The business world is changing. Every year, more and more business turns to ecommerce – a market that grows rapidly. Many of us think of ecommerce and picture big, consumer brands like Amazon, but the B2B ecommerce opportunity is a whopping $7.7 trillion.
Business buyers aren’t far behind. There’s a growing expectation within many companies that demands access to faster, more convenient ecommerce buying options. Winning and retaining those customers depends on meeting their ecommerce expectations. So much so that 42% of B2B companies consider customer retention the top metric for gauging the success of ecommerce programs.
With all the opportunity B2B ecommerce holds, what’s holding companies back? When customer retention is the name of the game, some B2B sellers worry about the fate of customer relationships in the new digital world.
Here’s how you can build and maintain strong relationships with your ecommerce business customers.
1. Keep Lines of Communication Wide Open
When we shift from doing business over the phone or in person to online, one of the biggest shifts happens on the communication end. Ecommerce tends to create more one-way and transactional communication. That makes it hard to win customer trust and build strong, lasting relationships.
Online, you have to be more deliberate about establishing and promoting clear, open lines of communication between customers and your business.
Your ecommerce website is one example of the one-way communication that happens. So how can you turn a website into a clear and open line of communication? Transparency. Product listings, company details, pricing information… everything on your website should transparently convey the info customers come looking for.
2. Provide Top Notch Customer Support
When buying and selling becomes more transactional, the remaining two-way communication channels really have a chance to shine. In the ecommerce world, that’s usually your customer service or support. With fewer two-way touchpoints between customers and your business, it’s vital to make each one count. That’s why providing the best possible customer support is key.
Online customer support has developed a lot in the last few years – your options are practically endless. There are searchable knowledge bases, customer forums, FAQs… endless ways to get customers the information and support they need. Self-service support has its place, but when it comes to building long-term relationships online, your two best customer service options are:
- Live chat, and
- Phone support.
Why? What both of these support channels have in common is that they reopen bilateral communication between the customer and your team. When your support team chats with customers that way, it’s wildly easier to get an understanding of customer needs and to ensure every single transaction is a positive experience.
Here are a few ways to ensure customers have the best support experience possible:
- Treat support as your competitive advantage. Providing top notch support opens up a huge opportunity to boost customer acquisition and retention. Support can be your competitive advantage in a sea of similar products and businesses – prioritize accordingly.
- Give customers one-on-one attention. With a solution like live chat, it’s possible for support reps to handle multiple customer problems at once… but that doesn’t mean they should. Every customer deserves focused, one-on-one attention.
- Listen. Support teams are crunched for time and resources, so it’s tempting to through out the first solution that comes to mind. To best serve customers, though, reps needs to slow down and listen. Then find the best solution.
- Empower support agents. Bouncing customers from team to team or through tier after tier of escalation is a bad experience, plain and simple. Empower everyone on your support team with the authority to solve real customer problems.
3. Make It Easy To Be Loyal
B2B buyers, just like their consumer counterparts, are looking for the most effective solutions. That means the easiest, quickest, and most convenient business usually wins. If that’s you, your work doesn’t end after the first purchase – you also need to make it radically easy for business customers to stick around.
The most obvious way to do that is to focus on your reordering process. In the B2B world, buyers are often making the same order over and over. It’s your job to streamline that process and make it as easy as possible the next time.
4. Use Email to Your Advantage
Whether it’s reorder reminders, upselling, or order management, email marketing is one of your most powerful tools as a business – and you can wield that tool to help maintain strong customer relationships online.
The options with email are endless, but here are a couple ways you should definitely leverage email into customer relationship capital:
- Replenishment campaigns. Replenishment emails are just what they sound like – a reminder sent to customers around the time they should need to replenish whatever they ordered from you.
- Automated order management. If you’re thinking automation doesn’t sound much like relationship-building, it’s more about what automating allows you to do. Namely, keep in touch with customers more often and free up time spent on routine tasks. Time you can better spend on other relationship-building activities.
Bring Customer Relationships Into the Digital World
The shift to ecommerce can be scary for B2B businesses who thrive on building strong, lasting relationships with their customers – but it isn’t one or the other. You can both take advantage of the massive B2B ecommerce opportunity and maintain valuable customer relationships.