Ecommerce is a world unto itself. The internet has given merchants and buyers alike new options for how to do business together. There are even more options now for when businesses are the consumers.
B2B ecommerce adds a new layer of complexity to the mix. Even those who have had experience in this area before, in traditional sales, may be unsure about how to handle the ecommerce variant.
As with any business endeavor, you need to start with a strategy. This will be your foundation for success, and your game plan moving forward.
Here are 9 tips to help you execute that strategy.
Executing Your B2B Ecommerce Strategy
When you are thinking about ways to execute your strategy, you don’t just need to start from the beginning – you need to start before that.
Keep the method of execution in mind even during the planning phases is important. This list will be comprehensive, encompassing preliminary steps and more. There will even be advice on how to refine your strategy after it’s been in motion a while.
1. Make Sure Your Strategy is Complete
When you’re looking to execute your ecommerce strategy, you need to make sure it is complete. If a strategy is flawed, there will be problems. Your strategy isn’t just a goal, and therefore shouldn’t be thought of as such.
Instead, you should consider your strategy an all-encompassing plan complete with a schedule, assigned roles, and data metrics to track.
A full strategy will have:
- Accountability: Know which members of your staff are responsible for what parts of the strategy.
- Measurability: Shoot for specific metrics, and gear your approach so you can gather data.
- Time-Sensitivity: Make sure you have a forecasted timeline. It’s okay if you deviate a bit, but it’s wise to have a schedule starting out.
When you have the right strategy with the right components in place, executing it becomes much easier, and while this may take a little more time than some people would like, it’s worth it. Don’t rush into a strategy that’s half-done. You can get better results by spending a little more time honing your plan.
2. Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform
Ecommerce marketing requires you to have the right website. Ecommerce website design is everything when it comes to supporting your strategy. Your platform needs to have multiple qualities if you hope to support your strategy.
The right platform will be customizable, secure, and scalable. There are plenty of choices, meaning you don’t have to feel limited in your search. Granted, most companies will have an ecommerce platform before they start a strategy. But, for those who don’t, they need to know what they should look for.
What about those who already have a platform they like? They can improve it. Plugins and add-ons exist to help give ecommerce platforms additional features and more functionality. Also, make sure your platform offers personalization. Those who do could increase sales by a third.
And if you haven’t picked a platform yet, consider your options here.
3. Remember to Focus on the Customer’s Experience
Just because you aren’t focusing on B2C ecommerce doesn’t mean your approach has to change completely. Sure, you will alter your strategy slightly when you aim to sell to businesses rather than individuals. But those businesses are still your customers.
Therefore, it is important to gear your strategy around giving them the best experience. Ecommerce marketing works best when the strategy and the plan to execute it are built around the customer. It isn’t so much about your platform or even your brand. Instead, it’s about how you can solve the customer’s problem.
Find their pain point. Research what they want, and explain how you can give it to them. Don’t forget – many of your B2B buyers are millennials. You market may contain multiple industries, age groups, and other demographics.
But no matter who you’re working with, execute your strategy around their need. Regardless of your goal, the customer’s experience should be at the forefront.
4. Do Your Research (Before and During)
Before you execute your strategy, make sure you are doing research on your target market. As you’re executing it, continue to research. The goal? The more informed you are, the better chance you have to achieve your goals.
Whether you are trying to land new clients or upsell existing ones, it requires you to be knowledgeable. About 80 percent of B2B buyers feel salespeople don’t understand their business. That alone can be a complete deal-breaker.
No matter the end-goal of your strategy, you should research the following:
- Your Clients: Know their industry, brands, goals, and pain points.
- Your Competition: Know what your competitors are doing to see what does and doesn’t work.
- Your Criteria for Success: Know what your clients want and how to make it happen.
Researching can help you find handy B2B ecommerce examples to go off of. What worked for one business may not work for yours – but you can use it as a starting point and tweak it accordingly.
5. Be Transparent About Your Ecommerce Solutions
Maybe you’re trying to make a one-time sale as a part of your strategy. Maybe you want to sign businesses up for a recurring subscription. But whatever you’re offering, you need to be upfront and honest.
