sales and marketing

E-commerce is a huge area of opportunity for B2B companies, with 65% of companies across all industries offering online sales transactions.

For the first time, we’re seeing B2B organizations offering more online purchasing channels than in-person ones, and customer demand is precisely why.

Customers are demanding e-commerce, and sticking to an in-person approach is likely cutting off a huge chunk of your potential buyers.

In this blog, we’ll talk about how customers interact with your e-commerce platform, what influences your buyers’ purchasing decisions, how to optimize the customer journey, and trends to look out for in the e-commerce space.

How Are Customers Shopping?

Put simply, customers prioritize detailed product information (How does it work? What technical details are there?) and demos when it comes to their e-commerce experience.

That kind of information can be presented in all kinds of different ways. Illustrative photos, videos, benefits lists, and datasheets are just a few methods you can use to describe your products or offerings. 

But the end goal is the same: Be transparent, so your buyers trust you more—and ultimately feel more confident making a purchase.

Customers are also looking for a simple, straightforward shopping experience. Nothing halts—and ultimately, stops—the customer journey quite like long loading times, frustrating navigation, frequent popups, or disorganized product listings. 

That applies to mobile shopping, too. Mobile sales are expected to make up nearly 45% of all US retail sales this year. Logically, your website improvements should carry over to your mobile version as well. Ensure both are easy to navigate, detailed, clear, and responsive, so nothing stands in the way of your buyers’ shopping experience.

Related: Website Woes to “Wow!” The Power of a Website Refresh

Understanding How a Purchase Happens

Depending on your industry and the offerings you have, your customers will have a unique purchasing journey. 

Buyers have a lot of questions in mind when they’re making a purchase:

  • “What do my peers think about this product or offering?”
  • “How does a similar company compare offering-wise and cost-wise?”
  • “What is my return on investment (ROI)?”
  • “Who else in my organization needs to be involved?”

That’s because the majority of customers are making their decision before they engage with an organization—so you need to be speaking their language well before you ever actually speak with them.

Click here to learn more about understanding how your customers make their purchasing decisions.

But here’s the thing: Don’t do the guesswork. Often, companies can miss the mark on how their buyers make decisions. You might assume that your customers prefer up-front payments over monthly fees. Or you might assume cost is the deciding factor. Or you might think product performance is the only thing your buyers care about.

You’ll want to conduct buyer interviews (or better yet, have a qualified CMO do them for you!) to make sure you really know how your buyers think, so you can reach them exactly the way they need.

Related: Turning Browsers into Buyers: A Digital Sales Success Story

Optimize the Customer Journey

Now that you have a better idea of how your buyers think, you want to make sure you’re improving their shopping journey every step of the way—and good marketing practices will help you get there.

One of the first things you’ll want to do is make sure you’re identifying and clearing any pain points or bottlenecks along the customer journey. Are your buyers struggling to find what they need on your site? Are long loading times leaving them frustrated? Buyer interviews can help you figure out the “what,” so you can focus on problem-solving.

As you focus on optimization, make sure that work happens on the mobile front, too. Check to make sure your mobile website’s speed is up to par with your desktop site and compare those loading times against your competitors. The better the shopping experience you provide, the more likely buyers will choose you over others.

Another way to get an edge over competitors is to offer more flexible payment options than they do. You stand to reduce cart abandonment by not just offering split payment plans, but also giving the option to use alternative payment options, like credit cards, ACH transfers, and wire transfers.

Also, focus on adding third-party or peer-provided proof points. Include testimonials—both in written and video form—and cite any credentials your offerings and products have outside of your company. 

Finally, automate where you can to save time and maximize your marketing potential. A/B testing, personalizing messaging, retargeting emails, lead segmentation, and data analysis are just a few ways you can use automation to your advantage. That way, you can keep up with your customers across multiple stages of their journey even when you’re not actively communicating with them.

Related: From Impressions To Conversions: How To Track Your Marketing Effectiveness and ROI

What’s Next in E-Commerce? 

While e-commerce isn’t new, it is growing and adapting to the way customers engage with brands and make purchases.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are two major ways we’re seeing the customer experience change. AI can automate much of the process and even provide customer service along the way through chatbots. AI can also personalize product offerings, messaging, and email communication. 

And because AI tools can collect data about how customers shop, organizations can use these findings to inform how they optimize their products, websites, and more. 

We’re also seeing more flexibility in payment options. As we mentioned in an earlier section, customers want options, and Apple Pay is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to centralized payment options. 

On the topic of payments, customers are increasingly more receptive to subscription-based or as-a-service offerings. The convenience is attractive to customers, and companies are attracted to locking in more customers as a result.

There’s a lot to look out for—but you don’t have to navigate these trends alone.

Let’s Shake Up Your E-Commerce Strategy

There’s so much to keep in mind while optimizing your e-commerce approach. How are your customers currently shopping with you? What do they think about your brand? How do they want to shop? What do they expect?

An experienced fractional CMO can give you the answers you need and help you make informed decisions, so you aren’t just shooting in the dark.

Best of all, hiring a fractional CMO gives you all the benefits of a full-time marketing leader—but at a fraction of the cost. 

Click here to schedule a free, no-obligation call with one of our fractional leaders to make sure you’re serving your online buyers right.


Need guidance knowing how to best use AI to enhance your marketing approach?

Check out The Role of AI in Marketing for practical advice and insights from real-world peers.
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