Ways to Offer B2B/Wholesale Buyers a Self-Service Ordering Experience

migrating to an online order portal or Ecommerce
Things Self-Service Solutions Should Have

Before we review the core ways to offer that self-service experience, there’s a number of things a self-service solution should have to reinforce the ability for buyers to work on their own. Many of these will look familiar to B2C shoppers, as it’s what empowers them to buy on their own as well:

  • Ability to Place an Order: The bedrock requirement is of course the ability to find the items they need, and place the order, without interference or help from the company selling the items.
  • Buy Now, Pay Later Options: Whereas B2C buyers will use something like a credit card to purchase and pay when the bill arrives, B2B businesses have a wider array of options, from Purchase Orders to Net Terms to simply sending a check in. Being able to support these options will improve the ability to sell to buyers without additional assistance.
  • Customer Group Functionality: Being able to designate which customers see which pricing, products and more is a core need for any self-service experience. If a customer can access their individualized pricing, it’s a key to removing the need for salespeople for more straight ahead orders.
  • Communications Capabilities: Self-service buyers will feel more comfortable in some cases if they see ways to reach out – tickets, live chat, email, etc. – just in case something goes wrong or they have a quick question. Businesses that enable communications options will generally see the ability to improve conversions overall, as long as it’s implemented well and doesn’t get in the way of a core shopping experience. (In other words, don’t do things like pop up a chat box on the cart, distracting buyers from their mission.)
  • Order Tracking Abilities: Giving your buyers a way to see where their order(s) are in the process can avoid customer service outreach, reducing ticket volume while providing more transparent information to the buyer.
  • Reordering/Order History Capabilities: Some buyers may not remember what exactly they bought in the past, but if they can look it up, they can move forward. If they can put it on a saved list, that works too, but reorder buttons/order history review screens can help refresh the memory of your buyers.
  • Make Payments: For orders where a deposit and balance structure exists, net terms are set up or other scenarios where an additional payment may be required, the ability for a buyer to sign in and complete the payment further reduces stress on both your support and finance teams.
  • Saved Products List: Save important products for reference down the line, whether for future purchases, regular ordering, etc.

Now let’s look at ways you can offer a self-service experience.

Order Portal Experience

Many B2B businesses don’t want to give away proprietary information like pricing, and others don’t want to have to manage a full website to take orders, unlike B2C shopping where a full experience is generally preferred or even required.

An Order Portal Experience is usually the best result because it can provide a stripped down experience that puts functionality and shopping speed over design bells and whistles. It can also be placed in a private location, only surfaced to registered buyers.

That doesn’t mean an Order Portal isn’t optimized to support the ordering experience. An Order Portal can contain capabilities such as:

  • Faceted Search: The ability to search not just by keywords, but by a variety of attributes that you establish against your catalog.
  • Quick Order: Enter SKU/quantity pairings in a variety of quick ways to speed up building of a cart for an order.
  • Bulk Add to Cart: Add multiple items at one time to the cart from a category page.
  • Table View of Categories/Catalog: Instead of a visual grid, a collapsed list not unlike the way items are printed out in a paper catalog, to speed locating and purchasing items from a list.

The key is a stripped back interface that puts speedy building and completion of orders front and center.

Visual Ecommerce Experience

Some B2B businesses, on the other hand, need a public presence to both recruit customers and facilitate shopping. They also may want their Ecommerce catalog to serve as a benefit for Search Engine Optimization by using their catalog as public data.

In this case, you can build out a somewhat more traditional Ecommerce experience, leveraging some of the same techniques from the Order Portal, but having a more fully fleshed out site.

Still, a number of tools can facilitate this as being a viable option, even when some information has to be protected, such as:

  • Logged In/Logged Out Experience: You can keep some information proprietary by only exposing it to logged in customers. For instance, you can have pricing hidden for the logged out experience, with a message prompting visitors to create an account or log in.
  • Content Marketing Tools: Your Ecommerce store can have a blog or other content publicly available, further improving the site’s ability to draw in potential new customers via published content on the site.
  • Public Registration Workflow: Savvier wholesale businesses have moved past a wholesale inquiry email or form to something that lets a potential buyer register in real time, or be submitted for quick approval by your team.
Zoey Supports Everything You See Here

Zoey is a comprehensive solution for brands, distributors, wholesalers and other B2B businesses who need a way to capture and manage orders easily. Talk to our team to learn how Zoey can strengthen your business:

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