Honesty is always a good quality in business. But you have to be even more transparent when dealing with businesses as customers. There’s a common understanding among professional organizations. They know all the tactics people use to improve the sound of deals and make good deals sound even better.
Be clear about what your products and services are. Let them know exactly what these products and services can do. Also, if it comes up, be clear about what they can’t do. Be upfront about your pricing as well.
Clear rates and no surprises are a winning combination. Businesses will be more thankful to the seller who is honest, than the one who sells them a great deal but surprises them with fine print later.
6. Be Prepared for Success (and Struggles)
When you are setting up your strategy, be prepared to take it to the end. If you have a full inventory of products, be prepared to sell each one with your current strategy. You may not succeed, but that’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world.
The worst thing would be underestimating your efforts, and not having enough resources to fulfill all sales requests. You should be prepared to sell your customer whatever they want, in the highest quantity you can supply. Don’t keep them waiting, and make sure you never have to tell them no.
But you may – and more often than not, businesses dread this. If there is a problem with your strategy, make sure you are prepared to deal with it.
Have side strategies for things like dispute resolution, loss prevention, and client retention. Even if you don’t need them, it’s good to have them ready just in case. Prepare for success and struggles, and you’ll maximize your chance at the former.
7. Have Periodic Updates to Check Your Progress
How is your strategy progressing? You’ll never know unless you take the time to check. Regular updates from team members on various aspects of the strategy can help. Depending on the timeline you set out for your plan initially, you can set up these checks along the way.
If your strategy’s timeline is only a few weeks, you may have fewer updates than someone whose strategy is a year long. We already mentioned the importance of having different members of your team assigned different responsibilities. You can get multiple updates in a single session when you delegate responsibility in this way.
Even if you only have these types of meetings and update sessions once a month, you gain valuable insights into how things are progressing – and how you can adapt.
8. Make Changes While Executing Your Strategy
Remember, a strategy isn’t a definitive template you must follow to the letter. Instead, it could be viewed as a guideline. Also since your strategy’s efficiency (or lack thereof) can vary, you can benefit from making changes while it’s still in motion.
Some people assume you must run a plan as is, regardless of how it’s doing. This would have you believe you can only change things after the current strategy has concluded. But the truth is it is much more effective to make changes during the strategy.
It could be something as simple as spotlighting one product feature over another. It may be something more extravagant, like switching to a new ecommerce platform. But if your research and observations show a change would be beneficial, don’t want to make it.
9. Document Your Results and Use Them in the Future
The key to executing B2B ecommerce strategies lies in learning and adapting. Even after you’ve completed your current strategy, you may not be completely done with it. Why? Because the data you gather from it can be a great metric for future strategies.
Even if you’ve fulfilled a certain objective, you can get more out of the strategy. Consider the following benefits to documenting your results and keeping track of them in the long term:
- Learning for the Future: If you document what has and hasn’t worked, you’ll be off to a better start for your next strategy.
- Reviewing Your Predictions: Studying your results lets you see how close they were to what you predicted. It helps you see how well you know your business and its capabilities.
- Guidelines for Better Business: If something worked particularly well (or didn’t), you could use this information as a guideline for future general business practices. This can be helpful even outside of dedicated B2B ecommerce strategies.
Your business’s success in B2B sales isn’t just based on creating a good strategy. It’s about taking the good and bad from past strategies and using that knowledge in the future.
Final Thoughts: Every B2B Strategy for Ecommerce is Unique
When you approach a strategy to execute for your B2B goals, these tips can help. While they are a good guideline to go off of, it is also important to remember that every business is different. Therefore, every strategy will be different.
If your strategy doesn’t pay off as well as you’d hoped, don’t fret. Even if it doesn’t match up to your competitors, or your own expectations, you can steadily improve results with the right approach. B2B sales are a unique art to master – especially when you’re going for ecommerce.
Your strategy matters, but so does the way you execute it from your website to the way you delegate responsibility, every step of the process matters.
What do you think matters most when executing your ecommerce strategy?
Share with us in the comments below.