Straight From The Source: What Do B2B Customers Want From You?

Autumn Customer*Autumn Leads – As summer becomes fall, generating and nurturing B2B leads becomes more important. The effort now pays off when buyers have budget surpluses in the winter and begin making purchases for the New Year. In this blog series, we look at how to generate and nurture B2B leads, with special consideration for the longer B2B sales cycle.

A lot of blood, sweat, and data has been spilled trying to determine what B2B prospects and customers want. It’s a seemingly endless battle to figure out what content they want to see when they arrive at your e-commerce website. And once in a while, a brave soul ventures forth with the idea: “Why don’t we ask them?”

In the first annual B2B Website Usability Report from KoMarketing Associates, the firm went straight to the source and asked B2B web buyers what exactly they want. According to the report, B2B buyers demand that the online sales process be made easy. Ease-of-use includes navigation of the site, finding relevant information, and reaching out to the vendor. If your e-commerce site doesn’t make it easy for your prospects, then they’re onto the next site.

B2B prospects and customers start out their journey very goal-oriented. They’re on a mission to qualify a vendor and move towards a purchase. Like the “B” in B2B, your customers are all business. And where do they go first? To your products and services pages.

Product and services information ranked highest (90%) in the types of pages and content deemed important by survey respondents. This makes sense given the focus on fastidiously qualifying vendors and then moving ahead. Prospects want to know if this is a journey worth making.

Because the potential customer’s initial attention is given to the product pages, we recommend using high-quality images and rich descriptions for each offering. Visually dynamic and evocative images (like 360 degree views) go a long way towards instantly grabbing a visitor’s attention. Video content also allows you to demonstrate complex and technical products. If you neglect your product pages, your customers may never reach your other content.

After your product and services info, 61% of B2B prospects and customers find the “About” page to be important. Many B2B buyers don’t just look to buy products. They look to enter long-lasting relationships. Your own company info, such as what your values are and who works there, go a long way to proving that you’re worth the time investment.

The next part of your website that B2B buyers consider important (37%) is your marketing collateral. After your website guests confirm interest in you and your products, the next step is research. This is where you impress them with your unique value proposition, your special knowledge of the industry, and a one-of-a-kind viewpoint. Your marketing materials are how you make your case and differentiate yourself from your competitors.

The desired marketing materials on your website include case studies, white papers, articles, and blog posts.   Articles and blogs are great for education and continued engagement, while whitepapers and case studies are more in-depth content useful for capturing leads via specialized landing pages and lead forms. According to the survey, B2B prospects and customers find that these four types of content are consistently lacking from B2B e-commerce sites.

Case studies, whitepapers, articles, and blogs also make the “must-have content” list for B2B buyers. Other “must-have content” from the study includes pricing info, technical details, and shipping information. These three types of information reflect the goal-oriented nature of B2B shoppers.

Asking B2B buyers directly what they want reveals a lot about their behavior. According to this research, they go straight from the product pages. Then when the product is right, they want to learn about the company and brand behind the solution. When both of those check out, B2B buyers look to the marketing collateral for convincing. So if you want to impress your online visitors, stand above your competition, and increase sales, then optimize your content for all three of these stages. That’s straight from the source.

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Does It Take A Village to Raise Conversion Rates?

village*The Biggest Shopping Day(s) of the Year – We’re only a couple months away from Thanksgiving, which means two things: turkey; and the biggest shopping days of the year. In this blog series, we look at ways for you to prepare your e-business to increase revenues during this time.

Some say it takes a village to raise a child. But according to new research, it’s best to use a whole village of tools to raise conversion rates. Econsultancy’s Conversion Rate Optimization Report researches the top tools and tactics that companies are using to boost their business. So let’s take a look at what tools are available to maximize your conversions.

Many of the usual suspects topped the list. A/B testing, multivariate testing, usability improvements, customer journey analysis, segmentation, cart abandonment analysis, and more. These are all effective tactics for your company to use to improve conversion rates for your eCommerce website.

But if you’re thinking, “Which one is best for me?” then you’re asking the wrong question. The research proves that it’s not about “which one”, but which ones. Plural. eCommerce companies found the most success in boosting conversion rates when combining multiple tactics.

Two-thirds of companies that use three or more of these tools for optimization saw a significant increase in conversion rates.

