B2B ecommerce is a rapidly growing industry. But to keep up with the competition, it’s important to do your homework and follow certain guidelines that will lead you to success.
It’s probably not news to you that shoppers are increasingly going online to make their purchases. But did you know that businesses are doing the same? Almost 90% of B2B customers today start their buying journey by searching for a solution online.
If your B2B business doesn’t have an online presence, decision-makers won’t find you when they’re doing their research, and you’re going to miss out on a LOT of customers.
Not sure how to get started? Don’t worry, we’ll break down the process into five clear steps. But first, let’s have a quick look at the advantages of B2B ecommerce that are waiting for you.
Advantages of Taking Your B2B Business Online
Say goodbye to cold-calling leads and tiresome paperwork. Starting a B2B ecommerce business has many significant advantages over traditional B2B methods.
- Customer experience: Consumers today have come to expect a streamlined online shopping experience that caters to their unique needs.
- Lower overhead costs: There’s no more need to keep large amounts of inventory and pay for a warehouse to store them in.
- Automation: An ecommerce business saves money by making manual processes unnecessary - like document preparation, lead generation, and data entry.
- Increased reach: You’ll have access to a massive new pool of potential customers and more choices when it comes to suppliers.
- Analytics capabilities: Ecommerce empowers B2B business owners by providing valuable data on customer behavior that can be used to improve their offerings.
Starting a B2B Ecommerce Business in 5 Steps
Now that we’ve sold you the benefits of starting a B2B business online, let’s look at how you can begin your journey.
1. Choose Your Niche
The first question to ask yourself when starting a B2B ecommerce venture is, “What am I going to sell?” What product or service will you specialize in? That might seem like an overly simple question, but choosing a profitable niche requires a lot of careful consideration and research.
Identify Your Unique Selling Point
Customers are only going to buy a product or service from you if it’s going to solve a problem for their business. Not only that, you want to be sure that customers actively want and need to solve that problem.
What are you able to provide to your customers that’s better than what other businesses have to offer? Choose carefully, because this is what’s going to differentiate you from the crowd and drive your marketing efforts.
Carrying out market research is vital to finding a niche with high demand and high profit margins. There are lots of awesome tools and resources available online that can make this job easier for you.
Study Your Competition
Now that you’ve figured out the solution, it’s time to take a look at who else is offering a similar solution. Follow their social media accounts, browse through their websites, and take a look at their Facebook ads using Meta’s Ad Library.
By spying on your competitors a little, you’ll be able to see the areas they excel in and where they’re falling short. You can learn from their success and their mistakes so that you can position yourself as a better option for your customers.
Determine the Profitability of Your Niche
There’s no point in starting a business if it’s not going to be profitable. If your niche has very few competitors, then there’s lots of room for profit to be made. On the other hand, if there are a large number of other businesses offering a similar product or service, you’ll want to carefully determine how you’re going to make a profit.
- How much will your product or service cost to buy or manufacture?
- Do you want to sell your solution at an affordable price or position it as a premium offering at a higher cost?
- What pricing are customers used to paying for this solution?
- How much can your customers afford to pay?
2. Create Your Ideal Customer Profile
An ideal customer profile (or ICP) is a description of a made-up company that represents the kind of business that would get the most benefit from your product or service and would simultaneously provide the most value to your company.
Creating an ideal customer profile is essential when starting a B2B ecommerce business for several important reasons. With an ICP, you can:
- Target the right leads who are likely to make a purchase
- Get your messaging exactly right for marketing campaigns
- Lower your customer acquisition cost (CAC)
- Design a better product or service to suit their specific needs
- Provide a better customer experience
Most B2B businesses base their ideal customer profile on their best current clients, but you can create an ICP without having a current client base if you conduct your market research well.
What to Include in Your Ideal Client Profile
The more specific your ICP is, the more it will help your ecommerce business in its sales, marketing, product design, and customer service processes. We recommend including the following data at its core:
- Job title
- Company size
- Potential revenue
- Impact of challenges
- Short-term and long-term goals
You can find some helpful templates for creating your ICP here.
3. Choose the Right Platform
Choosing the perfect platform for your B2B ecommerce business is an important step because it will act as the storefront for your entire company. There are lots of options to choose from when it comes to ecommerce platforms, so it can be tricky to decide which one is best for you.
Here are some things to consider when making your choice:
What Do You Sell?
There are many different kinds of products and services that B2B businesses sell, from wholesale items to digital products and memberships. Make sure that the platform you’re considering makes it easy to sell the type of product or service you offer to your customers.
How Unique Do You Want Your Website to Be?
Certain ecommerce platforms are less flexible than others when it comes to designing your perfect website. Some have a limited number of design templates to choose from, which can result in your website looking too generic. Others allow for far more customization of both appearance and functionality.
Do You Have Web Design Skills?
The ecommerce platform you choose should fit with your skill level when it comes to designing websites. Some platforms make it easy for anyone to start an ecommerce storefront, with no coding or technical knowledge required. Others have a steep learning curve or would require you to hire a web designer.
How Will Your Customers Pay You?
Your platform needs to support how your customers pay for you. Do you collect recurring payments? Do you offer financing options? Do you accept payments in different currencies? Be sure to choose a platform that offers the right payment gateways.
How Will You Ship Your Orders?
B2B companies that sell physical items need a platform that integrates with the shipping carriers they use to ship out their orders. You should be able to easily set up shipping options and pricing intuitively.
