UX Lab - The importance of self-service in B2B ecommerce

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

As the trend towards ordering online continues to grow, serving the needs of those customers online takes on added importance. Still, many B2B businesses are wary of adopting ecommerce as they feel it doesn’t provide the same level of personalised service and relationship building they have always provided their customers through other channels. However, the fact is people now prefer buying online to buying from a sales rep and are happy to self serve. Properly executed B2B ecommerce will actually enhance those customer relationships by working in collaboration with your sales team not competing against it.

People spend more time buying online than ever before and expect the same experiences when purchasing in their working lives as they would in their personal lives, but the requirements of B2B purchasing are not quite the same. Providing customers with the ability to self-serve is fundamental to replicating the personalised experience of purchasing through other channels. Enabling them to perform tasks themselves on their own time lowers the cost of serving them and improves their experience. It also removes some of the burden on your own teams by removing menial and time-consuming tasks like determining leads times, checking stock, or chasing payment.

Whilst many of the fundamental elements of B2B ecommerce are the same as B2C, and all buyers now expect B2C-like online experiences, there are some key differences and most of those a reflected in the ‘my account’ functionality now prevalent in class-leading B2B sites. An ecommerce platform, like tradeit, which has been built from the ground up to specifically serve the needs of those users is able to deliver this level of functionality out of the box, not relying on third-party bolts on, widgets and code hacks in order to provide B2B customers with all the self service functions they require. This self-serve functionality includes:

Account details

Allow customers to update their details, including name, title, delivery and invoice addresses, payment card details and passwords. Personalised information can also be gathered to help tailor future content using tradeit's marketing & merchandising tools. tradeit's event reminder even allows users to flag certain dates to be reminded to purchase, based on an occasion or date. Perfect for re-ordering of regular items or longer-term projects.

DK Tools ecommerce site user details update page

DK Tools allow users to update their details.

View order history and orders (from multiple channels)

Collate user’s orders from any sales channel including offline (requires integration with external system where order information is held such as ERP system) and present them in the user’s account. They can then access individual details of each order. Within the order history, they can check the status of any order (both completed and pending) as well as track any item out for delivery with shipping information appended.

View, pay and print invoices online

Enable users to view any previous invoices in detail, including those that have been paid or are still outstanding. Any outstanding invoices can be added to the basket and paid for by credit/debit card or with any credit notes stored against the account, helping the merchant’s accounts team from having to chase payments.

Ecommerce customer account page showing outstanding invoices

Settle outstanding invoices online.

Ordering/re-ordering tools (quick order, saved baskets, lists)

There are a number of tools designed to aid easy re-ordering including saved baskets, quick order forms (with CSV upload for even quicker purchasing), saved quick order lists, seeing only their contracted products, and regularly order items. Simple and easy re-ordering is paramount for B2B users whose time is short.

Tropicana Wholesale ecommerce site quick order form page

Tropicana Wholesale feature a number of quick re-ordering tools in their my account.

Quote requests and management

Users can build and submit baskets for an online quotation, which is picked up by the merchant’s sales team and passed back to the user with their pricing on and an expiry date. The user is also sent an email confirming their quote is available to view in their my account. User can then convert the quote to an order and checkout online as normal. Any outstanding quotes are stored in their account.

Electrix ecommerce site user quotes page

Electrix provide quote management facility to free up resources.

User management/Master and sub account

Add, edit and delete users as well as applying permissions to each individual to determine what they have access to and can control for both themselves and other users. A user’s permissions will determine their purchasing power, billing and delivery addresses, access to reports, ability to process returns, access to invoice and credit information and much more. A master user can determine permissions and access for all other users and therefore what is available to them on the site.

Configure/customise products

Some products require customisation or configuration, which could potentially tie up sales or technical people on the phone for long periods of time. By developing and providing online product configuration tools, it provides customers with an intuitive way to create their own products and order them. tradeit has also been integrated with a number of bespoke or third-party product configuration tools to aid users.

View reports/graphs

Provide customers with reports and graphs in their my account using data pulled from tradeit or imported from third-party reporting applications like Tableau. Show information like spend, average order value, number of orders, discount, sales overview, and product overview on a weekly, monthly or yearly scope. Filter down individual products or product groups to to segment results even further.

Hillbrush ecommerce site user reporting and graphs

Hill Brush display sales and product data to their customers using Tableau reports.

Manage inventory/VMI

Enable customers to maintain an agreed inventory of products at any and each of their locations and deliver simple replenishment when the stock holding falls below the agreed threshold. When the merchant undertakes a stock check any shortfall is then automatically ordered online against that location and account, at an agreed timescale.

Provide instant access to your product's inventory and pricing

Available via download from the user’s my account or via Secure FTP, allow your customers to access product data, imagery, stock levels & inventory, and customer pricing. This can be the full catalogue or the customer’s contracted product list – ideal if you sell to customers who have their own ecommerce stores or require this data in their internal systems.

Loyalty points/rewards

Display customer loyalty & rewards information from both points based or spend & save schemes available in tradeit. Display either points balance and it’s redeemable cash value (redeemable as a payment method on future orders), or customer rewards & free gifts. Spend & Save scheme also shows spending thresholds required to be eligible for further discounts within defined time period.

Tropicana Wholesale Spend4Rewards ecommerce page

Tropicana Wholesale display loyalty and rewards information including their spend & save scheme.

Marketing/training support

Provide marketing support and collateral to wider group, stores, resellers, retailers or media by offering downloadable content like POS materials, training guides, hi-res/stock images, product brochures, user guides, demo products, displays and more.

Hillbrush ecommerce site reseller's resources page

Hill Brush allow suppliers, resellers, stores and media to download marketing collateral directly from their my account.

Account balances & Credit limits

Display account balances and credit limits against user's account showing how much credit they have left or whether their account should be settled before placing more orders.

Product registration

Allowing users to register their products can help with warranty, guarantees or servicing, but can also help personalise content and guide users, ensuring that don't order incompatible items in error. For example, Papergraphics allow users to register their printer so they can then see which auxiliary items, such as ink, toners or paper, will work with the particular model they have.

Papergraphics ecommerce site product registration page

Papergraphics allow users to register their products for warranty, guarantee, and servicing purposes, as well as personalising content based on those products.

Personalise messaging/promotions/product pushes

Ensure your customers still see information of interest (via their my account and through the website journey), these can include alerts to offers suitable for them, new products that might be of interest, or updates/changes to products they regularly buy.

Tropicana Wholesale automatically push offers to the customer's my account of items they have not bought for a long time or ever to try and incentivise them to increase their spend. Reports are run which determine which brands or products they've not bought for a defined period of time, with offers then created on certain ones, before being displaying in their my account and via an automatically triggered email. tradeit is smart enough to remove certain brands, items that haven't been in stock (and thus unable to be purchased), those with a low margin, or where other customers at the same company have bought the items.

Tropicana Wholesale ecommerce site personalised offers page

Tropicana Wholesale deliver personalised discounts on brands that users haven't purchased for a defined period of time.

Whilst B2B ecommerce will never completely replace your sales team, except in a few select cases, ensuring your B2B customers can self-serve as effectively as possible is key to your online success. It not only frees up staff to work on gaining new business, but empowers customers and has a positive effect on your bottom line. Get in touch today to learn more about our B2B ecommerce solutions.

B2B Ecommerce