According to a recent survey by BtoB Magazine and Rainmaker Systems, 58% of B2B marketers report an increase for their companies’ involvement in e-commerce. Perhaps you, too, are considering this online means to increase sales. But for those who aren’t, you can still take advantage of what B2C companies who are using e-commerce have learned to improve your sales and marketing efforts.
From my perspective, as a frequent visitor to e-commerce websites (whether browsing or planning to purchase), B2C marketers who successfully make use of such sites understand the importance of:
- Delivering a superior user experience. These B2C marketers take a buyer-centric approach when presenting their products and services for purchase online. Some presentations are humorous, while others are straightforward, depending on the brand and its personality, but all of them make effective use of photos, videos, features and benefits descriptions, and user guides or other helpful hints. The most effective sites also showcase user reviews, as well as provide a means for me to personalize my online experience.
- Creating a consistent—yet appropriately distinct—user experience across multiple channels. E-commerce is often just one of the sales channels B2C companies utilize, so it’s important their customers have a similar experience whether they shop in the store, by the phone or online. B2C marketers place great importance on—and significant investment in—their brands and want to be sure there’s absolute clarity in the minds of consumers what value they offer. A consistent brand experience leaves less room for misinterpretation or confusion.
- Integrating cross-sell and up-sell strategies effectively. While I don’t always take advantage of the belt recommended when I add a skirt to my cart or the upgraded camera option presented in a sidebar as I’m reading another product description, I certainly appreciate being exposed to a broader offering beyond my initial interest. B2C e-commerce sites help users make additional purchase decisions when they may have originally only been aware of a single item.
- Using promotions to help encourage purchases. Getting a coupon in my mailbox or in-box is always a nice reminder that my favorite brands want my business. While sales promotions in the more traditional sense may not work for your B2B business, B2C marketers also use promotions to help stay in front of their customers and potential consumers. B2C companies also understand that promotions designed to drive online purchases must be communicated through both online and offline means.
- Employing social networks, as appropriate, to extend engagement with customers. The use of social media strategies is definitely more pervasive with consumer brands, and B2C companies are leveraging the additional outlets to connect with their customers. Whether they’re posting supplemental video content on YouTube, tweeting where to find a hot new product or using Facebook to run a contest, B2C marketers do what it takes to bring their customers into a two-way conversation with them. And they tend to learn a lot from these participating customers, too.
- Applying mobile marketing strategies to connect with an increasingly digital marketplace. Mobile-friendly websites. Mobile apps. QR codes that link smartphone users to valuable online content. SMS and MMS advertising. B2C marketers stay abreast of the latest digital tools and integrate those that are appropriate for their markets.
There are many other takeaways from successful B2C e-commerce sites—and the marketing strategies they utilize. From employing effective SEO and SEM activities to leveraging insight gleaned from website analytics for improvements, to exercising retention and loyalty programs to maximize opportunities with their most valuable customers, B2C companies using e-commerce successfully are doing things right.
What do you see? How could you integrate B2C e-commerce best practices in your business? I’d love to hear from you.