A laptop screen displays a data visualization with numbers and figures representing B2B customers' search behavior. The image illustrates the process of analyzing search data to optimize customer experience (CX) and increase sales in the B2B commerce sector. pen_spark tune share more_vert

Customer experience (CX) is the new battleground for B2B commerce. With digital channels growing as the preferred method for research and purchases, manufacturers and distributors must understand how to create exceptional online experiences to retain customers and drive sales.

I recently participated in a lively panel discussion that got into the nuances of B2B commerce CX. We focused on how search functionality, often overlooked, is proving to be a linchpin for success. You can watch the full webinar, or keep reading to learn more.

Here’s a breakdown of the insights gathered and the strategies you can implement right away:

Core Challenges of B2B Buyers (and B2B Manufacturers)

The B2B buying process has unique complexities:

  • Complex Products and Information: B2B products are often highly technical, with intricate specifications and compatibility requirements.
  • Longer Decision Cycles: B2B purchases typically involve multiple stakeholders, research, and approvals. Any friction in the discovery process can lead to delays or abandonment.
  • The Need for Trust: B2B buyers invest significantly and rely heavily on the accuracy of information and the reliability of suppliers.

5 Surprising Ways to Use Search for Transformative CX

Let’s explore innovative search strategies that address these challenges head-on and create exceptional B2B experiences:

1. Intelligent Typeahead

Help buyers find what they need as quickly as possible. AI-powered typeahead suggests relevant products, categories, or information as users type, even accounting for misspellings and jargon. This minimizes frustration and gets them to the right place faster.

2. Technical Question Answering

Enable buyers to ask complex questions in natural language. Using techniques like semantic search and generative AI, your search engine can understand questions like, “Is this gasket compatible with XYZ chemical?” or “What are the torque specifications for this motor?” and accurately pinpoint answers from product manuals or technical documentation.

3. Semantic Search for Understanding Context

Go beyond simple keyword matching. Semantic search analyzes the meaning behind queries, helping B2B buyers discover relevant items even if they don’t use precise terminology. For instance, searching for “water pump” should yield results for both pumps and relevant accessories, even if the descriptions don’t explicitly mention “water pump.”

A diverse team collaborates around a whiteboard filled with colorful sticky notes representing various concepts and ideas. They are actively connecting these notes with lines and arrows, illustrating the process of semantic search in the B2B commerce space. This visual brainstorming session demonstrates how businesses can map out complex relationships between products, services, and customer needs to deliver more relevant search results and personalized experiences.

4. Hybrid Search for Part Numbers and More

B2B buyers often know the exact part number they need. However, they may also need to search by attributes, performance specifications, or industry-specific shorthand. Hybrid search — which brings together lexical search with semantic search — combines these approaches seamlessly, facilitating quick discoveries.

5. Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG) Search

Empower B2B buyers with highly precise answers. RAG search leverages generative AI to scour specific datasets. For example, a buyer could ask, “Does this product comply with ISO 9001 standards according to these three technical manuals?” and receive a confident, highly traceable answer.

The Technology Factor

These innovative approaches are made possible with AI-driven search solutions. My fellow panelists agreed that AI and machine learning are essential for:

  • Personalization: Tailor results based on a buyer’s company, role, past purchases, and browsing behavior.
  • Data Enrichment: Enhance product data with synonyms, relevant attributes, and insights from reviews or support cases using AI for better discoverability.
  • Omnichannel Consistency: Integrate site search with call centers, knowledge bases, and other channels for a seamless CX.

The Future of B2B Search

Technology is evolving rapidly, and B2B search is poised to become even more intuitive. Keep an eye on:

  • Voice and Image Search: Allowing buyers to interact more naturally.
  • Risk Mitigation: Building robust guardrails to ensure AI-powered results are accurate and avoid potential legal or reputational harm.
  • Prompt Engineering: Expertly crafting input for generative AI models to refine answers.

Elevate Your B2B CX with AI-Powered Search

Search is not just a feature — it’s a strategic pillar for phenomenal B2B commerce CX. By investing in advanced search functionalities, you’ll help buyers discover what they need to efficiently build trust and foster long-term relationships that fuel growth. You can watch our on-demand webinar to learn more.

About Brian Land

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