Improve Your B2B Ecommerce Revenue With These 5 Suggestions

by Jenna Compton
June 2, 2015

If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce company, you probably have a list of goals or benchmarks focused on improving your performance. Like most business goals, these are directly related to increasing your revenue.

Much of the advice you’ll find online is targeted toward B2C businesses, so it can be difficult to understand how to take that advice and copy/paste it to your B2B company.

Don’t stress out anymore. We wrote this post just for you.

Rather than wading through all the B2C tips and racking your brain with thoughts like “how the heck can I do that in this strict and complex (read: stale) business environment?”, read our specific tips below that can help you freshen up your market, increase your B2B performance, and ultimately improve your ecommerce revenue.

1. Don’t Underestimate Customer Satisfaction

“The customer is always right” is a mantra usually associated with B2C companies, but has recently been a hot topic in B2B startup successes.

The perfect example is the company on everyone’s lips right now (B2B and B2C): Slack, a B2B SaaS company. Slack has successfully taken their customer feedback and turned it into a company with a $1B valuation in just 2 years.

How did they do it? Active listening.

Slack’s approach to improving their product was listening to customer feedback. It sounds something like the “Build, Measure, Learn” principle from Eric Ries. After polishing up their product based on feedback from early testers, Slack was ready to launch their Beta invitation. They received 8,000 requests on Day 1, and grew to 15,000 in two weeks.

“From the get-go, Slack made sure that users could respond to every email they received, and approached every help ticket as an opportunity to solidify loyalty and improve the service. As they listened to their ever-growing flock of users, the Slack team iterated accordingly.” (source)

It’s a great strategy, but how can you apply it? Get to work discovering and developing your customer. You may think you have a customer base already, perhaps you’ve been in business for years now. If revenue is declining, something’s not right. A great resource to get you started on learning who your customer is (and how you can listen to them) is Steve Blank. Here’s an informative post on customer development (long read).If you’re looking for something shorter, check out his book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, or another book inspired by his methodology The Lean Startup.

2. Use Remarketing

If you’ve ever seen ads “following” you around the Internet, you’re a success-story of remarketing. Whatever website you just visited now has a general (or very specific) idea of what you’re interested in. Voila! Now you see their ads are everywhere: other websites you visit, Facebook, your email. The idea behind remarketing is to identify a potential customer, learn about them, and target them to advertise products or services based on what was learned.

By utilizing cookies, you can advertise on other sites that your visitors are viewing using Google Ads. Google Ads offers several options:

  • Standard remarketing: Show ads to your past visitors as they browse Display Network websites and use Display Network apps.
  • Dynamic remarketing: Show dynamic ads to past visitors with products and services they viewed on your website as they browse Display Network websites and use Display Network apps.
  • Remarketing for mobile apps: Show ads to people who have used your mobile app or mobile website as they use other mobile apps or browse other mobile websites.
  • Remarketing lists for search ads: Show ads to your past visitors as they do follow-up searches for what they need on Google, after leaving your website.
  • Video remarketing: Show ads to people who have interacted with your videos or YouTube channel as they use YouTube and browse Display Network videos, websites, and apps.

Though ads are an effective approach in reminding your potential customer of what you have that they like, remarketing extends beyond strictly advertising. Consider channels like email as a channel to remind your demographic why your ecommerce business is the best solution. You can use email to:

  • Show items a user abandoned in their cart (subscription / plan / training materials)
  • Suggest an upcoming event based on previous products/services they’ve viewed on your site
  • Suggest a relevant blog post based on previous interests they’ve expressed
  • Send them an email if they haven’t been around in a while (signed in / used app)

59% of B2B marketers say email is the most effective channel for generating revenue. (source) It makes sense. Remarketing via email takes the same approach as ad display, but pushes it to a more personal space: the Inbox.

To get started with your own remarketing campaign, read up on how it works on Google. That will take care of your remarketing advertising. Then, you can check out solutions like SumoMe, which offer subtle and effective solutions to collect email addresses, so you can strategize how to implement remarketing via email.

3. Remember the Importance of Storytelling

You’ve probably heard the importance of storytelling in the B2C space. Storytelling allows a brand to convey its message and sell their product(s) by engaging their audience with a compelling story. Psychologists actually say that stories are a necessary part of human survival! No wonder it works so well for marketing in the B2C space.

Guess what? It’s just as important in the B2B space. Storytelling in B2C works because you convey an emotion directly to a customer (a person). In the B2B market businesses are run by people who have emotions, too (They are not, in fact, robots with no heart and emotion, no matter how big of an asshole the CEO is). Oftentimes, B2B business owners get so caught up in the fact that they are selling to another company that they lose sight of the idea that actual people control the buying power. These people respond to emotion, just like any other customer.

That’s where your customer acquisition strategy comes in. Is storytelling a part of it? Here’s how to implement it into your marketing strategy:

Content Creation

Utilize social media and your blog to create content. Engage with your customers around topics they’re already talking about, but always adhere to “your voice” and “your expertise”. Check out this image that Cisco created to celebrate “Star Wars Day” with their audience.

Cisco Star Wars example of storytelling

[image via toprankblog.com]

“What if I’m not that creative?” Hire someone.

“What if I don’t have a budget for this type of initiative?” Make one (or hire an intern).

