Selling to both consumers and businesses is one way to gain an edge on the competition and increase your market share. However, figuring out the best method of selling to two very different audiences isn’t as easy.
Around 74 percent of small business owners indicate scalability is one of the most important factors for growing their businesses. Unifying your B2B and B2C business saves your company money and effort and allows you to scale up more easily than having two separate sites.
However, there are a few challenges with unifying both sides of your online business. Keep these eight elements in mind as you pull together both types of e-commerce into one platform.
1. Make a List of What’s the Same
Whether you sell to other businesses or directly to consumers, there are some similar elements of the process. Look at the journey each type of buyer takes through your site and list out what the similarities. Can you vary the number of items, such as through a wholesale discount, but the actual checkout process is the same? What elements differ between B2B and B2C orders? For example, you may need to add a line for B2B clients for tax exemption information.
ServiceMaster Restore offers home services for residential and commercial properties. They have one home page with the option to also navigate to “Residential Services” and “Commercial Services.” Users go one way or the other, depending upon their needs. However, combining both types of services creates an opportunity for increased profits. Business owners are often homeowners and vice versa.
2. Unify Your Inventory
Even though you might sell products to both B2B and B2C, your inventory systems can be consolidated, so you have a handle on what is in your warehouse at all times. Unifying your inventory allows you to see patterns in sales and ensures you always have the items on hand for both consumers and businesses. Integrating your online shopping cart with your database also keeps information in real time. If you have an offline sales department or store, your sales force will know what items are in short supply and what needs moved.
3. Highlight Varied Uses
When you serve different buyer personas, your product typically has multiple uses to different segments of society. One way of ensuring your site speaks to each of your different personas is by listing the industries you serve. While this might seem limiting at first glance, it doesn’t mean you won’t sell to others. Your goal is simply focusing on the main uses for your product or service.
EZ Dock offers dock solutions for a number of different types of clients. They highlight the various uses of their product with categories such as those looking for PWC ports, kayak launches, boat ports and swimming docks. Further down their landing page, they list some of the different types of industries using their docks including residential, commercial, government and industrial.
4. Hire Better Design People
A unified site keeps costs lower. This means you can invest more in your website design and hire the absolute best designers and marketers within your budget. With only one main site to maintain, you’ll try different methods and test them thoroughly to see what converts best with your target audience. Skilled UX designers will help you plan the best ways of reaching leads.
5. Enhance Customer Experience
The experience your customers have on your site (UX) impacts the reputation of your brand and whether users return to your site for future orders. With a unified site, you can focus on creating an amazing customer service experience. Look at elements users appreciate, such as live chat staffed with knowledgeable agents. Although there are many factors which improve CX, excellent customer support is a big indicator of how happy people will be when they leave your site.
Office Max caters to both consumer and business clientele. Throughout the site, they indicate you can take advantage of bulk pricing on things such as paper and printer ink. However, their customer service is integrated and includes multiple ways to get in touch with them. Because they integrate both types of audiences, they can create strong customer service that gives them a good reputation among both individuals and businesses.
6. Invest in Better Logistics
No matter what type of customer you serve, good logistics are one of the keys to keeping that customer with your brand and developing a sense of loyalty. Think about how Amazon does this as an example. They offer Prime shipping so their members get packages within a couple of days. Utilizing warehouses, they get packages out within minutes of the order being placed and then team up with the USPS and other shipping providers (including some of their own employees) to get packages delivered on time.
Your company may not be as big as Amazon, but that doesn’t you mean you can’t combine the logistics of both branches of your company to improve your shipping speeds. The first key involves your website design and combining shipping options into your shopping cart.
7. Narrow Your B2B Focus
The very nature of B2B sales means you target a narrow niche of customers, whereas B2C has a much wider base of potential buyers. Keep this in mind as you revamp your site for both B2B and B2C customers. What is the narrow niche for B2B and how can you define your value to potential clients?
Flexfire LEDs sells to both individuals and businesses. They use a grid system and list out some of the advantages of using their products and provide details for each use. For example, they have a section titled “Control Your Lights” and another titled “Freedom of Color.” Relevant images of their product in various locations, such as a bar or a living room show the various uses of each item. They further invite site visitors to contact them for project design support.
8. Find Your Brand Voice
One challenge of speaking to both types of customers at once is getting the tone right. However, if you have a specific voice for your brand, this becomes easier. While the topics that interest your B2B customers may differ from those that interest your B2C customers, your brand’s focus shouldn’t change. If your goal is to solve a specific problem, then your messaging should still reflect your goals and personality. You’ll offer content from two perspectives rather than one. Your storytelling should be more brand driven so all buyer personas relate to your content.
Look for ways of combining operations between B2B and B2C so you can reduce costs and improve results. Communicate between different departments to ensure you fully understand the best ways of marketing to each client base. Make notes about what meshes well and what must be kept separate — such as wholesale prices. Although there are challenges in combining B2B and B2C operations on one website, the benefits outweigh the risks.
Eight B2C Website Benefits
As a business to consumer company (B2C), your audience range is much more extensive than if you were merely targeting business owners in a specific industry. There are between 2 and 3 million e-commerce companies around the globe, with 1.3 million of those located in North America. Knowing your target audience becomes extremely important to delivering information in a way that speaks to them.
