Top 5 Dos and Top 5 Don’ts for B2B E-Commerce: What Inspired Davpack
There are right ways and wrong ways to go about running an e-store. We’ve been doing it for a long time now and, although we’d be the first to admit that we’ve made some mistakes along the way – inevitable when you consider that Davpack was a genuine trailblazer in taking packaging supplies online – we’re proud of the progress we’ve made and successes we’ve had.
Today’s newcomers to the world of e-commerce are luckier than we were when we started, because now there are a lot of handy online resources and guides which can help them avoid the perils and pitfalls of the business.
Here, then, is our guide to some of the key lessons we’ve learned over the years and how we’ve applied them to our site and our business.
Top 5 Dos
1 Provide in-depth descriptions & accurate photos
People, quite understandably, like to know what they’re buying. Always remember that there are important differences for customers between buying online and buying in a traditional shop. The main one is that when buying online, he or she can’t touch, feel or ask for more information about the item in question. And if you think things work differently when you’re selling B2B as opposed to B2C, think again!
Your job, then, is to present your product in as positive and accurate a way as you can; think of the questions you’d ask if you were looking to buy it. What are the key benefits of your product? What is it about your product or offer that means they should buy from you rather than your competitor?
Some things can be easier to write about than others. The first time I was asked to write about cardboard boxes, for example, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say! But the more you know and understand a product, the better you can describe and enthuse about it. Our marketing team includes someone with an editorial background and someone with a photography degree, so we’re confident we can put our products in the best possible light.
If you don’t feel you have the writing or photographic skills to do your product justice, then it is worth considering hiring someone who has; if you’re hiring a writer, it will usually help if they also understand a bit about current search engine optimisation practice.
There’s another important benefit for you in doing this part of the job properly at the very outset. If you miss out key information or mislead your prospective customers, no matter how unintentionally, they may well want to return the item in question. That means not only would you lose the sale, you might also need to pay for two lots of carriage and therefore make a loss into the bargain. And if they don’t return their purchase or even directly complain, they may still be unhappy with the service and decide not to buy from you again.
2 Engender trust
No matter how savvy we get with modern technology, there’s no escaping the fact that we feel happier handing our money over to a real person in a bricks-and-mortar shop than we do giving our credit card details to someone running an online store.
That means we have to work that little bit harder to earn the trust necessary to clinch the deal.
There are several ways you can do this. Demonstrating you run a secure site is the minimum you should be aiming for and, according to this report, different ‘secure site’ logos rank better with consumers than others. Unless you have very good reasons not to, providing an address and phone number for people to get in touch with you when there’s a problem, will also help. Even if they never have cause to ring it, just seeing a real number (not a premium rate line!) reassures a worried shopper.
3 Suggest related items
Any good salesperson should know to keep his or her eyes out for the chance to up or cross sell. Doing it online is trickier because you don’t have that one-to-one relationship going.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have opportunities, though. Some product ranges work better than others and we’re fortunate that many that we sell have things that naturally go with them. So, for example, if you’re buying cardboard boxes, there’s every chance you’ll be needing some packing tape to seal them with. And if you need some tape, then why not a dispenser to make the job easier?
When to make that pitch in the checkout process can be tricky. Make it too soon and you may distract your customer away from what he or she wanted in the first place and end up losing the sale completely. Make it too late and the customer could be so close to the end of the transaction that he or she really can’t be bothered to go off on a tangent.
It will depend on how you’ve got your site set up, but that usually makes the basket a good place to mention related products!
4 Make your pages quick to load, your designs clear and your ‘call to action’ buttons visible
It is now written into my contract that I have to mention in every blog that people are impatient these days. These Kissmetrics stats are perhaps my favourite ones regarding an e-commerce site, which every web designer should have seared into their memories: a web page that takes longer than three seconds to load can lose about 40% of its visitors; a one second saving in load time can lead to a 7% boost in conversions.
Meanwhile, Edgecast reports Amazon claiming that a slowdown of one tenth of a second can lead to 1% decrease in revenue!
And that impatience doesn’t just encompass how quickly your page loads; if your potential customers can’t immediately see the information needed or the means to accomplish what it is they’ve come to do (such as buy your product), then they won’t hang around too long to look for them.
The thing to remember from this is that while you certainly want your website to look good, it should never be at the expense of speed, clarity or functionality.
5 Earn customer reviews
We were talking about trust before, and knowing that others have bought from your site and had no problems is another way of gaining it. Positive reviews can have a significant effect on your conversions; this report details an increase of 36.73% in orders as a direct result of clearly displaying them.
