B2B companies that have prioritized differentiated human-to-human interactions could struggle to stand out in the digital-first world of B2B buyers. Customers remember when a digital experience is personalized, intuitive, and meets their goals—search is a great place to deliver on this. Search powers better research, purchase, and service experiences that differentiate organizations from competition.
Worth noting that these three goals can’t be met without the ability to capture and understand a buyer’s goals. Most B2B ecommerce platforms lack the rich information that B2C retailers capture. For example, the items that buyers are browsing and the products they’re adding to cart can predict what they’re building or fixing. Delivering the best results hinges on capturing the best information. What buyers are punching into the search bar or chatbox is key to powering better B2B shopping experiences.
Think about two halves of the same circle—in order to provide the best search results organizations need to understand the buyers’ goals, otherwise it’s a Catch-22 of poor experience, irrelevant results, and frustrated buyers. More than 80% of B2B buyers make choices based on their experiences with vendor websites, increasingly comparing them to retail ecommerce experiences. The digital experience is where B2B commerce differentiation lives now.
Assuming the platform can capture and apply rich insights from buyers, here are the three goals that they should be prioritizing.
1. Research Goals
It all starts here. B2B buyers follow the same funnel that B2C shoppers do, from attraction, to consideration, to conversion. The tools they use to get there, however, are a little different. Where viral Instagram posts and fun infographics might capture the casual shopper, B2B buyers rely on more complex checklists, white papers, and industry reports. The average B2B buyer refers to about seven information sources before buying. According to TrustRadius, this is up 35% from the previous year. Search queries to find this documentation could be very different across buyers, making it difficult for a simple search engine to identify and recommend the most relevant piece of content.
Gartner identified six different B2B buying “jobs” that take anywhere from three to ten decision makers to complete a purchase. “Problem identification” and “solution exploration” are part of this research phase. Gartner discovered that customers found information to be helpful in advancing the buying process were nearly three times more likely to experience a high degree of purchase ease, and three times more likely to buy a bigger deal with less regret. The best platforms can identify a user’s intent based on their journey and curate the content that matches where they are in the funnel.
2. Purchase Goals
Everyone’s favorite stage. Once buyers have passed through the lengthy research process and are ready to swipe the company credit card, accuracy and conformance of product to the buyer’s goal is critical. B2B commerce platforms should include product finders, facets and filters that update in real time, and chatbots to help reduce any friction once the buyer has decided to make a purchase. Technology today can automatically detect attributes important to a buyer’s goals and prioritize results to smooth out the decision process.
A recent study found that “70% of B2B decision-makers are open to making remote or self-service purchases over $50,000, and 27% would spend more than $500,000.” The devil is in the details and more advanced features should be able to meet the layer of nuance that differentiates one B2B experience from the next. For example, if a buyer searches for an old or outdated part number, the platform should understand that they are likely looking for a newer part similar to that old part. Instead of returning a “No Results” page or providing only the outdated product, the buyer should see the latest and best version of the specific part they’re looking for.
3. Service Goals
B2B enterprises should treat the service channel as an additional source of insights and invest in the technology that allows agents, employees, and self-service tools to provide a post-purchase experience that provides timely and empathetic support. This includes everything from product support and knowledge bases, to product updates and recalls. The search bar, chatbot, and service portal should understand the buyer’s intent and deliver the most relevant information without requiring a buyer to pick up the phone.
Service channels not only play a key role in retaining loyal customers, they can inform the overall organizational intelligence of customers and products. All of the same signals that were collected to enhance top and mid-funnel experience should be captured and applied to enhance the buyer experience, and even the product.
Start with Signals
Improve search, recommend the most relevant products, and personalize the experience to remove friction and make B2B commerce the B2C experience that buyers expect.
Contact us today to learn how Lucidworks can help your team create powerful search and discovery applications for your customers and employees.