Jose Vento

EXPERT ADVICE 5 Ways to Personalize B2B E-Commerce

successful b2b sellers will help buyers overcome their challenges
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For B2B sellers, keeping pace with customer expectations is anything but easy. Accustomed to the simplicity and convenience that has become common across B2C transactions, buyers expect more from B2B sellers than ever before. Make the most of a growing B2B e-commerce market by considering the unique needs and preferences of each customer.

Identifying ways to make things personal can help sellers overcome outdated business processes — such as funneling customers into a complicated buyer journey. More than 70 percent of B2B executives see customer expectations for personalized experiences as growing. Nearly two-thirds of business buyers are likely to make a switch if a brand doesn’t personalize communications. Satisfy buyer demands and rise above the competition by swapping out archaic business methods in favor of more personalized services.

B2B sellers can cater more closely to each customer by employing several different strategies tied to personalization. From extending individual lines of credit to offering a number of different payment options, paving the way for personalization promises to enhance the overall buying experience and boost business.

1. Offering Terms

It’s tempting to ask for payments as soon as possible, but when it comes to establishing a relationship that lasts well beyond the first purchase, a little flexibility can go a long way. B2B sellers should allow buyers to purchase on terms that are tailored to their business cycle. If, for example, a buyer won’t be able to pay until after receiving a product or service, use terms to push back the payment due date 30 to 45 days.

While such terms inevitably delay payment, the benefits they bring are well worth the wait. In many cases, buyers who are offered payment terms will end up purchasing more than they originally planned. These extra sales often can be attributed to increased cash on hand. Rather than attempting to come up with the funds for a purchase at the point of sale, buyers can gather necessary resources at their own pace.

This added flexibility is especially important for buyers from seasonal businesses. Although a buyer may be unable to pay for a product or service when it’s delivered, things can change quickly. Recognize the patterns of a buyer’s cash flow before deciding whether they’re a potential customer. Exercising patience throughout the payment collection process promises to ease some of the burden facing buyers and open up a few more sales opportunities later down the line.

Presenting the option to pay on terms also can help prove your financial stability to buyers and encourage them to see you as a long-term partner. Regardless of the industry, buyers want to know they’re doing business with an organization they can rely on for more than a few months at a time. Sellers can ease any concerns surrounding organizational health by introducing terms that give buyers plenty of time to make a payment.

2. Extending Lines of Credit

Cash can be hard to come by for buyers — especially those from smaller organizations. Almost two-thirds of small business owners admitted that when they started their businesses they weren’t entirely confident they had enough money in the bank to do so. Meanwhile, one-third started with less than US$5,000.

Sellers should open up the opportunity for additional sales by extending individual lines of credit to buyers who aren’t in a position to pay right away. Given how many small businesses struggle with cash flow, credit lines have become an increasingly important part of attracting new customers, building buyer trust, and growing order volume.

If there are concerns about taking on too much liability, consider working with a B2B payment and credit solutions provider. Beyond bearing the risks associated with credit lines, the right financial partner also can eliminate many of the costs that come with extending terms to buyers.

Instead of hiring an entire staff to take care of billing new buyers and collecting outstanding invoices, B2B sellers can dedicate those funds toward more pressing matters, such as enhancing buying experiences and streamlining operations.

In the event that a buyer needs additional credit, an experienced provider also can handle such demands automatically. These automated credit line adjustments are an important part of increasing a customer’s purchasing power and ultimately paving the way for greater sales and customer loyalty.

3. Implementing Multiple Payment Options

Most B2B buyers aren’t afraid to drop out of the purchase process. In fact, nearly 70 percent have abandoned an online shopping cart. One way sellers can improve the customer experience and keep buyers from leaving is by implementing a payment option that best meets their unique needs and preferences. The more payment options that are offered, the easier it will be for sellers to appease a wide range of buyers.

