If your product is a red door on a wall with thousands of other red doors, what reason do potential customers have to buy your door instead of any other? When you’re surrounded by competitors, a competitive advantage will help you stand out and give customers a reason to say yes.
And in the world of B2B ecommerce, standing out is crucial.
That’s because B2B ecommerce is huge. It easily dwarfs the B2C ecommerce industry: We’re talking $2.8 trillion compared to $10.6 trillion, according to the 2019 Shopify Global e-commerce report. You can still get noticed by keeping your customer at the center of your efforts. In this article, we’ll share three competitive advantages for growing your ecommerce business.
Listen to Your Customers
Amazon climbed the ranks to reach Inc.’s number one brand value spot for 2018. How did they do it? Amazon has consistently expanded their customer offering. From their humble beginnings in 1994 as an online bookseller, they morphed into a retailer that provides nearly anything you could want.
Amazon drives growth by listening to their customers both directly and through analytics. By monitoring their customers’ buying behavior, Amazon created a straight line from cart to completed purchase with their popular one-click checkout. The website has grown easier to use and now makes suggestions based on your shopping habits. It all adds up to a brand that puts customer convenience first and is well-known across the globe.
What lessons can you take from successful companies like Amazon to become a brand they’ll never forget? Start with customer service. There are some simple ways to do that, including:
- Offer multiple points of contact. Make it easy for customers to contact your company by phone, email, social media, and chat.
- Practice professionalism and consistency across all customer-facing employees.
- Embrace feedback. Are you covering all of your customers’ needs? If you aren’t sure, ask your customers.
B2B payment processes can be complex and cumbersome. Don’t let that be your company. Customers don’t want to wonder what happened to your invoice. Using a fully digital invoicing and payment process makes the entire workflow trackable online. This can reduce wasted time and stress for both you and your customers.
What do Seth Godin, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs all have in common? They are all people you remember. If you want customers never to forget your brand, be memorable. Excellent customer service goes a long way to helping you reach that goal.
Create Content That Teaches
Salman Khan started tutoring his cousin by creating and posting videos online in the mid-2000s. He quickly saw how effective video learning was and decided to keep posting videos for anyone who wanted to watch. In 2008, the Khan Academy was born and had grown into a 150-person nonprofit.
American Express has been issuing travel guides since 1915. They are also well known for the American Express OPEN Forum, which allows customers to get help with a variety of questions from experts.
In both cases, these organizations used helpful content to enhance their customer’s lives through teaching. Creating useful content lets your customers learn in-detail about your products and services, problems your products can help solve, and related information that can help customers experience the product in new ways. Content doesn’t try to hard sell your product. Instead, it provides a useful message for customers while subtly discussing the product.
Consistently producing great content for customers can turn your website into a top resource. When a customer has a problem related to your expertise, they’ll remember all the quality content you’ve created. Instead of going to a competitor, they’ll type in your URL.
Allow Businesses to Pay Directly From Your Website
Because of customer preference, mailing a paper invoice and collecting a paper check might be your only option for some clients.
Thankfully, many businesses have moved to digital invoicing and payment processing. In fact, a 2017 KPMG report found that many governments are moving to electronic invoicing as a requirement.
As more B2B process become digital and the trend to mobile continues, ensuring you are able to accommodate digital invoicing and payments will become increasingly important.
Paying for products through a website is second nature to consumers. They enter in their credit card information (or, with a site such as Amazon, it’s already saved) and complete the checkout.
Small businesses are able to offer online payments, helped by the fact that the payment integration process has become much simpler in recent years. Depending on the volume and transaction size, some businesses may choose to go with a flat monthly processing fee rather than per transaction fee.
B2B transactions often involve trade credit, net-30 or net-60 payment terms, which delays the deposit of funds into the merchant’s bank account. Merchants often have little choice but to offer such terms as customers expect some sort of payment grace period.
Dealing with payment delays due to net terms can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. One solution is inviting your approved customers to pay you using Fundbox. This allows your B2B customers to take advantage of net terms, while you get paid right away—a win-win.
Change can be jarring for customers. Remember when Microsoft introduced the Ribbon in Office 2007? It was too big and too fast of a change for many people to absorb. What about the mid-2017 update to Skype? There was a big backlash against this change too because people had a difficult time figuring out how to do anything.
The moral of the story: Don’t make large customer-facing changes all at once. Introduce changes gradually and give customers time to absorb them. As you grow your ecommerce business, change is inevitable, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your customer’s satisfaction.
Slowly introducing the three tips from this article can help you achieve a competitive advantage. Customer feedback is one of your biggest assets that will help you grow. Their feedback will guide your content creation and process improvements. You’ll benefit from their feedback in the long run as you continue to build and expand your business.