5 Ways Distributors Can Improve eCommerce Adoption
by Matt Johnson, on Mar 5, 2021 5:15:04 PM
"If you build it, they will come (and use it)" only works in A Field of Dreams. You know, the 1989 film starring Kevin Costner? In this cinematic classic, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (played by Costner) hears a voice that convinces him to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn field. An act of blind faith, you say! Silliness. The stuff of Hollywood. Surely no self-respecting distribution business would "bet the farm" on an eCommerce website based on misguided faith. Would they?
An Unfortunate Misunderstanding
Before we dive into a few best-practices for customer adoption of your eCommerce webstore, we need to address the root cause of the problem. Perhaps you're reading this article because you have invested in eCommerce, have successfully launched your website... you even told your customers and staff about it... and to this day, you still struggle to get your customers to change their purchasing behavior.
The reason why is based on an assumption that simply is not true.
You assumed that since people like to order online in their personal lives, they would necessarily jump at the offer to begin ordering online in their professional role. Sadly, no.
Your assumption, while reasonable, does not align with human behavior. The reason why is called the "path of least resistance". According to research described in Science Daily, a UCL study found that "(human beings) are biased towards perceiving anything challenging to be less appealing".
Let me repeat that so we can let us sink in...
Human beings (your customers) are biased towards perceiving anything challenging (like a new of placing orders) to be less appealing.
So, how does this human behavior impact your ability to get customers to your B2B eCommerce webstore and start placing orders? By asking your existing customers who purchase via phone, email, or (gasp FAX) to start placing their orders online, you are asking them to burn calories learning a new system. Regardless of how user-friendly your eCommerce store is, the fact is, this presents a challenge, and a challenge is less appealing and therefore to be avoided.
Good news! There's a way to use human behavior and psychology to our advantage. Remember, by getting your customers to change their purchasing method you will free up valuable resources, realize a return on your investment, and future-proof your distribution business. But it all starts with these five basic strategies.
1. Automatic Account Creation
The first step toward getting your customers online is having them setup an account. You could have them go to a form on your site where they can fill out their details, shipping address, billing, contact info, etc. But wait, don't you already have this information? Then why are you having them enter it all again? Surely you could setup your customer account for them, right? Sure you can, and you should!
eCommerce is not an excuse for lowing the customer service bar. If you're going to compete with the big corporations, you're going to need to step your game up. Luckily, with modern B2B eCommerce platforms, like EvolutionX, you can import customer records directly from your ERP software to create your customer's online account in minutes. This overcomes your customer's first hurdle of having to enter information that you already have. Setup your customer accounts for them!
2. Outline an Adoption Playbook
What happens the first time your customer logs into the new B2B ordering portal you have built for them? What do they see? What do you want them to do? Take a page out of the SAAS playbook and setup a well-defined onboarding strategy complete with customer support that can help them get started with their new favorite purchasing site.
SAAS companies are masters of onboarding. After all, they know that if they do not get their new customer using the software quickly, the chances of churn goes up. So, it's not enough to get them to the store, we need to educate them on how to use the store to make their lives easier. Think of this playbook as a series of messages with videos or articles that can guide them through the process of placing their first order.
For example, use a simple 3-step process to help your customers understand how to use the site. This makes it easy for them to place their first order.
3. Setup a Special Promotion
Customer lifetime value is a key metric you should keep your eye on. Keeping customers around for a long time isn't just about a handshake agreement. It's about innovation, customer service, and brand value. So, it may seem strange that some distributors hesitate, even flat-out-refuse to offer any sort of incentive to their existing customers. The rationale is that these contract accounts already have great prices, leaving very little margin, so why erode the margin further by giving them discount codes or sending them free stuff.
But if you have such a razor-thin margin, doesn't it make sense to make it for that margin by adding volume? Would your customers purchase more from you if you offered an incentive to do so? Do you already own 100% of your customer's spend? Isn't it possible, that by making your webstore so attractive and affordable, that your customer would start spending money on product categories that they previously purchased elsewhere?
If you answered NO to these questions, then you you might be in the business of helping customers reduce their spend. A noble value proposition! But if that's the case, imagine what your sales team could do if they were set free from the customer hand-holding and order-taking in favor of nurturing new or under-performing accounts. That's the power of a great B2B webstore!
4. Create a Customer Rewards Program
Smile! Amazon Smile. It's a rewards program that donates to your favorite charitable organization, at no cost to you. When you sign up for this program, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchases. This is a tangible reason, a motivator, to buy your next online purchase through Amazon... and a simple way to ease your consumer guilt.
This isn't a plug for Amazon. But we can learn something here. Let's go back to the psychology of human behavior. Remember, anything challenging is less appealing. Therefore, we want to offer an incentive for learning something new and doing something different. Sure, you could give away a box of donuts, but wouldn't it be more meaningful to the organizations that purchase from you to say that 1% of their purchases goes back into their community to support the local charity of their choice?
EvolutionX has a phenomenal built-in customer rewards program that you can use to incentivize your customers and get them back the site again and again.
Check it out below.
5. Create a Customer Buyer Journey
It's not enough to get your customer to login to your webstore. We need consistent, repeatable results. If you have a good product, you offer great service, and you deliver your customer's orders at a fair price, there's only way possible way for you to lose that customer: lack of communication.
Your B2B customer needs to know you care about keeping their business as much as you do about winning it. Unfortunately, many distributors think that emailing their customers on a consistent basis or setting up promotions within the customer's website portal is obnoxious, intrusive, or annoying. I would argue that you're not doing your job unless you are actively trying to solve your customer's problems. How do you know that your customer is not interested in buying something from you that they're currently buying from someone else?
But not all your emails and promotions need to be purchasing opportunities. That's a purely transactional relationship. You can better earn your customer's trust and loyalty by giving away informational content (like this article), branded merchandize, or rewards simply because you love your customer and you want them to win.
These are some ways that we at ES Tech Group have seen customer's successfully onboard customers and grow sales. How about you?