As the new generation of B2B buyers is shifting their preferences to purchasing industrial supplies online, 81% of these decision-makers have ordered directly from manufacturers, industrial distributors need to change how they do business online in order to stay competitive.
For B2B customers that make their purchases through industrial distributors, 80% prefer to buy from web-friendly suppliers because:
- They prefer to order whenever and wherever is convenient for them using self-service eCommerce portals rather than having to contact a sales rep.
- They look for value-add information or services from distributors (e.g., time-saving ordering process, account-based pricing arrangement, product recommendations, payment options.)
- They want to get pricing, account, and product availability information in real-time to inform their purchasing decisions and reduce errors.
As an industrial distributor, what can you do to get ahead of your competitors in online commerce?
The quickest win lies in knowing what's lacking in the marketplace, adding functionalities to your eCommerce portal to fill the gap, and adding value to build customer loyalty.
Here are a few things you can implement right away to stand out and get more customers online:
Develop a Mobile Application
B2B buyers are inseparable from their smart phones. They're making purchases from their mobile devices whenever and wherever is most convenient for them.
Even though 66% of B2B buyers use mobile apps for work, only 10% of distributors currently offer a mobile application. This represents a tremendous opportunity for you to add value, increase average order value (AOV), and improve customer retention by delivering a fast and convenient purchasing experience via a mobile app.
For example, your customers can use the app to reorder from a list of past purchases, get custom quotes based on their account history, check product availability in real time, manage their orders, chat with a customer care representative, and more.
Leverage Product Reviews and Case Studies
Most B2B buyers research online before engaging with a distributor. They often turn to product reviews and case studies to help inform their purchasing decisions. However, only 18% of distributors post product reviews on their eCommerce websites.
Adding a product review section on your product pages can help increase conversion rate. Invite customers to write reviews or testimonials and create in-depth case studies on a few customers who have achieved remarkable results with the products.
Don't forget to monitor third-party review sites -- many prospects will learn about your business through these resources before engaging with your website. Make sure that the information on your company profile is correct, respond to customer comments, and take action to rectify negative reviews.
Add Reordering Function
Most B2B buyers tend to purchase the same products repeatedly. You can improve their customer experience and increase average order value by making it quick and easy to reorder from a "past purchases" list.
Only 24% of distributors offer this feature on their eCommerce website -- making those who do stand out from their competitors.
You can further increase customer lifetime value (CLV) and improve customer retention by offering an auto-reorder (or subscription) function for frequently-purchased items and sending reminder emails to customers when it's time to reorder.
Deliver a Personalized Shopping Experience
Customer experience will overtake pricing and product selection to drive the purchasing decision of your customers.
The use of account-based marketing strategy and personalization technologies, such as customized product recommendation, and targeted content, can help you get the right message in front of the right audience in the right place and at the right time to optimize conversion rate.
Improve SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Since most B2B buyers research online before engaging with a specific distributor, your website's ranking in search engine results affects how likely you'd get found by new prospects.
In the past, many B2B suppliers use locked sites to hide proprietary information or customer-specific pricing from the public or competitors. However, this also prevents search engines from crawling and indexing their sites.
With today's eCommerce technology, you can build a dynamic eCommerce site that shows such specific information only to registered users while allowing search engines and the public to access the rest of the content.
In addition, avoid using the exact product descriptions from the manufacturer's website. They're probably used by your competitors as well and Google will penalize your SEO ranking for duplicate content.
Incorporate SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and Online Ads
Using search engine marketing and online advertising, you can target specific audience segments with unique messaging about your industrial supplies to drive high-quality traffic to your website.
Google AdWords is a great platform because B2B buyers who enter a specific search term are looking for the exact products you're selling. They have a high purchase intent and are more likely to turn into customers.
Also, keep in mind that many B2B buyers use social media during their research process. LinkedIn, for example, offers a professional environment for you to get in front of your prospects while they're at the early stage of their buyer's journey so you can build brand awareness, capture leads, and nurture relationships.
Offer Payment Options and Extended Credit
Many B2B buyers want to have a choice of payment methods so they can better manage cash flow and reduce the cost of financing. Some of these options include check, ACH, e-procurement, purchase order, invoicing, and extended credit.
However, only 20% of companies have a credit application process and just 28% offer digital invoicing to their customers. This presents the opportunity for you to stand out and win more businesses if you provide payment options to make it faster and more convenient to order from you.
Successful industrial distributors are winning online thanks to their abilities to meet the changing preferences and purchasing behaviors of B2B buyers by listening to their customers, analyzing their metrics, and keeping up-to-date with industry best practices.
To help you stay on top of B2B online marketing trends, we have done the legwork and put together the E-Commerce Apruval Rating Report for industrial distributors.