Just like B2C consumers, B2B professionals are shopping online more than ever before, but often run into obstacles that can make the buying process difficult. In fact, B2B consumers have expectations that are similar to B2C consumers. 

It’s helpful to put yourself into the shoes of the buyer. If you think about it, B2B consumers are also B2C consumers. They shop for their own personal needs as well as purchasing products or services for their businesses. When it comes down to expectations and needs of the B2B consumer, it’s all about convenience and ease of use. 

B2B Consumers’ Expectations

B2B customers expect practicality and features that are going to make the shopping experience easy from start to completion. We’re no longer in the age where all B2B leads are coming through phone calls. Companies still get phone leads, but the majority of B2B consumers would prefer to get information online first before making a purchasing decision. 

These shoppers aren’t going to convert on the first website they visit, as they will typically shop around and collect information. That’s why making sure websites provide full details of their offerings is essential to the consumer and allows you to move them down the conversion funnel as you provide more information through various touchpoints.

A Simplified & Intuitive Shopping Experience

When thinking about some of the differences between regular consumers and B2B consumers, there are some fundamental differences in the way they purchase items. B2C consumers are able to make “impulse” purchases more easily, but B2B consumers typically need to spend more time making purchases because they often have specific requirements for things like pricing, service level, and logistics. This is why providing the right information and making sure the online experience is intuitive is important. Some of the main features that can simplify the shopping experience for B2B consumers are:

Product information – When B2B consumers are shopping for products or services, they need detailed information that will ultimately help them make better buying decisions. This includes useful information like stock levels, purchase history (if applicable), and product highlights. If this information is made readily available to the consumer, it would make the initial research phase of the shopping experience a lot easier when it comes to sharing findings with upper management.

Fast and easy ordering and fulfillment – Companies need to make the buying process very easy for customers. There are many technologies and software available to streamline the checkout process from ordering to fulfillment. B2B consumers want to save time, effort, and money. Making sure your website is able to provide them with an easy buying process is one of the key expectations that B2B consumers want and need.

Repeat ordering and product recommendations – When companies are in the enviable position of serving repeat customers, it’s essential to provide them with options for recurring orders that are as simple as clicking a button. When B2B customers are happy with your products or services, they will likely purchase again. Give them simple solutions like the ability to sign up for a monthly or quarterly subscription so that they don’t have to keep ordering manually. Also, providing them with product/service recommendations that they will likely benefit from can help companies upsell and provide additional value to the customer.

Customer Service & Ongoing Support

One of the ultimate goals when shopping for B2B products and services is ensuring that the customer feels secure and confident in their purchase and are seeing the value in it. A majority of the time, communication doesn’t end when the sale is made. When it comes to B2B products and services, support is required post-purchase, whether it’s helping a customer set up their purchase, work through potential issues, or implement new solutions. 

B2B sellers are expected to set up their customers for success. In fact, many B2B sellers have their own customer success department that ensures customers are happy and continue to work with them. Part of that includes creating a personal relationship with the customer. Sellers should be knowledgeable about their customers’ needs and aware of the products or services they’ve ordered so that they can provide value and help the customer’s business grow. 

What B2B Customers Need

The buying process for businesses is longer compared to a single consumer. Many times, B2B customers must go through various levels of approval before making a purchase decision. When shopping for products or services, B2B customers have to think about long-term solutions vs. short term which is why making the right decision is important. 

Depending on whether your products or services are considered “high risk” (purchasing a building) or “low risk” (buying office supplies) depends on how long the buying process will take. If a company sells office supplies, then the lead nurturing process isn’t as complex as a business that is selling the building to a growing company. What B2B consumers need in order to feel strongly about a company comes down to personalization and strong partnerships.

Personalized Experiences

Earlier, we talked about moving users through the conversion funnel which includes lead nurturing. A company’s engagement with these potential customers shouldn’t end the first time the customer visits a website. Part of the lead nurturing process for B2B consumers includes personalized experiences through content marketing.

Including detailed product information on your ecommerce website is helpful, but delivering relevant content through various touchpoints throughout the customer journey is also key. It will help give the consumer a better idea of whether the seller is a right fit and whether they are knowledgeable about their industry through the content they produce.

Companies should look into creating content that is engaging and personalized to the consumer. For example, if there is a potential customer looking for wood suppliers and they visit a website that sells  maple wood, that company could highlight a video that shows them laying floors using maple wood. Content like that would help solidify what they are looking for by providing them with real use-case scenarios. 

When talking about personalized experiences, this also falls under a personalized website experience. In order to gain additional insight into what customers need, companies should take a look at their data to inform them on strategic updates they can make to evolve the customer journey. That data will also inform you whether your marketing efforts are actually helping move the needle and bringing in a positive return on investment.

Partnerships & Customer Service

It’s likely that in the first half of the customer journey, businesses may not be reaching out to your company yet. However, when they are ready to purchase or negotiate, they will need some person-to-person communication whether it’s on the phone or through email or live chat. This is your chance to shine and provide the customer service and partnership that is needed by B2B consumers in order to feel satisfied and supported by their purchase.

Humanizing your company or the people that are selling to the consumer is important in building trust and transparency. The consumer needs to see that companies are investing time to help out and provide exceptional service. Companies that take the time to go above and beyond expectations are the ones that are getting business referrals from current and past customers. 

Ultimately, B2B consumers are influenced by their shopping experiences as a B2C consumer. Making sure we meet their expectations with engaging content, personalization, customer service post-sale, and a hassle-free shopping experience can help businesses close more deals online. 

Marketing and sales will need to work closely when it comes to catering to B2B customers to deliver the marketing materials the shopper needs toward their path to purchase. This way, marketers are able to accurately address customer needs and expectations throughout the customer journey and provide a good customer experience at every touchpoint. By staying on top of and adjusting to evolving customer needs, businesses will be able to exceed customer expectations and acquire more online leads.

A global team of digerati with offices in Washington, D.C. and Southern California, we provide digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.

Stay up to date with our insights by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.