Global ecommerce sales have increased 800% since 2010, and retailer websites have evolved drastically in the face of this increasingly online retail landscape. Retailers have embraced an omnichannel world of social media, online marketplaces, SEO, customer reviews, chat-based customer service, and mobile apps.
Product pages have become easier to navigate, more informative, and more attractive, with real-time inventory tracking, high-res images, and easy check-out options. Retail consumers have become accustomed to speed, convenience, security, and a seamless experience across platforms.
B2B websites, meanwhile, have remained fairly static, incorporating the same design elements and philosophies you would find a decade ago. They can often be harder to navigate, with less attention given to branding and user experience. You’ll often find little more than a home page, an “About” page, and a minimal catalog.
Part of this disparity has to do with the nature of B2B sales. Sales are often done in person or over the phone more than online, and suppliers may believe that the things that create customer loyalty in retail don’t translate to the B2B world. But things are changing, partly due to the acceleration of virtual experiences brought on by the pandemic and partly due to the increasing acceptance of online transactions in other sectors. As a result, B2B websites will have to do a lot more to remain competitive. So what does a B2B website need today? We broke it down to three main elements.
Just like a retail website, a good B2B website will have an accessible, readable, attractive product page, with accurate product descriptions and prices. Shopify is fast becoming the industry standard in retail ecommerce, but it also has tools for suppliers, as well. One Shopify app any retailer should consider is a “Login To See Prices” app. You can list retail price in your product description for people who may stumble upon your site through a Google search while keeping wholesale prices hidden for anyone not logged in. There are also apps to update inventory in real time, so buyers always know what’s in stock. These are all modern amenities that consumers expect from B2C businesses, and they are becoming more and more of a necessity in the B2B sector.
Your website should make it easy for a retailer to choose to do business with you. In retail ecommerce, a big part of making a new customer is providing them with value before ever making a sale, whether it’s through entertainment, education, or a combination of the two.
Many retailers do this through a blog that showcases their services and knowledge. A regularly updated blog is still a great way to drive traffic and enhance SEO. It’s also a great way to establish your expertise in the eyes of a potential buyer. But while a blog is open to the public, it should point toward resources kept behind a login portal.
When they log in, buyers will be able to find special offers, policies, sales training, upcoming product release announcements, and brand elements like logos, downloadable high-res photos, ad slicks, and anything else they’ll need to make working with you as easy as possible. All of this information should be interlinked, as well. Your blog posts can focus on the different resources available to buyers, and your catalog can link to the appropriate resources, as well.
The most important thing is the sale. It’s why you have a website. It’s why the buyer is here. So placing an order should be as easy as possible. While placing an order in as few clicks as possible is important in retail, B2B orders aren’t often that straightforward. If your website is well-organized and your content is interlinked, finding information shouldn’t be too difficult. But questions will arise, so make it easy for buyers to get answers, preferably through a live chat. It should also be easy to figure out where your products can be purchased, along with a list of dealers with phone numbers, addresses, and maybe even a Google Maps link.
If you’re unsure about anything, take a look at the websites of the leaders in your field. Look at their design choices, particularly in the use of color and space, and at the way they’ve organized content to get an idea for how your own site should work.