As with all other industries, digital transformation has become a top priority for B2B ecommerce brands.
Emerging business technologies are being implemented at B2B ecommerce companies internationally — and the early results for many of these organizations are certainly promising.
Digital Commerce 360’s 2019 U.S. B2B Ecommerce Market Report shows B2B retailers’ websites and marketplaces contributed to an 11% increase in annual sales in 2018 to a total of more than $1 trillion.
As you might expect, manufacturing wholesalers and distributors who’ve yet to enhance these channels with modern tech tools — and experience this sizable rise in revenue — noted they will do so by 2021.
One thing many of these B2B ecommerce brands have in common is their use of a customer data platform (CDP) to unify their customer and prospect data from various databases into a single source of truth — data that can also be activated in the solution in real time to deliver personalized experiences.
B2B ecommerce brands and customer data platforms: The perfect pairing
Ecommerce solutions like Shopify, Magento, and DemandWare help many B2B ecommerce brands with vital tasks: from optimizing multi-channel marketing and organizing marketplace offerings to providing real-time customer service and streamlining the ordering process for customers.
Other solutions — supply chain and inventory management systems, product and shipping label software, and the like — also play pivotal roles for innumerable B2B ecommerce companies today.
Having said that, these tech tools are far from the only ones these B2B retailers need to thrive today — especially because the data utilized in each system is disconnected from each other.
The simple truth is none of these B2B business technologies provides a complete, real-time view when it comes to understanding individual prospects or customers in the here and now.
That’s why customer data platforms have become a staple in many B2B ecommerce brands’ martech stacks, as it has helped them mature and gradually grow their marketing strategies.
Access to all historical customer data in a centralized portal that can connect with other systems and the ability to activate said data with ease across channels: That’s the primary benefit of the CDP.
Industrial manufacturers and distributors, specifically, use the marketing platform as a means to acquire high-value customers, nurture them through their sales cycle, and convert them into buyers.
The CDP allows these B2B ecommerce brands to see all critical data for decision-makers at their current and prospective customers’ companies (job roles and titles, budgets, past products and services purchased, and other essential info), which aids their long-term nurturing and relationship-building.
Specific CDP use cases for today’s biggest B2B ecommerce companies
That’s the high-level overview of how customer data platforms benefit manufacturers and distributors.
Below are far more detailed use cases as to how these B2B businesses make the most of their CDPs day in and day out and steadily improve key metrics across the entire customer lifecycle — including and especially acquisition, retention, and customer loyalty.
Use case #1: Serve only the most relevant product recommendations based on individual interests, preferences, and behaviors to enhance conversion.
Many B2B buyers don’t come to a B2B ecommerce website to peruse a wide array of products. Rather, they come to the site with one or more specific items in mind for their companies.
Knowing when a customer who has bought the same (or similar) items multiple times returns to your website, being able to track their browsing behavior and score it based on intensity and momentum, and then provide customized product recommendations geared to the individual is critical.
Let’s say you’re responsible for marketing at a big telecom equipment manufacturer and wholesaler.
When you have the ability to recognize a customer in real time who previously bought routers and gateways from your company in bulk months earlier lands back on your website, you’ll want to provide them with a unique customer experience that shows them the seemingly most pertinent products — like ones they ordered before or related products to upsell them.
In BlueConic, for instance, you could deliver real-time, on-site experiences using our platform’s dialogues (e.g., lightboxes, forms, banners) to promote previously purchased products to each individual upon their return visits. Or, if you want to upsell or cross-sell them, these dialogues could feature messaging that promotes newer or different models of the devices they bought in the past that may interest them on future visits.
If they exit your site without purchase, you can also use our customer data platform to stay top of mind by using your first-party data to deliver incentives to encourage them to come back and purchase.
For instance, you could target them with ads across the web following site exits through Facebook and Google Ad or send personalized offers based on their engagement with your brand to date via email.
This sort of attention placed on past buyers, including and especially those who purchase repeatedly (or items with sizable price tags, at least), can lead to greater customer loyalty and, as a result, greater customer lifetime value (CLV) — something all B2B ecommerce companies strive to achieve.
Use case #2: Grow the customer lifetime value (CLV) of your high-value clients by focusing on getting repeat purchases and building customer loyalty.
