By Lauren Hong
Together, B2B and retail e-commerce are projected to reach $12 trillion nationwide by 2020. While B2B e-commerce is the oft-overlooked half of that duo, here’s where it shines: B2B is expected to have the greatest overall growth, leaping ahead at a compounded annual growth rate of 7.7 percent.
And where there’s growth, there’s opportunity. But only for those online e-commerce sellers who are doing it right. Want to be the leader of the pack? Try these five tips on for size, and watch product sales follow that growth trend.
1. Build a beautiful site
If you scoff at the word “beautiful”, consider this: your online visitors might not say they’re looking for a “beautiful” site, but they are looking for a seamless, clean, and easy-to-navigate experience. And that’s just beautiful.
When your website is your storefront, the first thing you can do to increase product sales is to give your site some attention. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you evaluate your site:
- Is my site user-friendly?
- Does my site have a modern design?
- Is my site an accurate representation of my brand?
- Is it easy for my customers to find what they need and make a purchase?
This most often comes down to UX -- user experience design: the process by which designers and developers improve the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product (your site). A UX-optimized site will welcome customers, lead them through the discovery process to find what they need, and make the buying process seamless.
Your website is the base of your online sales. Take the time to make it right.
2. Let others tell the story: product reviews
Word-of-mouth marketing is the most valued form of marketing because it’s experiential: it’s real people telling your story and giving reviews of your products because they’ve interacted with you and used what you’re selling.
Leverage product reviews by including them directly on the site, so customers can read reviews before they buy. Prompt them for specific information that you know your customers care about: if you’re selling paper supplies, for example, have them rate the quality and durability of the paper, which type of printer they used, etc.
In addition to maximizing use of reviews from current customers, expand your network and garner more reviews on different networks. Here are two ways:
- One-to-one outreach: individually define influential bloggers in your industry and send them your product to try out in exchange for a candid review on their site. For example, if you’re building a mobile hotspot for business travelers to carry with them on the road, identify influential bloggers to try it out, like a financial blogger who travels frequently.
- Build a blogger/media relations campaign: leverage the networks of other like-minded individuals with a similar style by building a campaign that includes certain standards: your press kit, a product sample, and what you expect in return.
By identifying the right networks to reach out to, you have the potential to get your product in front of new audiences on the regular. Utilize reviews on your site, as social media fodder, and in email marketing campaigns.
3. Get social
Speaking of social media fodder: social media integration on your e-commerce store is pivotal. But remember: social is a two-way street, not only in communication but in linking to your site. Here’s how to use social to its fullest:
- Create compelling social media content (graphics are important!) that will inspire clicks back to your site. A few good rules of thumb: choose 1-3 social media platforms and do them right, especially if you’re a small business with an overstretched staff, and create social content that is 80% other people’s content and 20% your own, so as not to overdo on promotion. Creating short links based on the social media platform will help you track where traffic came from, as will referral traffic you can glean from Google Analytics.
- Make it easy for people to share your products and site info on their social media platforms by integrating social share buttons on product pages, Click to Tweets and pinnable images in blog posts, and generating easy share buttons after they’ve bought something.
Social media is a big part of the online shopping world these days, and the good news? It’s inexpensive, easy to get started, and effective when done right.
4. Show and tell
You might know that content marketing is king, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you know what to do with it.
When it comes to product sales, here’s one of our favorite ways to leverage content marketing: use your blog and social media channels to show and tell. Bring your product(s) to the forefront and provide tutorials, case studies, and stories that put them in the context of your potential customers’ daily lives.
We’ve got one more tip for you, then we’re going to do some show and tell ourselves.
The beauty of email marketing is that those on your email list are there because they chose to be. This permission-based marketing means they’re already on your side -- now, it’s up to you to use the channel effectively to sell more products. Here are two ideas to get you started:
- Set up a consistent campaign (weekly, bi-weekly, etc.) that includes sneak peeks, coupons, and product features.
- Design an e-magazine that matches the branding of your site. Send it out in regular intervals -- perhaps quarterly if your business is seasonal -- and make it easy to click through to search and find products on your site.
Remember, customers have given you permission to drop by their inbox -- but they can just as easily take it away. Make your emails valuable by sharing information that helps them understand your product and how it fits into their lives.
B2B e-commerce sites that do it right
Like we said: we’re all about the show and tell. Here are a few e-commerce stores that are getting it right:
As their name suggests, Blake Envelopes is an envelope maker out of the UK. Here’s how they’re getting their e-commerce store right:
- Prominent search function on a clean design directs you to exactly what you need
- The store itself has excellent filtering option, plus a “compare” feature that easily allows you to see choices side by side
- They have a prominent video page and social sharing buttons so you can spread their story
Square sells one predominant product: a point-of-sale kit that allows you to read credit cards and accept sales from your mobile device, anywhere. Here’s how they’re getting their e-commerce store right:
- The shop is organized by the type of business you’re running, so it’s easy to self-identify
- Devices are laid out by function and shown in use
- Tech specs are made clear, but not overwhelming, so you can be sure you’re buying the right product
Blake Envelopes and Square are focused on making it easy -- for customers to find them, buy from them, and then share.
Boost product sales at your storefront
E-commerce isn’t going anywhere but up in the next few years. Stay at the front end of that curve by following the five steps above to optimize your site, expand your reach, and deliver the best experience to your customers.