How B2B ecommerce helps you retain more customers — and get more out of them
Even before the explosion of ecommerce, the B2B market was hugely competitive.
Buyers were discerning, products were often similar — and there’s always been a razor-sharp focus on maximising value and minimising cost.
But for businesses selling commoditised products (such as wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors), the competition is even more severe.
And in today’s digital age, these competitive challenges have only been amplified:
Why is retention such a problem for B2B?
Modern buyers have new expectations — driven partly by a new wave of millennial buyers, and partly by the evolved customer experience that B2C ecommerce is already giving them.
And to top it all off:
It’s easier than ever for your customers to shop around.
New research from Merkle shows that B2B buyers go to an average of at least 3.2 different ecommerce sites when they’re shopping for their business — and only 34% of buyers give their repeat business to a brand they used before.
Only 55% of B2B buyers reported having positive customer experiences across key parts of their purchasing journey — with “smooth integration” and “expert support” cited as two of the most important qualities they look for in a vendor.
Or in other words:
B2B buyers want more from their suppliers — and they’re happy to go somewhere else to get it.
90% of B2B buyers…
Find new suppliers through online channels
Start their purchase journey with an online search
Research 2–7 websites before making a purchase
How can a B2B ecommerce platform help?
With the ever-changing demands of B2B customers — and the access they have to alternative vendors — suppliers need to do everything they can to deliver the modern experience their customers expect.
Here’s how a B2B ecommerce platform can help:
1. An omnichannel presence
Today’s B2B buyers expect the same variety of engagement as any modern B2C consumer. They want to be able to interact with your brand as they see fit — exactly as and when they need to, based on their current needs and circumstances.
They don’t want to be forced into a phone call for every purchase. They don’t want to wait for an email reply to check the status of their order, and they don’t want to relay the same information each time they continue a customer support issue.
They want a seamless customer experience across every channel and medium. And that’s exactly what a comprehensive B2B ecommerce platform can give you.
75% of B2B buyers…CustomerGauge, 2023
2. A self-serve customer experience
We’re seeing a steady shift in the preferences of B2B customers — away from personal sales interactions, and towards buying through digital channels.
The average B2B buyer spends only 17% of the total purchase journey with a sales rep, with 44% of millennials saying that they prefer to have no interaction at all with a salesperson.
And with millennials now accounting for nearly 64% of all B2B buyers, that’s a massive chunk of your customer base that expects and demands a self-service customer experience.
But that doesn’t mean the days of personal relationships are over:
Most buyers still see the value of a direct interaction when it comes to more complex issues, such as specialist advice or negotiating a deal.
What’s important is that you give your customers the options they want — and cater to the significant number of buyers who don’t want to interact at all.
Less than 25% of buyers…McKinsey, 2020
3. Visibility and availability
A modern self-service customer experience relies on complete transparency and accessibility — empowering your buyers with all the information they need, regardless of which devices they use or how they want to interact.
And that’s exactly where a B2B ecommerce platform shines. With real-time availability of your complete product catalogue that’s available 24/7, your customers can get instant access to everything they need to make their purchase — from detailed product specifications to user guides and FAQs.
That’s fantastic for the customer experience, and it’s a significant contribution to improving your retention.
But there’s another angle to the instant access of a B2B ecommerce platform — and that’s the opportunity to boost your revenue through upselling and cross-selling.
In an ecommerce environment, it’s easier than ever to expose your customers to new or alternative products, without the need for aggressive sales tactics.
Through promotional banners, automated emails, or carefully placed product carousels (such as “other customers also bought…”), you can connect B2B buyers to products they might otherwise never have seen — giving you an easy win to boost the lifetime value of your customers.
72% of salespeople…HubSpot, 2022
4. Data and insights
B2B ecommerce is great for the customer experience. But there’s a lot going on in the backend of your platform, and it’s ripe with opportunity for maximising sales.
When your customers shop on your ecommerce storefront, they leave a digital trail of everything they do. Not just the final purchase — but their exploration, their browsing, their deliberations, and their decisions.
You can see exactly which items they’ve considered and rejected, and exactly which links and images are getting the most attention and the most clicks.
And once you’re armed with these valuable insights, you’ll be able to take actionable steps to improve your conversion rates — and ultimately drive more sales.
And the best part?
The more customers you move over to your B2B ecommerce platform, the larger the sample of data you’ll have to work with — adding more accuracy to your decisions, and creating a snowball effect where sales create sales.
72% of B2B businesses…Adobe, 2023
Ready to see what ecommerce can do?
Whether you’re tackling customer retention or looking to maximise sales, a B2B ecommerce platform is fast becoming mandatory to meet the changing demands of B2B buyers.
And if you’re in the wholesale, manufacturing, or distribution space, we’ve got the platform that’s built just for you.
We designed Apparatus from the ground up with commoditised B2B products in mind — creating the tools you need to help your customers manage complex purchases and high volumes of sales.
So if you’re ready to see what a modern B2B ecommerce platform can do, book a free demo with an ecommerce expert today.