There are many available tools that make microcontent, like imagery, easy to create. Check out Canva for an easy way to design microcontent that looks well-designed. If you do have a budget to devote to this, Contently offers content creation tools via SaaS and their team of creatives.

Case Studies

Do case studies actually work? Yes. They happen to be the most influential type of content in both the awareness stage and the evaluation stage of B2B sales (source). You can use them as a part of your own strategy by constructing them correctly: outline the problem the company had prior to your solution, and how your product or service solved that problem. Spree Commerce has done a good job of providing thorough case studies – take a look at the problem they solved for one of our favorite ecommerce companies, Bonobos:

Spree Bonobos Case Study

Their PDF case study gives a short profile of Bonobos, outlines their problem, concisely discusses their solution highlighting key points, then summarizes with results. They bolster this case study with a quote from the CEO of the company, Andy Dunn. By using a quote from Dunn, Spree Commerce is able to leverage the fact that he holds quite a presence in the startup and ecommerce spaces. Not only that, just having Bonobos as a case study holds tremendous value for Spree because of its huge success in the industry.

Storytelling through social media and case studies is a part of your marketing strategy that should be relatively easy to implement if you know who you are as a brand. Be sure to stay consistent in your voice used on social media, and use that voice to also create case studies that bring value to your potential customers or clients. Talk about your company in a way that touches the emotions of the people on the other side of your B2B conversation.

4. Test Your Call to Action

Testing is a crucial part of any campaign because it helps you understand your customer. What type of headline triggers the best engagement? Does one color of button generate more action? What about button text (call to action)?

A service we use here at Blue Stout, Unbounce, provides great guidance in understanding and testing different calls to action. They cite one B2B study where changing one word on a button increased conversions by 38%. This study is an example of how the very text you place on your button can affect how the user interprets your offer.

This same Unbounce article says to ask yourself 2 questions after you’ve identified the CTA you want to optimize:

  1. What is my prospect’s motivation for clicking this button?
  2. What is my prospect going to get when he / she clicks this button?

Answering these questions will help you determine the new text you want to put on your button. Then, you can consider tweaking other things like alignment and color.

Related: Pay Attention to Your Ecommerce Design ($300 Million Dollar Button Change)

5. Design Matters

“Once your page loads, users form an opinion in 0.5 seconds.” (source)

Many B2B companies underestimate the importance of design. They think that it doesn’t hold as much importance as it does in a B2C space. Why?

B2B site goals are usually more complex than B2C site goals and at times can make having a nice design more challenging (especially if the business has many options to offer and a complex navigation structure).

Just like I mentioned above in the storytelling section: there are people behind these businesses. They emotionally respond to design just as customers in the B2C space do. Creating an effective design for a complex B2B site may be a bit more challenging than a B2C site, but it is just as necessary to appeal to the B2B decision makers as you would to a B2C buyer.

Other companies are beginning to have expectations in regards to standards of design. This is thanks to large companies like Apple who have inundated our lives with their design philosophy. We’re so used to a heightened design standard now that we appreciate it when other businesses reflect that in their own approach to design.

“Design-driven organizations understand just how valuable good design can be at every level of a business strategy. These organizations have become some of the most most recognizable and admired brands within their diverse verticals. Other companies are taking note, and, as a result, design-centric business philosophies are becoming the norm.” – Olive & co.

In other words, investing in design can directly impact your revenue as consumer expectations continue to follow the lead of companies like Apple, Adobe, and Slack. But since many B2B retailers still don’t think design is an important investment, design can actually become a competitive advantage for you.

Regardless of if your service or product is complex or not, you need to highly consider the UX of your B2B website. “B2B sites ought to emphasize usability more, not less, because they must help users accomplish more advanced tasks and research more specialized products.” (source). What does that mean?

It means that your website should be easy to use, especially if it’s B2B! Oftentimes, this means eliminating unnecessary text or elements. For a good grasp on embracing minimal design, check out this post by our friends at WP Curve.

Though initiating a site redesign isn’t a quick and easy task, there is an incredible amount of information you can read before you get started to prepare. The Market 8 Blog has put together a list of 10 things to do before you launch into a redesign:

  1. Ask the End Customer
  2. Ask You Sales & Marketing Teams
  3. Come Up With A Buyer Persona
  4. Map the B2B Customer’s Buying Process
  5. Create a Content & Conversion Plan
  6. Identify the User Objective of the Site
  7. Audit Your Current Website
  8. Clarify New User Flows
  9. Create & Test Wireframes
  10. Spell Out New Website Guidelines

You can read the longer, more in-depth article here. Overall, it’s worth consulting with a UX expert that can guide you through an analysis of your current site and where you can improve. After all, if competitors in your space aren’t emphasizing their design, this could be the very factor that sets you apart.

Related: 4 Critical Questions to Ask Before Designing Anything

What Do You Want to Improve?

We’ve outlined 5 suggestions for improving your B2B strategy. Have you tried any of them? If so, what were your own experiences? Do you have additional ideas on any of our points? We’d love to hear in the comments below.

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Jenna Compton Jenna is our Director of Marketing and provides regular contributions to the blog. When she's not reading about business, she can be found running, drinking good coffee, and fiddling with projects.