Your business is different than any other company out there — the key is in figuring out how to convey that to your potential customers. Fortunately, there are a few key things you can do to ensure your website is built precisely for those people you most want to reach. When a visitor lands on your page, they should go through a funnel that creates a conversion.
Here are eight tips to follow to ensure your company’s website is benefiting your audience:
1. Realize You Can’t Compete Financially With the Big Guys
Small and mid-size businesses need to understand they can’t compete with the big box retailers when it comes to price or advertising budget. However, you can compete in other areas, such as by offering better customer service or personalization options.
Figure out how you’re different and inform your target audience about it. Many customers abandon a purchase because of a bad customer service experience — in fact, 78 percent of people don’t complete a purchase of something they intended to buy due to poor service.
Warby Parker is an eyeglass company that offers glasses for half or less of what you would pay at most vision stores. For example, a simple frame for a woman is about $95, and that price includes the lenses. They have earned a reputation for their outstanding customer service from patrons’ stories about the store going above and beyond.
For example, one man left his glasses on a commuter train, and someone who worked for Warby Parker found them. When he got home, both the originals and a new pair from Warby Parker were waiting on him. That type of experience is one that stays with the consumer.
2. Personalize the Customer Experience
One way you can compete with the big guys is by personalizing the experience of your customers. Customers care about the time they spend on your website. So, improving the experience a customer has on your site improves customer retention by about 42 percent and customer satisfaction by 33 percent. Also, you’ll increase your up-sells and cross-sells.
There are many ways you can improve the experience visitors have on your website. Boosting your site’s speed is one of the best things you can do. You’ll also want to make navigation intuitive and limit the information on your landing page to just the most essential elements.
3. Anticipate Your Audience’s Needs
What are the things the typical person landing on your website is looking for? If you can anticipate the needs of your site visitors, you can deliver what they want.
The best way to figure this out is by first studying analytics for your site. Who is the typical person visiting? Moms? Millennials? Baby Boomers? Armed with this information, you can figure out why that user persona is on your website, as well as what you need to deliver to satisfy their needs. Next, study heat maps to figure out which areas on your landing page your visitors use most frequently.
Look at what Clopay Doors does to anticipate the needs of their site visitors. The company understands the average visitor is coming to browse through possible door replacements for their home. So, they show some of their more popular styles in an easy-to-digest grid layout. Then, they allow the user to choose a few styles to compare. They’ve anticipated their target audience will likely want to look at several options, and in turn, have given them the tools to do just that.
4. Use an Aesthetically Appealing Design
Is your site visually appealing? It might seem like a minor factor, but your site’s appearance has a significant impact on your site visitors, particularly the average consumer.
A site that is visually appealing has a delicate balance of positive and negative space — people tend to shy away from sites that are too cluttered. They also expect specific features to be in certain places, such as a navigation bar near the top of the page and your logo on the top left. These little touches can mean the difference between a site visitor who converts into a customer and a site visitor who bounces away.
5. Localize Your Business
If you run a small business, localization is one of the critical components of a successful online strategy. The best way to achieve localization is by integrating how your site performs with the IP address of the site visitor. This allows you to direct the person to the right landing page that will best meet their needs.
Look at the Living Social landing page. The site uses your IP address to figure out approximately where you are. Then, they present deals for that area so you can shop for local restaurant certificates and activities. This highly targeted, localized B2C marketing is much more efficient than showing the site visitor items that don’t apply to their shopping needs.
6. Include Video Content
In a survey of B2C marketers, 34 percent felt video was a key component of marketing success. Video engages the site users and allows you to deliver content to answer any questions they may have. With higher Internet connection speeds and more people accessing your site via mobile devices, adding video makes sense for most businesses.
7. Integrate Your Website With Your Social Media Profiles
About 81 percent of Americans have at least one social media profile, so integrating your company’s social media accounts into your website can create a rich experience for the consumer. It’s essential that people can quickly follow and engage with your company online. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is to include a link to your social media profiles on your homepage. You should also provide visitors with easy ways to share articles and other content from your site on social media.
Sky’s Guide Service offers a feature at the bottom of their page that instructs visitors to “find us.” This works well because users will then recognize the icons for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. They’ve also focused on social media their typical customer is likely to use. If you navigate to their blog, they’ve further integrated Facebook with the site by throwing up a feed of posts and inviting you to like their page.
8. Display Visual Data
You may be tempted to fill your site with mostly text and fewer images. After all, the page will load faster, and isn’t speed essential? The problem is that people respond to images better than text. So, while speed is important, it’s better to compress images, add caching features and figure out other ways to speed up your site than by not using pictures.
Using visuals to display data is an efficient way to deliver information to your site visitors. For example, when people follow directions with both text and illustrations, they complete tasks about 323 percent better than people without the pictures.
Back to Audience Demographics
Of course, every marketing concept always comes back to audience demographics. Who is your target customer? Once you know the ins and outs of their needs, you can customize the content you deliver to their needs. Your website should be an ongoing petri dish, where you try different tactics and continually improve the experience for your average site visitor.