Sure, some tactics prove to be more effective than others. A/B testing, customer journey analysis, and shopping cart abandonment analysis are used by many companies. But by combining the powers (like Captain Planet), the different tools are able to build on each other, multiplying their effectiveness.

For example, let’s look at shopping cart abandonment analysis. By analyzing the process of checkout when users leave your website, you have a better idea of why they’re leaving behind their carts and how to encourage them to complete the purchase.

There are a number of reasons people leave their shopping carts. One frequent reason is when they discover a surprise cost (such as shipping). Other reasons to abandon their cart include a difficult or long checkout process or because a certain part of the site didn’t work well on mobile. By identifying when and where the customer leaves the site, analytics gives you the opportunity to rectify the problem.

For our hypothetical, imagine that you notice a lot of potential customers are bouncing from your site on page three of your checkout process. Obviously, this is no good. Maybe your checkout is too long?   Or unclear? Maybe you’re forcing them to register in a cumbersome process?

So with the goal of raising conversion rates, you create a new checkout process.

The lesson to take away from this study is that one is not always the best number. So instead of creating one new checkout process, you create two different checkout pages. The registration fields, the calls-to-action, and the design still feature your brand, but they are different.

As eager as you are to increase your conversion rates, there’s just no way to use your two great checkout processes at the same time for the same customer. How do you know which one is better?

The answer to that is to use A/B testing. One of the aforementioned study’s top tactics, A/B testing allows you to send some customers to checkout page A and others to checkout page B and then determine which has the higher conversion rates.

By utilizing two tactics in shopping cart abandonment analysis and A/B testing, you’ve further improved your chance that the customer will take their cart all the way from checkout to purchase. Like peanut butter and chocolate, different tastes work even better when they’re together.

When choosing which tactics to deploy, you’re limited only by time, money, and imagination. Shopping cart analysis and A/B testing are just the beginning. The companies that use three or more of the top tools are the most successful at raising conversion rates, so reach into your toolbox and grab a handful.

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Prove and Improve Your Marketing: Using Business Metrics for eCommerce

Scale*The Biggest Shopping Day(s) of the Year – We’re only a couple months away from Thanksgiving, which means two things: turkey; and the biggest shopping days of the year. In this blog series, we look at ways for you to prepare your e-business to increase revenues during this time.

Rulers, scales, software analytics. Three ways to measure. How important is measuring, particularly for the results of your online marketing? Turns out the answer is “very important.”

According to the 11th Annual Marketing Performance Management Survey (a joint effort by Forrester, ITSMA, and Vision Edge Marketing), the marketers that use business metrics and analytics are the ones that lead in customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and market share.

Why Use Business Metrics?

Business metrics are used to set goals and objectives prior to embarking on a new marketing campaign. They also help you analyze the success of your current marketing plans to give you more information if you decide to change course. Business metrics are especially useful for eCommerce because your own website analytics give you tons of information to assess your performance.

So Everyone Uses Business Metrics, Right?

Surprisingly, everyone does not use business metrics! According to the Marketing Performance Management Survey, only 40% of marketers felt that measuring the value of marketing is either “very important” or “critical” to success. Worse, less than 10% of senior executives relied on this marketing data to help make decisions. There’s a lot of knowledge being left unused. So if you want to not only improve your marketing, but also prove its worth to your company, here are three metrics to consider when setting objectives for your marketing campaigns:

Average Order Value.

When it comes to business metrics for eCommerce, average order value is at the top of our list. One of the benefits of using this metric is that it’s relatively easy to determine. Average order value is simply the average amount of money your customers spend per order.

This metric is used in several ways. One successful strategy is to segment visitors based on their average order value. If higher order values come from specific ads or search queries, this is valuable knowledge. Average order value is also used as a baseline to test new campaigns and promotions. If you embark on a new strategy of upselling, cross-selling, or bundling of products, you might see your average order value rise. On the other hand, if these business metrics drop, you know to reassess your marketing and potentially reverse course.

Customer Lifetime Value.

