E V O L V E R E T A I L

Personalisation has led to significant growth within business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce, so why are opportunities for personalisation still overlooked when it comes to business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce?

Many business buyers have experience shopping online, where personalisation has become standard practice. It has vastly streamlined the shopping process by providing content which is relevant to the user. However, personalisation for B2B is not yet as mainstream as it is for B2C. When used, personalisation for B2B has focused on showing price tiers or certain catalogues, but many more avenues can be explored to improve business. For example, Adobe has been doing some personalisation work including making recommendations to users based on rules and data, I.e.;

  • Recommended products – i.e. within a segment also purchased x item with y – opportunity to target more narrowly due to segment data
  • Targeted promotions – special offers for customers that meet particular criteria – can be restricted by segment in the B2B environment
  • AB testing – being able to test against specific accounts or segments to see how products perform

 

Benefits of B2B Personalisation

Through analysing frequently ordered products (repeat orders of similar products are common in B2B) and buying patterns, these can be shown to users and reduce their ordering time. Customers’ time is valuable and when tailored to a specific buyer’s needs, the user journey is more streamlined and efficient overall.

 

 

 

A great deal of this tailoring is driven by the data quality. Therefore, spending time to segment customers or create personas for your companies is a necessary step. B2B organisations are more likely to have useful data and target information because of existing CRM data. This can be leveraged to bring results quickly. Typically, there will have been human interaction before an account is set up which allows users to add input to this process. Without personalisation, an ecommerce user would sign themselves up for the site and so the first the merchant knows about them is when they are “on the clock” for shipping goods.

Personalising the online retail experience doesn’t have to be expensive either – in fact, it can pay for itself. Uplift in online ordering can cover the cost of features. For example, when spending £10k per month (£120k per year) the cost is easily offset by 5-10% increase in online revenue through higher conversion.


Simple Examples of Personalisation in B2B:

  • Targeted messaging (i.e. specific group of people in Scotland may have delayed delivery and need to be notified online in the checkout experience)
  • Bespoke catalogues per user, not just at the company level
  • News articles targeted by segment or specific to accounts
  • Notify specific users when products have been re-called
  • Making product names appropriate to sub-set of users – Some clients may want to see ‘construction site goggle’ and some may want to see ‘chemical eye protection goggle’. Or this may be a decision made by the customer buying (a customer could choose their own name for this, given the admin tools required).


The Personal vs. The Impersonal

Aside from benefits in personalising B2B e-commerce, there appears to be a risk of losing sales to competitors due to lack of personalisation.  As reported by B2B Marketing and Modern Retail, personalisation in e-commerce would persuade a third of B2B buyers, from a worldwide survey of 560, to purchase from a specific vendor. The survey completed by Sapio also revealed almost half of B2B buyers want the buying experience to include customer-specific pricing. In addition, 38% of respondents felt tailored offers, and shipping options would make the process more personalised, and a further 36% want payment methods to be personalised. So, what increases the likelihood of B2B buyers completing a purchase? Great service came out on top of the list, followed by low prices and product features.

 

Why Personalise B2B e-Commerce?

Why personalise B2B? The argument arises that business buyers need to order anyway; can it make a significant difference in online revenue if the buying process is tailored to specific clients? Telesales conversations used to be the ultimate form of personalisation as the employee would know the account and the person they’re selling to. Familiarity and trust developed during the sales process would frequently lead to repeat customers and larger orders being placed. This offline experience can and should be replicated online to achieve the same results.

Through personalising the online buying process, that familiar relationship with a B2B customer can be replicated without the cost of the team. Understanding what users want creates a stronger professional relationship. Multiple benefits arise in the forms of efficiency and quality of experience, but ultimately, people love to feel special.

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