You may notice, by the way, that the review site used is Trustpilot, the very same one we use here at Davpack. You may also notice that their boost in sales came as a result of an officially ‘Good’ rating, which means that they have an average score of between 8 and 9 out of 10. We currently have an average of 9.6 out of 10, making our rating officially ‘Excellent’.
Naturally, before you take this step, you need to be reasonably confident that you’re going to get predominantly positive feedback, because a very low score will inevitably lead to less people wanting to trust you.
Top 5 Don’ts
1 Ask for too much information
Most e-stores only need a few bits of information to successfully process and deliver an order: a name, an address, a phone number, an email address and payment details. Because the vast majority of our customers are companies and traders making regular orders, we also allow customers to set up an account by choosing a password.
Some people resent giving even that much information. Usually, if you explain the reasoning – an email address to send confirmation and an invoice, and a phone number in case there’s a problem with the delivery – they quickly come round. Ask for any more than this and you’ll start testing that patience we were talking about earlier.
If you want your customers to have an account, but understandably want to avoid the high bounce rate asking them to do so nearly always results in, you can always just not tell them that’s what you’re doing. If that sounds complicated or even underhand, read this excellent Econsultancy blog about the fashion site ASOS and you’ll see what I mean.
2 Save a nasty surprise for checkout
Always be upfront about what your customer will be paying. Most of our sales are B2B, so our headline prices are always exclusive of VAT; however, we do have to be aware that we get a lot of private individuals wanting to buy from us (especially people after house moving boxes and removal packaging). Those people expect to see inclusive prices – and if they don’t discover that until they get to checkout, they tend not to react very well!
The same goes for delivery costs. If, right up to the last part of the transaction, your customer thinks he or she is paying a certain amount, only for an extra charge to be dropped on them at the last minute, they can get very annoyed.
Our basket allows someone buying from us to enter their postcode and work out their delivery costs based on the amount they’re spending and where they are in the country – those within 20 miles of us have a lower ‘free delivery’ threshold as we deliver to them in our own vans.
Unfortunately, no matter how clear you try to be, you’ll always get the occasional person who doesn’t see it – perhaps because they just don’t want to! As the old saying goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
3 Forget the competition
Don’t ever get complacent. No matter how well you have done, or are currently doing, there’s always going to be someone, somewhere, trying to lure your customers away from you.
Just because you once had the best prices, provided the best service and delivered faster than anyone else, it doesn’t mean you always will.
So keep an eye on what your competition is up to. Check their prices; check what their customers are saying about them if they’re asking for reviews as well; check what offers they’re running and, if they’re on specific products, see whether your sales of that or the nearest equivalent product are affected as a result.
Put more succinctly, you should never stop trying to improve the service you offer your customers! Part of that process should be finding the time to reading blogs like this so you’re aware of and up to date with all the latest developments in marketing and e-commerce technology – you don’t want to get left behind!
4 Ignore bad reviews or complaints made online
The good thing about the internet is that pretty much anything you need to know is out there somewhere. The bad thing is that once it’s there, it’s usually there for good and anyone can read it anywhere, anytime.
If that’s a disparaging comment about you or your company, that can have a disastrous effect on your sales. We get the occasional bad review on Trustpilot – any company that doesn’t probably hasn’t been on the site long and will inevitably get one sooner rather than later – but a) we’ve learned to manage them and b) they’re a handful among many more good ones.
Nevertheless, although we hate getting them, we always try to learn from them – was there anything we could have done better and is there anything we could do in the future to stop it happening again.
At the very least, always make an effort to show that you’ve taken what your customer has said on board – not necessarily for their sake, but for the others reading it, because hopefully what they’ll take from it is that you care.
5 End the relationship once you’ve made the sale
Getting your hands on someone’s money and dispatching their order for them does not have to be the end of the matter. Good after sales service can leave a memory of a pleasant experience; that in turn will mean that they’re more likely to come back to you should they want your product or service again.
First, and probably most important, is to send their purchase to them when you said you would and do everything you possibly can to make sure it arrives safely. Naturally, we have a head start there, as a lot of what we’re selling is exactly the sort of stuff that ensures things travel safely through the postal system. The fact that the vast majority of our orders reach our customers on the next working day after they place their order also helps a great deal.
Occasional follow-up emails alerting people to your latest offers can also make a difference – if you’re not sure about how to write a good email, this blog reports some very useful research analysing which words and calls to action yield the greatest results, as well as advising on how frequently you should send them.
I could probably write for days and days about this subject, but that would need to be a book rather than a blog. It’s a massive subject and, as things are constantly changing, one I never stop learning about. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from running an e-commerce site and if you had to pick just one do and one don’t, what would they be? As usual, leave your comments below!