Rather than calculating a simple difference between how much it costs to acquire a customer and how much they bought on their first purchase, why not consider the entire long-term relationship? Take a bird’s eye view of your customers. You get a better idea of your return on investment when you see that larger picture of the lifetime value of the customer. Customer lifetime value also makes our list of important business metrics because it takes fewer resources to keep a customer than to get an all new one!

eCommerce, especially in the B2B space, benefits greatly from repeat customers and brand loyalty. Online registrations, profile creation, and community involvement are all signs of engaged customers. Email campaigns and online discounts are often used to entice customers to return. Customer lifetime value allows you to look at both your acquisition costs as well as costs related to customer retention, and then you compare those with the customer’s entire worth to your company.

Conversion Rate.

Conversion rate is another one of the key eCommerce business metrics. Your conversion rate is the percentage of people that actually complete a purchase on your site, rather than simply visiting and leaving. On one hand, a low conversion rate might tell you that your quality of referrals is poor. If you have a broadly targeted ad, your visitors may be coming from all over without a specific interest in your solution. On the other hand, if you are confident with your quality of visitors, take a look at your site design, presentation, or even your value offerings for improvement.

A/B testing is an excellent way to improve conversion rates. A/B testing pits variations of two different pages against each other. Whether testing landing pages, product pages, or even designs of your checkout process, A/B testing determines whichever page or design has the better conversion rate, so you always know what’s working. Sometimes a simple change in your call-to- action is all it takes to raise conversions.

Prove and Improve.

By using business metrics, you prove how well your company’s marketing is working while simultaneously pinpointing where you have room for improvement. So take a look at your average order value, customer lifetime values, and conversion rates, and set some new goals for yourself based on tangible improvements. The data we’ve outlined helps you reach those objectives by building a foundation for prediction of the future and measurement of the past. Make good enough predictions, and your executives might just go from ignoring marketing data to thinking you’re a psychic.

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Gaining the Mobile Advantage: Analytics and Customer Experience

blue mobile*The Biggest Shopping Day(s) of the Year – We’re only a couple months away from Thanksgiving, which means two things: turkey; and the biggest shopping days of the year. In this blog series, we look at ways for you to prepare your e-business to increase revenues during this time.

With smartphones booming and mobile data consumption soaring, it’s no surprise that we’re big fans of implementing a mobile solution for your e-commerce site. We recommend being wherever the customer wants to be, whether at the desk, on the go, or on the couch.

But are you really leveraging your mobile advantage? The competitive advantage of mobile is gained when you not only make your site useful for mobile, but when you also deploy analytics to assess what your visitors are actually doing to improve their customer experience.

Analytics and Strategy.

Research by Forrester suggests that e-businesses are not getting the most out of mobile. Only 46% of companies used mobile analytics, and worse 40% didn’t have any mobile strategy at all! This gives you a prime opportunity to swoop in and save the day, appealing to these underserved mobile customers. You leverage your mobile advantage when you use customer insights to improve the customer’s experience, improving their journey and offering them content specific to their interests.

Customer Experience: Beyond Engagement.

The majority of companies surveyed by Forrester listed customer engagement (via traffic, page visits, and logins) as their highest priority. And 74% focused on this as their primary metric for success. Engagement is important, but these same businesses neglected continued engagement. The key to continued engagement is a positive customer experience and a happy customer. But of those companies that felt they could be successful with a mobile strategy, only 8% measured customer experience. To gain the mobile advantage over competitors, dig deeper into how and why a customer engages.

Customer Journey: The ‘How’

How did your customer visit your site? How do they engage with each page? For how long? Understanding the “how” of engagement helps you optimize the customer experience to ensure they stick around on your site beyond their first few clicks. Use analytics to determine if your mobile shopping cart is cumbersome (by analyzing abandonment) or if your lead forms are too long (by analyzing bounce rate on each page of a registration form).

Then compare this with your desktop site to see if there’s anything particular about your mobile navigation or design that requires attention. By testing to see if these changes affect conversion rates and lead generation, you’re going above and beyond engagement to secure a mobile advantage.

Relevant Content: The ‘Why’

Why is your customer at your site? To find a specific product? For particular information? Knowing why your customer engages with your site allows you to present them with content relevant to their purpose. And the mobile device itself offers unprecedented ability to personalize content. Personalization makes sense for what is a highly personal device.

Phones and tablets are almost always connected, to both the web and social media. Mobile platforms offer unique features, such as location-based technology, that give you even more insight. Analytics also tell you how customers have behaved in the past, whether pages visited or purchases made. If you want to leverage your mobile advantage over competitors, look to your analytics to find a way to deliver contextual content to your customer.

