Getting B2B customers online with 7 essential tips

Whitney Koontz
May 19, 2021

The B2B e-commerce struggle continues to center on how to gracefully transition customers to a new way of working. By this we mean getting your B2B customers online. While it’s still a challenge today, businesses can now capitalize on the fact that B2B buyers actively and overwhelmingly want to buy online.

Then vs. Now: B2B customers’ online demands

In a 2017 independent survey on B2B digital transformation, Sapio Research asked over 300 B2B companies around the globe all about their digital transformation. Then, 75% of respondents said they’d had customers request an online sales portal (which was not yet available), which wasn’t surprising given the changing digital landscape and the consumerization of B2B e-commerce. This year, we conducted a new round of research on the B2B buying process in 2019 and found that professional buyers are still actively seeking online channels. In addition, those who are already buying online want to buy even more online but are challenged by customer experience hurdles that force them to look for offline help. 

Before we address how you can fix this issue, let’s first take a step back.

Get started with your e-commerce model

Download this white paper for step-by-step guidance.

What drives B2B customers online? What do they want?

If you want to get your B2B customers online, it’s important to establish why e-commerce enthusiasts want to be there in the first place. This will be the key to convincing your fax fanatics to take the leap and join you online.

According to the research we commissioned, the top three reasons B2B customers want access to a web store are:

  1. Ease of online purchase (72%)
  2. Ability to easily browse an online catalog (52%)
  3. Insight into available inventory and delivery times (42%)

When you include additional reasons (access to more product details, access to online order history and the ability to search an online catalog, and so on) it’s clear that B2B customers are into e-commerce for one very big, very important reason: convenience.

So how do you harness this knowledge and turn it into a winning B2B e-commerce strategy? Read on for more.

7 tips: How to get your B2B customers online

Now that you know why your customers want an online store, it will be easier to convince them to join you there. Here are some tips for helping them along. B2B customers are want to use e-commerce for convenience.

Get B2B customers online with these 7 tips

    1. Send an introduction card

    Yes, via snail mail. This is a great way to reach all of your customers, whether they’re already technologically inclined or are soon to become e-commerce converts. Sending a card announcing your web store via post gives your customers a physical reminder, and it shows that you’re putting time and effort into offering them improved services.

    You could also send an email if you have your customers’ email addresses. Keep it short and sweet and highlight a single call-to-action inviting them to explore your new web store. You could even personalize it with a link for them to check out their most purchased products in your web store.

    2. Educate your customers with how-to videos

    Create short instructional videos showing your customers how they can place orders online and share them via email and social media. Besides being helpful, this is also a great way to increase brand awareness and earn new customers.

    Educate customers on how they can use your e-commerce store to buy online3. Stimulate online shopping with special web store discounts

    Offering exclusive web store discounts is a great way to encourage your customers to try out your new web store. Entice them with free shipping or a promotional code. You could even get creative and set up a scavenger hunt in your web store with a discount for everyone who participates.

    4. Help your customers log in

    Challenge your customer service or sales team to encourage customers to order online.

    • Redirect all phone calls with questions about invoices and orders to the online self-service portal. If customers don’t want to place their orders online because they feel it’s too complex, guide them through the portal to demonstrate just how easy it is to use. Show them how to access personal prices, order history, past orders, stock status, etc.
    • Always refer to questions about invoices, inventory, and orders to the self-service portal. Even if your customers aren’t ready to place their orders online yet, you can still refer them to the portal to enjoy the convenience of instant insight to their pricing, order history, current orders, inventory, and more.
    • Follow up on customer and lead requests for login details ASAP to encourage the use of your online portal.

    Are you an experienced web store owner looking to get even more out of your online sales portal? These next tips are for you.

    5. Change your customers’ behavior

    There are lots of little things you can do to encourage your customers with their online shopping. Offering free shipping on orders over a certain amount, for instance, will encourage your customers to order several items at once, instead of placing multiple small orders in quick succession. With the added incentive of free shipping, they’ll choose to place products in their shopping cart throughout the day and place a single order at the end. It’s more cost-effective for them, and it’s definitely more efficient for you!

    Become an E-Commerce Insider

    The club provides you with exclusive access to the latest e-commerce news and recommendations from four top B2B e-commerce professionals.

    6. Educate your sales reps

    Make sure that all of your sales reps know how your web store works. Have them place their orders online instead of directly in the ERP, for example, so they have a better understanding of your customer experience.

    If your sales reps are visiting customers, have them place orders for their customers online with their mobile device.

    When your sales reps lead by example, your customers will follow. As order placement becomes quicker and easier for your sales reps, you’ll also find that their focus will shift from placing small orders to cross-selling and upselling.

    The third benefit of this approach is that you can use the feedback provided by sales and inside sales to optimize the user experience in your web store.

    Help your customers to move online by educating sales reps on the benefits for themselves and your customers

    7. Increase sales with personalized marketing

    Offer your customers unique, personalized content that will appeal to their wants and needs. It’s easy to create personalized product catalogs and to adjust your cross-selling and upselling suggestions based on your customer’s web store history. You could take it a step further by sending out monthly emails with discounts on frequently ordered products per customer.

    The key? Make it relevant and make it personal.

    Conclusion: Getting B2B customers online means starting with a strong strategy

    Determine your goals and KPIs, and then decide what actions you’re going to take to get there. You won’t be able to do everything at once or get everyone online in one go, and that’s OK. The most important thing is to make sure your customers understand the advantages of your online sales portal, and then that they experience it for themselves.

    Ready to get started? Read our latest B2B Buying Process Report to understand today’s B2B buyer and learn how you can address key online challenges.

    How to move your B2B customers online

    Watch this on-demand webinar for exclusive insights.