The ability to deliver unique experiences to customers, or “personalization,” is critical to your success, whether it’s in B2C or B2B eCommerce.
When thinking about personalization in eCommerce, many picture hyper-targeted ads, specific shopping recommendations, and personalized emails and promotions. We’re very familiar with this as consumers and, in fact, it works. According to a survey done by Accenture, “75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognizes them by name, recommends options based on past purchases, or knows their purchase history.” Another survey done by Infosys found that “74% of customers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized.”
However, when it comes to B2B eCommerce, personalization is much more complex than in B2C. It makes sense that even though we realize personalization is important, we’re often missing the mark in B2B.
In fact, only 46% of companies are successfully meeting customers’ expectations to “buy how they want to buy,” according to Real Results Marketing 2018.
Let’s take a look at what personalization really means, why it’s important to B2B buyers, and how B2B businesses can use personalization to improve the B2B eCommerce experience for their buyers.
What is Personalization?
Personalization is when an application or user experience delivers the content, experience, and functionality to meet the customers’ needs. Personalization is driven by the business that is running the application.
For example, if you log onto an eCommerce site and see a list of recommended items, the business is personalizing your experience by selecting specific recommended items for you based on your order history.
In the context of eCommerce, personalization is used to add value to a customer by making it better, easier, or faster to make a purchase. The key to personalization is to actively monitor and update the experience through content, features, and functionalities as the customer needs change.
Why is Personalization Important in B2B?
Unlike in B2C, in B2B eCommerce, you often have multiple buyer types who place orders from you. You might have…
- Inside Sales Reps or CSRs (Customer Service Reps) who take orders from customers over the phone and need to enter those orders, quickly and easily, on the customers’ behalf.
- Field Sales Reps who need great product content and visuals to use as sales and education material when out in the field talking with prospects and customers.
- Engineers who are making changes to product details and collections, and need to update and manage the product catalog.
- Procurement or Vendor Managers who manage the supply side of the experience, and need to be able to implement product, pricing, shipping and process changes for the suppliers they manage.
- Business buyers and/or key accounts who have unique demands when it comes to the way they want the ordering experience to look, feel and operate.
- Consumers who need to be able to find your product information via search and do their research before becoming a customer.
Personalization is so important in B2B because it allows you to segment each of your buyer types and design the corresponding experience, without creating entirely separate eCommerce applications or websites for each buyer type. When one type of user logs in, they may experience something totally different from another type of user, but with personalization, they’re experiencing that all on one eCommerce application.
How Can B2B Businesses Take Advantage of Personalization?
Custom Buyer Experiences
B2B businesses can personalize the buying experience at the account level, creating custom buyer experiences that make the B2B purchasing process faster and easier.
For example, a large restaurant supply distributor, like our customer Diversified Foodservice Supply might sell to many enterprise level accounts like Chipotle and Honey Baked Ham. Using personalization, the distributor can create custom buyer experiences for each of these enterprises that are all managed from the same back end. Each custom buyer experience can be branded and personalized to each account.
For another example, a global cosmetics manufacturer might have many types of users placing orders, including call center representatives, field sales reps, and salon owners. With personalization, each of these buyer types can have a custom order placing experience that shows particular product catalogs, special pricing, and built-in approval rules and even unique ordering processes specific to how they need to do their job.
In B2B, Pricing is complicated. Many B2B businesses have tiered pricing based on negotiated contracts that are usually agreed upon during the sales process.
Personalized pricing in eCommerce allows the agreed upon pricing included in each contract to be reflected in the buyer experiences. You can pull in market data, contract prices, and any prices that have been updated for any reason on the back end, and display them to the appropriate customer on the front-end.
Personalized pricing is a very valuable feature for B2B businesses that also have a public facing site where anonymous buyers can browse for products. By setting up personalized pricing, anonymous buyers are able to access full or partial product catalogs but pricing is hidden from this type of buyer. They are often required to create an account or reach out to a sales rep before being able to view pricing.
B2B product catalogs are often large and complex, containing thousands of SKUs, often with multiple references or part numbers.
Similar to pricing, it’s common for B2B buyers to only need access to a specific product catalog or parts of a product catalog. Your field sales representatives will need to view the full product catalog, whereas one of your customers may only need aspect to one of your product lines.
Personalization allows you to set up a unique view for each type of buyer.
You can also use personalization to dictate which product catalog they can access based on things like location, approval level, or account type if, for example, one of your accounts has store owners, managers or regional managers with unique permissions when it comes to the ordering process.
With personalization, you’re able to configure the cart and checkout process for each type of buyer, eliminating complexities and making the experience more streamlined. You may have one type of buyer, for example, that doesn’t need the ability to select payment methods and a delivery address at checkout, but another type of buyer who does. You may have regional managers who don’t place orders but need the ability to approve orders. You may have customer service reps who place orders on behalf of customers, and you still want those customers to be able to go in and view that orders’ details in their own account. With personalization, you can customize the ordering process for each of your unique buyer types.
How Can I Get Started with Personalization?
Now that you understand what personalization is and how it works in B2B eCommerce, it’s time to put your knowledge to work. Start by mapping out your key personas (consumers, business buyers, sales reps, customer service reps, warehousing and fulfillment reps, etc.). Document the ideal experience for each persona type, taking into account all aspects of the buyers’ experience:
- Account management
- Product/catalog access
By mapping this out, you’ll be able to identify where your gaps are in the experience you’re providing for each buyer type and the opportunity you have to increase loyalty across all of your customer types.