The reason CLV is such an important metric is due to the typically lengthy sales cycle for B2B buyers compared to the average consumer.
B2B retail businesses, meanwhile, sell to far fewer businesses who take their time to evaluate their options. Some of these sales cycles, depending on a brand’s needs, can take weeks or even months.
Thus, it’s imperative for B2B ecommerce companies to play the long game with their marketing and place a concerted focus on the organizations — and their chief decision-makers — who they believe are most likely to convert from prospect into customer and, ideally, repeat customer.
Using a feature like AI Workbench in BlueConic can help companies like yours — which may only see a given customer return to buy once a year — maximize their odds of earning that repeat business.
For example, BlueConic customers can build and deploy machine learning models in AI Workbench using models such as CLV, propensity-to-buy, RFM, and more. For example, the propensity-to-buy model can predict how likely a customer (or account, in this instance) is to buy again.
With this data in hand (or better yet, in a customer’s profile), you and your marketing team could send a perfectly timed email, for instance, to the decision-maker who bought last time to ask if they’re interested in purchasing once more.
In other words, you can anticipate your customers’ needs based on their buying patterns and behavioral attributes (e.g. momentum and recency of their website visits) and entice them to order again — not to mention possibly prevent them from researching or buying from your competition.
As this decision-maker — and others just like her — continue to interact with your brand online, their profiles will update as well, which will, in turn, inform the CLV model deployed.
Use case #3: Track your customers’ journeys — from first-time website visits to most recent orders — to orchestrate lifecycle marketing activities tailored just for them.
Customer lifecycle marketing orchestration is the new normal for B2B ecommerce marketers today.
The modern marketing approach affords these professionals the opportunity to meet their prospects and customers at the most pertinent places and times with the most relevant messaging based on their profile characteristics, browsing habits, buying patterns, and general engagement history.
Your leads’ and buyers’ distinct customer journeys are likely far more intricate than those for consumers shopping at B2C brands given they spend a considerable amount of time in the “consideration” stage.
However, the numerous online and offline touch points net-new prospects and returning customers have with your brand afford you the opportunity to orchestrate individualized marketing at every stage of the customer lifecycle.
You obviously cannot force a B2B lead to follow a specific path to purchase. Ultimately, the customer journey is theirs to own. What you can control, however, is how you interact with those leads at each point in their journey using all of the data you have available to personalize those interactions.
Here’s a basic breakdown of how customer lifecycle orchestration works during the acquisition lifecycle stage for B2B retailers who have customer data platforms in place for their marketing teams:
- A first-time visitor lands on a B2B ecommerce website. The company in question can convert said user from an unknown visitor into a known lead with a customer data platform by leveraging anonymous profile data to deliver valuable, one-to-one experiences in exchange for some piece of identifying information (name, email, etc.).
- That visitor exits the B2B retail business’s site without taking any further action, then returns a week later after receiving a personalized email to continue learning more about the brand’s offerings.
- In addition to all the behavioral and interest data stored in each lead’s profile, this B2B ecommerce company can also store additional information from their CRM system, like title, account, and location. In turn, they can use all of this data to deliver individualized offers (e.g., limited-time deals, calls to action to chat with a rep) to convert them.
The actual implementation of a customer lifecycle marketing approach is obviously far more complex, but you get the picture: Seeing the customer’s actions and understanding their attributes at every journey stage guides marketers’ actions.
And it’s all possible with the right customer data platform.
Improving your B2B ecommerce marketing and sales with a pure-play CDP
To sell online effectively today — that is, build an ecommerce machine that progressively scales and boosts B2B sales efforts to help meet business revenue goals — is both an art and a science.
Both B2B and B2C brands alike struggle with various elements of their online sales efforts. But both niches within the e-retail industry turn to the same solution to solve their marketing woes: the CDP.
By connecting your B2B ecommerce platform of choice to a customer data platform like BlueConic, you’ll have the crucial customer insights needed to build a robust sales channel via your website, app, marketplace, and any other digital channel on which you sell your products and services.
With this connection comes the chance to convert more B2B customers, develop rich relationships with the primary contacts at those companies, and — at the end of the day — build the necessary loyalty you need to succeed in the ever-changing, increasingly competitive B2B ecommerce landscape.