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Selling B2B Products Online: Starting eCommerce Right
Back in the old days, selling B2B products online was rare. Especially for physical products. But in the time of social distancing, business-to-business eCommerce is very much a thing.
As recently as a few years ago, those B2B companies selling online tried to fit things into their old way of doing things. They’d get orders and invoice in their traditional fashion, net-30. Systems were homegrown and scattershot.
But times have changed.
It’s the age of the customer now. People, especially the younger folks, are used to entering their specs online and getting things on-demand. Heck, it’s gotten to a point where companies such as Amazon have same-day delivery.
It’s all about ease, convenience, and wanting things now.
And with this new wave, more and more B2B companies are starting to sell online. And the good side of eCommerce is that it’s not wildly difficult to start. But it is wildly difficult to do perfectly.
With that being said, here are six things you need to do to effectively sell B2B products online.
#1: Pick a Platform
This really ties into security. PCI compliance is critical. The big lesson is: Don’t try to home grow a B2B eCommerce system. There is a chance that you are set up with all of the security measures that you need to do this right, safely, and in a trustworthy manner. But it costs a lot of dough to build up a security blanket from scratch yourself.
Not to worry, because there are many companies that are all incredibly concerned with information security and compliance. It’s their entire job. You can trust that a company that exists because of its security will do its damnedest to do right by you.
So what are some good options? Shopify, for sure. Lots of people use this eCommerce CMS to run their online selling. Magento is more of an enterprise choice. It’s much more developer-friendly, yet it’s a lot harder to use. It honestly comes down to what your B2B eCommerce needs are.
#2: Inventory Management
Do you need to tie your eCommerce efforts into an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system? Or is your business something that you can manage by hand since you’re only expecting a few orders and a few SKUs?
That’ll be really important to consider when doing inventory management planning.
If you have to tie to an ERP since you have bigger orders or more business complexities, you’re looking at a more custom job – which is another way in which Magento can help.
#3: Set Up Payments
It’s important to consider how you’re going to accept payments. Because getting paid is nice.
If you sell B2B products, you likely issue traditional invoices and get paid after the fact.
Won’t work for eCommerce.
I can’t think of the last time I bought something for myself or my business online and I got an invoice (instead of paying right away).
That’s just not how eCommerce works.
Typically, you should be set up for credit card payments. Payment gateways and processors are also a must. You can do this natively to make things streamlined and simple, with something like Shopify.
Sure they’ll get a cut of the sales, but that’s just how it works. 3% or so is pretty standard.
And it would certainly be worth the investment.
#4: Get on the Big Boy Networks
Having a B2B eCommerce store is great, but now you’re competing with behemoths like Amazon and Walmart.
It’s important to make sure you’re not only using your eCommerce platform as a self-contained website. Instead, use it as a place to manage your inventory, your offers, and everything else that you do.
If you take this route, you can now put your products out in places that will get more traffic than your native website, such as the 800-pound gorillas. (Shopify, for instance, will automatically integrate with walmart.com, letting you sell there instantly.)
That means more exposure for you. And more business.
And more moolah.
What are you going to do to roll this B2B eCommerce thing out? You probably have to do some special advertising for this. Does that mean using Bing Shopping or Google Shopping? Maybe.
It’s all about what the rest of your ecosystem is doing. If all of your competitors have something in Google Shopping, you probably should, too.
Additionally, you have to consider the one thing we’ve all experienced before: abandoned cart emails.
You know how that story goes. You put something in your cart, you get an outreach from the company saying “please come back for 10% off” – and these things can be automated natively or by using a marketing automation platform.
Bringing people back to your company can be a huge driver for revenue. When considering all of that abandoned cart, if you can pull back even 6-8% of the people you lost before, you’ve pulled in a ton of revenue, which is always a plus.
#6: Analytics and Performance Tracking
Fortunately, when it comes to this stuff, Google Analytics does a pretty gosh darn good job of breaking down eCommerce revenue right out of the box. It can tell you individual orders by day, by SKU, by category – pretty much however you want to break it down.
If you do some of the primary grunt work, Google Analytics will be able to tie and attribute your revenue to specific actions. This is hugely important in seeing what things you’re doing right and what could use improvement.
If it’s organic search it’s your SEO work. If it’s paid search then it’s obviously your paid search. Pretty straightforward for tracking the B2B products you sell online.
As tempting as it may be, we strongly urge you to avoid the one pitfall that most advertisers fall into when considering analytics: looking at spend and gross revenue.
If you spend $2,000 on a campaign and sell $4,000 worth of product, it probably looks good.
But the fact of the matter is, most sellers are looking at 20-40% margins. So your ROAS on the campaign might have only been $1,000.
The moral of the story is, anytime you’re looking at B2B eCommerce analytics, don’t look at gross revenue. Look at post-margin net revenue instead.
The magic number with ROAS is 3x, by the way.
You want to your post-margin net revenue to be three times what you spent on ads.
These are the six pitfalls that a lot of folks fall into when getting started with B2B eCommerce. But not to worry. If you think about all of these things and put in the effort to jumpstart your eCommerce efforts the right way, you could build an eCommerce store in like a day.
If you really want to.
Would it be absolutely perfect? Probably not.
But could you still do it and start selling stuff today? Sure, why not?
Once you tweak your B2B online selling efforts over time and make things better as you go, you can join the many millions of people who sell their fair share of stuff online.