In 2018, 54 percent of B2B buyers across North America chose automated clearing house (ACH) payments as their preferred option, while 41 percent cited checks as their least favorite payment method, researchers found. Sellers can develop a convenient customer experience by building a good mix of payment options. From credit lines to electronic funds transfer (EFT), buyers should be able to select the option that works best for their business.

Reduce the temptation for buyers to look elsewhere by using the onboarding process to get a sense of which payment options are most popular among target customers. Taking the time to understand which payment options are preferred, as well as what makes them so convenient, can make it easy to exceed the expectations of buyers for years to come.

4. Creating Relevant Discounts

Buyer loyalty no longer lies with brands themselves, but rather with the experiences they offer. Once restricted to a handful of brands, buyers now can do business with virtually any online seller across the world. That convenience is a big benefit to buyers, and it challenges sellers to step up their offerings or lose out on loyalty.

Nearly 70 percent of B2B industry executives view customers as less loyal than they used to be — and the rise of the Internet is a significant reason.

Beyond increasing a buyer’s credit limit based on their purchase patterns or offering extra payment options, sellers can remain relevant in the eyes of existing customers by offering discounts as well as vouchers. More than 60 percent of North American B2B buyers say good prices and discounts can help keep them loyal to a B2B vendor or supplier.

Take a number of different factors into account — including services and solutions that are critical to a buyer’s success, or the length of their relationship with an organization — to ensure that any discount offered is both valuable and timely. If a customer purchases an important product or service from a competitor, propose a discount that’s useful enough to make the buyer think twice about which seller to give their business.

Buyers may be motivated not only to tack on additional products or services when making their next purchase, but also to continue the relationship moving forward. Considering the fact that it can cost five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, absorbing the cost of a discount every once in a while is an easy decision.

Leverage business intelligence tools to pinpoint product or service categories that are most likely to see an increase in spending following the distribution of discounts. Data-driven insights promise to go a long way toward making discounts more effective.

5. Recommending Potential Solutions

Buyers increasingly have become detached from their suppliers. In fact, 71 percent have acknowledged being disengaged and open to the idea of taking their business elsewhere, researchers found. Among the most prominent reasons for this willingness to partner with other sellers is a lack of consideration for new opportunities. All too often, sellers service an account without actively discussing how additional products or services can help buyers achieve their goals sooner rather than later.

Sellers can show customers they’re more than just a number by making relevant product or service recommendations. Keeping an eye out for opportunities that a customer may not be aware of can help establish B2B sellers as partners that have a buyer’s best interests in mind.

B2B sellers can continue to deepen relationships and increase engagement among buyers by offering suggestions that extend beyond their own products and services. While buyers will appreciate learning how sellers benefit their organization, they’ll likely be just as impressed with recommendations that address other areas of their business.

A seller that has had a great experience with an organization in the past, for example, should consider whether such an organization can help out any of its current customers. Offering to make an introduction will demonstrate a seller’s commitment to advancing a buyer’s business.

Three out of four business buyers will expect companies to consider their needs and make relevant recommendations by 2020. Sellers can stay one step ahead of the competition by discussing customer concerns on a regular basis. Offering solutions to especially difficult problems or issues buyers face may make it easier to earn and keep their loyalty.

Paving the Way for Personalization

When it comes to increasing online sales, personalization is an important piece of the puzzle. B2B sellers should avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to ensure they’re not missing out on potential customers. Although attempting to meet the unique needs of each customer can take up more time and money, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

It is wise to employ several different personalization strategies to capitalize on a growing B2B e-commerce industry, from offering terms based on a buyer’s cash flow to developing discounts that are specific to each customer. Identifying more than a few ways to cater to each buyer will help B2B sellers deliver the degree of convenience and service buyers have come to expect.

Brandon Spear, president of global B2B payments and credit solutions provider MSTS, excels at managing large, diverse global teams while connecting with and motivating staff across all levels of an organization. He helps companies overcome challenges with an entrepreneurial spirit and a technology-first focus.

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