The Journey Across Devices.

When it comes to mobile, customers often use multiple devices as well. A consumer might begin their search on a phone, continue research on a tablet, and finalize the sale on a PC. If you want to gain more context into how your customer behaves, track them across as many platforms as possible. Across the whole journey. Tracking the journey is one way to secure a mobile advantage over competitors. Forrester’s research shows that only 17% of businesses tracked customers across more than one channel while 36% didn’t track their journey at all!

Conclusion.

Forrester’s report concluded by determining that many businesses are using analytics like customer engagement to prove that their site works on mobile, but these same businesses are neglecting if customers actually enjoy using that site on mobile. For a larger mobile advantage, dig deeper into your analytics than your competitors. Focus on more than engagement. More than page hits and logins. Set your sights on the customer experience. With mobile analytics, the world is your oyster, and data is the pearl.

 

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Cross-selling and Upselling: Selling More Per Order

Cross Selling*The Biggest Shopping Day(s) of the Year – We’re only a couple months away from Thanksgiving, which means two things: turkey; and the biggest shopping days of the year. In this blog series, we look at ways for you to prepare your e-business to increase revenues during this time.

In the great Animal Farm by George Orwell, a handful of pigs ruling a farm use a simple commandment: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Of course, in this great satire, Orwell is showing that the animals were not equal. We’d like to use this quote to illuminate a common misconception that all orders are created equal.

One surprising fact about eCommerce is that your profits are just as dependent on how much your customers spend per order as the sheer number of how many orders get placed. This is especially true for B2B companies, where cultivating long-term relationships in niche markets is the norm. This average order value makes an important metric when looking for areas of improvement for your eBusiness. And the best way to raise an average order value is by improving your cross-selling and upselling efforts.

What are Cross-selling and Upselling?

While customers sometimes resent having items forcefully pushed on them for which they have no interest, they do actually want to be told about products related to their interests or current purchase. With cross-selling, you offer products related to the initial purchase. For example, if your customer puts a bicycle into their shopping cart, you are cross-selling when you offer them a bicycle helmet.

On the other hand, upselling is making your customer aware of higher-priced and presumably higher value products. If you want to upsell bicycles, your site would present three bikes in a progression of lowest price/value to highest price/value. Looking at all the features of the higher value bicycle may be enough to push that customer into the next bracket.

Focus on the Customer.

The success of cross-selling and upselling depends on where you put your focus. If your focus is on your own ability to sell, then you may miss the mark by pushing products onto an uninterested consumer. The key to increasing your average order value with these techniques is to put the focus directly on the customer. Cross-selling and upselling work because they are offering items that you know are relevant to your customer.

Related Items.

One way to ensure relevance to your customer is through your recommendation engine. A recommendation engine finds related items to present to your customer, such as our example of the bicycle helmet. It’s a good idea to personalize these suggestions as well, even in your copy. “You might be interested in ______.”appeals to customers more than “We also found a _____.” Again, the focus is on the customer.

Related Customers.

Another way to encourage cross-selling and upselling is to show one customer what other similar customers have bought in the past. In our interconnected, social world, people tend to trust other people just like them more than they trust a sales pitch. A quality eCommerce solution is able to take note of what the first customer has in their cart and relate it to past purchases by other customers. By suggesting, “Customers who bought this bicycle also bought this bike helmet,” you’re adding an instant social validation to your cross-selling strategy.

Bundles and Discounts.

Product bundles, especially those that offer discounts, are enticing to customers. Sure, the customer may want a bicycle and a helmet, but they might just put off the helmet purchase for later. If they buy the bike and helmet in the same transaction and save money doing so, however, this provides ample incentive to make an all-in-one purchase. Similarly, offers of free shipping for orders over a certain dollar amount encourage users to cross that sales line. If a customer is $10 away from free shipping, they may just be coaxed into buying the higher priced product if that allows them to save money on shipping costs.

Average Order Value.

It is possible to increase your sales and profits without earning a single new customer (although we recommend getting new customers also!)   By increasing your customers’ average order value with cross-selling and upselling techniques, you better serve their interests and your own revenue. Focusing on the customer and finding new ways to deliver products to them is a win-win.

 

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