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Posted by Kate Khom - 10 December, 2018

The State of B2B eCommerce in Electrical Distributors

As a B2B distributor, you have probably noticed significant changes in customer expectations during recent years. In particular, with the new generation of B2B buyers taking on decision-making roles, your customer experience and marketing strategies need to adapt to their preferences and behaviors:

Millennial buyers for electrical distributors

  • They prefer to "self-service" rather than having to place an order with a sales rep. 
  • They want the ability to make purchases and manage their accounts from anywhere at any time.
B2B buyers needs
  • They are inseparable from their smartphones and expect a seamless mobile user experience from vendors.
  • They research products and services online extensively before engaging with a brand.
The needs of electrical buyers
  • They expect relevant and personalized information, such as volume discount, when they log into their accounts.
  • They look for suppliers who can accommodate a variety of payment methods for a convenient and seamless purchasing process.

However, many B2B electrical distributors are falling behind in delivering a satisfactory customer experience. Recently we conducted an industry-wide survey and found that:

  • 58% of companies surveyed do not have any form of eCommerce.
  • Only 24% of them offer a bulk order or punchout ordering function on their websites.
  • 33% of the websites evaluated were "locked" in some capacity, which prevents Google from indexing the content for SEO.
  • Just 58% of the companies have a mobile-responsive website.
  • Only half of the websites offer a credit application option to their customers.
  • A mere 15% of distributors have a mobile application.

When compared to other B2B industries, such as IT hardware, office supplies, industrial distribution, medical supplies, and jan-san, most electrical distributors are struggling with user experience (UX) and marketing. They're lagging behind in delivering an online experience that can help attract and retain more customers.

The good news is, there is a lot of room for improvement and opportunities for growth. By crafting a robust eCommerce experience supported by a well-designed marketing strategy, you can meet the fast-evolving customer expectations and stand out from your competition.

Here's where the electrical distribution industry needs to be heading and what you can do to stay competitive:

Deliver a Robust eCommerce Shopping Experience

There's no question that you need an eCommerce website to acquire and retain more B2B customers. However, not all eCommerce websites are created equal. If your visitors can't find the product and information they need quickly and easily, they could click away and never come back.

Here's how to dial in your online customer experience:

  • Use a mobile-responsive framework for your eCommerce site and leverage mobile-specific features such as tap-to-call, location services, and autofill etc. to streamline the user experience.
  • Improve the product search UX with robust filter functions and product images on the search results page.
  • Display personalized upsell, cross-sell, product recommendations, and bundle options to help increase average order value (AOV.)
  • Create more engaging product pages with detailed information, visual content (e.g., high-quality photos and demo videos,) and customer reviews.
  • Offer bulk discount and display dynamic pricing based on purchase volume and/or account status.

Attract High-Quality Prospects with Search Engine Optimization

Having an eCommerce website is only half the story. You need to make sure customers can find your website during their research process by making sure it shows up in relevant search engine results.

Here are a few key SEO tactics for B2B distributors:

  • Make sure your site is mobile-friendly (not just responsive) by optimizing load time, legibility (e.g., font size,) multi-media content, and navigation.
  • Optimize your content for relevant long-tail and LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords to attract visitors with high purchase intent.
  • Claim your Google My Business listing and optimize for local SEO if you have a physical location.
  • Direct traffic to high-quality landing pages to optimize user experience and conversions.
  • Unlock your site so Google can crawl and index all your content.  

Reduce Friction in the Purchasing Process

Cart abandonment can significantly impact your conversion rates and revenue. Unfortunately, many eCommerce websites lose sales due to unnecessary friction in the purchasing process.

Don't make your customers jump through hoops to buy from you. Here's what you can do:

  • Create a mobile app to streamline the ordering and checkout process.
  • Allow customers to save items in a cart, create a "wish list", and reorder from a list of past purchases.
  • Offer multiple shipping options and deals on shipping (e.g., free shipping for orders over a certain amount.)
  • Provide the ability to store multiple shipping addresses and manage other account information online.

Accommodate Customers' Financing Needs

Did you know that credit or debit card transactions only account for 10% of total B2B sales? B2B customers often prefer other payment methods due to different reasons, such as financing costs, internal processes, and convenience.

You should offer a variety of payment options to meet your customers' financing needs and allow them to store payment information on your eCommerce platform to expedite the checkout process.

  • Bank transfer, ACH, and e-Check: the funds are withdrawn directly from the buyer's bank account, transferred over an ACH network, and deposited into your checking account.
  • Credit and debit cards: most eCommerce platforms are set up to handle credit and debit card transactions. Put the proper security measures in place and use a reputable payment processor to ensure the safety of your customers' information.
  • Online purchase orders and invoices: if you allow customers to use purchase orders, make sure they go through an application and review process. In addition, set a credit limit for each account and make sure both online and offline purchases are tracked in real-time.
  • E-procurement/punchout: this option integrates your payment processing with the customer's internal system. It may take more time and effort to set up, however, it often increases efficiency and improves customer retention in the long run.
  • Extended credit/financing: a B2B credit program makes it easy for buyers to increase their order amount. An online credit management service provides customers with credit approval in real-time while allowing you to get paid right away.

Conclusion

It's time for the B2B electrical distribution industry to catch up with customer preferences and expectation by offering a streamlined online purchasing experience that will attract new buyers and better service existing customers to improve customer acquisition and retention.

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Topics: Electrical Distributors, B2B eCommerce, Sales & Marketing