There are several other important features a good ecommerce platform should have, like good security, a good customer experience, and customer support. We did extensive research into the best ecommerce platforms out there; you can check the results here. Make sure to also use our handy comparison tool to see how the platforms you’re considering stack up against each other.
4. Build a Great Website
Now that you’ve selected the perfect platform for your business, it’s time to build your online store. Some ecommerce platforms make designing your website a breeze with drag-and-drop functionality, but don’t be fooled into thinking you can just throw a successful ecommerce website together.
Here are several things your website needs to do:
Make an Impact Visually
We’ve all been to an online store that looks so unattractive that we immediately leave. If you want to attract new customers, you’ll need your website to be visually striking. Aim for your site to look modern, sleek, and tasteful with a little bit of flair. Keep things minimalistic visually – you don’t want to overload people with too much going on.
Persuade with Powerful Copy
Your sales depend on your website having great written content. From the first moment a new customer arrives on your landing page, you want your message to be totally clear: your product or service is going to change their lives. Start with a large headline that sums up why that is in 6 words or less. A sub-headline underneath 1 or 2 sentences can clarify what you’ve said in the headline. Then, paragraphs of text should break down the details and benefits of what you offer.
You should always aim to provide your website’s visitors with as much value as possible because it will strongly influence their decision whether or not to buy from you. Do this by offering content that educates them on the problem they’re having, in the form of blog posts, how-to videos, free downloadable guides, and more.
Optimize for Search Engines
When a potential customer types a search into Google for the product or service you’re selling, you want your website to come up at the top of their search results. That’s what search engine optimization (or SEO for short) makes happen. The skillful use of keywords in your website’s copy and blog posts will organically attract leads, functioning more efficiently than the most talented team of cold-callers ever could.
If a potential customer can’t find exactly what they need on your site quickly, they’re going to give up and go to your competitor’s website. Make it easy for visitors to find their way around by designing an easy-to-understand navigation menu. Grouping products into categories and subcategories will also help.
5. Start Marketing Your Business
By now, you’ll have a great product idea and an excellent website, but without an effective marketing strategy, no one will know you exist. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can grow your brand awareness and start winning new customers.
One of the most powerful ways to grow brand awareness for your B2B online business is by creating and sharing high-quality content. In contrast to traditional marketing, which centers around convincing people to buy from you, content marketing involves providing potential customers with valuable information.
This form of digital marketing uses SEO to draw in organic traffic to your website. Imagine an office manager searching on Google for “how to declutter an office.”
The search engine results that come up for that search query are no coincidence. They’re an example of great SEO. The much-coveted top result (known as position zero) is an excerpt from a blog post by a B2B business that has strategically used keywords and a clear content structure.
When the office manager clicks on the link to read more, they’ll be taken to the B2B website, which in this example is a company that leases out shared office spaces and storage spaces – something that you’d be quite interested in if you had entered that search query into Google. From there, it’s only a click on the top navigation that will take the office manager to this page:
The office manager has found the quality information they need from the blog post, and in doing so, he starts to see the B2B company that published it as an expert in their field. That builds a sense of trust and makes an impact that’s far more effective than a generic sales pitch.
Three words will supercharge your marketing efforts: collect email addresses. In the world of digital marketing, email marketing is gold. Growing your email subscriber list should be at the forefront of your mind when designing your B2B website.
Offer something in exchange for people, so they give you their email address. That could be a weekly newsletter with tips on office management, a downloadable ebook on how to organize a productive work schedule or a 10% discount code.
Once you have those email addresses, they’re yours to keep. You can nurture those leads by sending out content that educates them on the problems their company has. After building trust with your subscribers, you can start to let them know about new products or offer discount codes to push them toward becoming customers.
Social Media Marketing
LinkedIn is the social media platform where decision-makers spend their time (over 63 million of them to be more precise). It’s the best place for any B2B ecommerce business to start building brand awareness. On LinkedIn, you can make meaningful connections with professionals in your industry that can easily and naturally develop into valuable customer relationships.
Some tips for how to attract high-quality leads on LinkedIn are:
- Share content that people in your industry will value and hashtag it with words that your ideal clients would be searching for
- Join industry groups that your ideal customer would be in, and participate in the conversation in a genuine way
- Start a group of your own and build an engaged community around a topic that your ideal customer would be passionate about
- Create an excellent company page that links to your website
It may take some time before your content marketing, email marketing, and LinkedIn marketing efforts will start seeing results. While you’re working on perfecting those strategies, paid advertising is a great way to bring in lots of targeted traffic to your B2B website.
Paid search ads are one channel and come up in Google searches for specific keywords. Search engine advertising (SEA) differs from search engine optimization (SEO) since you are paying to appear at the top of the page rather than relying on keywords in your content. SEA brings in high-quality leads because it allows you to advertise to people who are already searching for what you offer.
LinkedIn advertising lets you target your ad towards specific industry professionals – by job title, function, seniority, and more. Their self-service advertising makes it easy to create a targeted campaign through sponsored content or text ads.
If Google and LinkedIn are bearing fruit, you can continue with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
There’s no better time than now to bring your B2B ecommerce idea into reality. By following these 5 steps, you’ll be able to build and grow your online business to attract new leads, offer them value, and start mutually beneficial customer relationships.
When it comes to choosing the right software for your new business, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. But don’t worry; our three amazing tools will help you with that. Without giving too much away, check out our Finder Tool, Comparsion Tool, and Best Picks. They will make your choice to find the right ecommerce platform as easy as it can get.