
  • Depending on the customer’s requirements and your deal with them, you should be able to customise their view of your online store. For example, you may wish (or they might ask you) to restrict volumes or available credit.

6. Speed and efficiency

B2B buyers are under pressure to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. In addition, they often need to place large orders of multiple products. They want to be able to find their products quickly and place that order using whatever method is easiest for them.

How to meet their needs:

  • Make it easy for them to group frequently purchased products in a way that makes sense to them.
  • Help them quickly find products or groups they’ve ordered before and then order them again.
  • Speed up the ordering process by allowing for bulk orders to be imported or cut and pasted from an Excel or CSV file that has been created offline.

7. Access to account information

B2B buyers are usually buying on the company account, and they don’t want to have to consult their (or your) accounts department before they can place an order.

How to meet their needs:

  • Allow them to instantly access the status of their account at the click of a button.
  • Show invoices and outstanding balances on their account.
  • Make it clear how much credit they have available at any given time.
  • Give them the option to use other payment methods if they choose to do so, for example, if they have run out of credit.

8. Access to delivery information

When deliveries arrive at their company, they are very often signed for by a receptionist or someone in the receiving department. They can be misplaced or items may be missing, especially as the person signing usually has no idea what should be in that delivery.

How to meet their needs:

  • Give buyers access to track and trace information, so they always know the delivery status of their orders.
  • Make it easy for a scan of the proof of delivery to be uploaded into the system.
  • Allow buyers to view the proof of delivery so they can check where and when it was delivered, and who signed for it. This allows them to find out what happened and where their goods might be now.

Man holding a tablet and product parcels, indicating delivery

9. Value-added support from sales reps

Traditionally B2B buyers have had access to personalised service from sales reps and that doesn’t need to change, although the form it takes should. With the low-value transactional tasks taken care of by your e-commerce site, sales reps are freed up to add real value to their customers’ businesses.

How to meet their needs:

  • Use all the data available from your e-commerce analytics tool to understand your customers’ buying behaviour. This can tell you what they’re looking for and how they prefer to buy.
  • Use this information to inform your sales team, so they can better fulfil the higher level needs of your customers with added-value recommendations or special offers tailored to them.

The bottom line…

Your B2B online customers have specific expectations that you need to fulfil if your business is to succeed. They want to work smarter, not harder, and save money wherever they can. Take time to establish what their needs are and make sure your e-commerce platform can cater for them. Then build loyalty and trust by nurturing those relationships and adding value wherever you can.

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