B2C businesses have long recognised the need for personalisation in new lead generation and converting leads to sales. In layman’s terms, this is encouraging new customers to enter the store or browse the website, and to convert their generic interest to a sale so the company makes a profit.
Traditionally, personalisation is easy through the act of browsing in a brick-and-mortar store where one is approached by a sales representative who is there to build a rapport, try to ascertain the problem or need for which they must find a solution and answer any questions — all while making the customer feel listened to, valued and that their time is being used wisely. However, it is challenging to maintain personalisation when the only interface between consumer and vendor is a screen. So why is it so important and how can B2B vendors achieve it?
The importance of personalisation
It is perhaps important to accept that personalisation in sales is not necessarily just the ability to form a connection and chat to a human or bot, but rather that the experience is made personal and tapered to the shopper. Therefore, for some people, this might be not having any interaction whatsoever, but rather being able to get straight to the product they need on the website without being hampered by any other products that exist as ‘noise’ to their particular need. To someone else, this might be having support so that their numerous questions can be answered, products they had not even considered may be useful, are displayed and suggested to them, and that even their name is used throughout the content that they read. The point is that everyone is different, people like being respected for their uniqueness, and it is people who buy from you.
The importance of personalisation in B2B eCommerce
It is just as important to create a personal shopping experience in B2B eCommerce as it is in B2C eCommerce. Why? Because the people who purchase through your B2B website are the exact same individuals who, in their personal lives, are well-versed in a streamlined, personal shopping experience. They are accustomed to purchasing what they need when they need it with no issues. They are also accustomed to a good user experience where a website is fast, customised, has an easy search feature, has up to date product and stock information and can be accessed on any device. It is imperative that you adapt your offerings to their preferences.
The basis of B2B personalisation
Underpinning B2B personalisation is segmentation. This is where the customer is analysed based on their demographics, interests, search criteria, buying style, geographical location and any other pertinent indicators.
They are then grouped into an understood market category for which known and assumed parameters exist and for which a tapered shopping experience can be created. The beauty of B2B eCommerce is that it is not unusual to ask a client or customer to log in prior to searching or purchasing. Therefore, you automatically have a recorded and voluntary insight into who they are and what preferences they may have. From here, you can adopt some personalisation best practices to generate a truly custom-designed shopping experience.
B2B eCommerce personalisation best practices
Personalised search tools
This is where you gather information based on customer clicks, items added to their cart and purchases to ascertain what it is they are usually interested in. The search tool can then feature these items more prominently the next time they log in or search, therefore saving them time. Some search tools can also scan the product list to display items that are relevant despite not having the original search wording in their metadata.
Personalised store fronts
Most eCommerce systems will enable you to provide multiple storefronts to service the different products you offer and market segments you target. This saves you the effort of having to go down the track of creating individual websites, where instead you can still centralise all your business information and inventory while creating a unique ‘store’ or web-page for each shopper. Imagine how valued they must feel as a customer when their shop front, searches, and even content is displayed especially for them!
For a long time now, B2C eCommerce businesses have been delving into user-generated content to create connections, encourage purchasing decisions and yield higher conversion rates. And there is no reason why B2B eCommerce businesses cannot follow suit.
User-generated content is where customers who have previously bought the product take photos of themselves wearing or using the products or upload reviews of their experiences. This has the effect of generating authentic feedback and fostering trust in the product which is more likely to convert interest into sales.
Another area for consideration is pricing. When contract pricing is available and quick ordering or bulk order forms are easily provided, the B2B customer will again feel as though their business is valued and they are not just one of a number. Of course, if there is a contract for pricing in place, then it is important to taper product recommendations to agree with the context of the contract so that anything the customer is shown, they are in fact able to purchase.
The take-home message is that going to great lengths to personalise a web-store for a client is not just reserved for B2C businesses and consumers. Personalisation plays a valuable role in the B2B arena. If you are struggling with how to develop personalisation in your businesses, get in touch. But a fundamental concept is that it is all about the customer. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what would make their experience feel the most genuine, be the most efficient and ultimately get them coming back for more.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.