7 Steps to Move Customers to Self-Service Online B2B & Wholesale Purchases

When it comes to B2B Commerce, many businesses have become quite used to working with a salesperson to discuss options and make purchases. But just as many buyers place B2B orders while at work, they’re also B2C shoppers when they get home, and over the last year a lot more people have become comfortable placing their own orders online at home.

This is an opportunity for B2B businesses, as at least a subset of buyers is likely to be perfectly comfortable placing their own orders online through a portal if you give them the opportunity. Others may take a bit of getting used to, while still others may firmly prefer continuing the ordering relationship directly with a person.

The opportunity to transition even some of your buyers’ purchases to self-service online orders can free up your sales team to superserve other customers, or grow their book of business in new ways that grows your bottom line without having to spend on more salespeople.

There are a number of steps you can take to maximize your chances of making a self-service order portal successful, which includes:

  1. Establish an “Always On” Order Portal
  2. Make Your Online Wholesale Option Obvious
  3. Have Information Centralized There…
  4. …That Includes Customized Pricing, Catalog, Shipping, Billing
  5. Ensure Account History is Populated
  6. Support Complex Commerce Scenarios
  7. Offer Help When Needed

Let’s review these steps in turn, and how they can help increase customer confidence and satisfaction in placing self-service orders.

Establish an “Always On” Order Portal

Your salespeople may work superhuman hours, especially in an era where people are working from home more, but the reality is they can’t be available 24/7, and if when they are available and when your buyer needs help doesn’t line up, that can delay or even scuttle potential sales.

By comparison, if a buyer knows what they need to purchase and has access to an order portal, they can sign on whenever it’s on their mind and immediately get the order in to you for processing. This can take the edge off of your customers needing to lean on salespeople to get what they need, and empower them to handle obvious orders on their own, while still being able to reach out to salespeople when they need help or advice.

Make Your Online Wholesale Option Obvious

Many businesses hide their wholesale link in the footer, which may make sense if there’s also a direct to consumer arm of the business, but can also make an online option less obvious. Still others only have that link to a registration page and not an actual login screen, indicating the ability to place orders online without a need to call or email someone.

But if your wholesale link leads to a login screen that also has a registration button, it indicates there’s a portal for taking orders available, and can encourage your potential and existing buyers to get registered so they can do so themselves.

Have Information Centralized There…

Self-service order portals can not just take orders, but can replace a printed catalog in your arsenal of providing detailed product information. Your buyers can review your product catalog in an interactive way, download detailed product spec sheets if provided, look at images of products, see specific details and more.

Your portal can be a helpful tool for your customers to do some initial research, again without the intervention of a salesperson. Of course, your sales team can certainly step in when needed, but some buyers simply need to find information quickly.

For self-service customers, having billing and shipping information (such as addresses) saved on account and able to be edited by the buyer can also help facilitate future transactions.

…That Includes Customized Pricing, Catalog, Shipping, Billing

Aside from the customer’s order history and information, having their specific pricing, catalog, billing and shipping options (including Buy Now, Pay Later options for approved customers like Net Terms) is another important aspect of making self-service ordering a reality.

If a buyer can’t see their specific pricing and verify it before purchase, or place an order with their standard terms agreement with the company, it will strongly limit what a self-service portal can deliver in value. But having those capabilities and ensuring your buyer gets what they would in any other ordering journey will provide encouragement to complete the order online since they won’t be missing out on anything. 

Ensure Account History is Populated

A self-service portal can be helpful for reviewing order history for information such as how long it’s been since the last order is placed, what was purchased and how much. For orders in process, you can review whether an order is shipped (as well as whether it was in whole or in part), get tracking information where available, and see when orders have been completed and what still have items left to go.

For buyers, this information can be helpful to remind of what items have been purchased, look at purchase patterns and more to get a sense of what the business will need. This information, of course, helps your sales team as well, but if your sales team has the information at their disposal, why not make it available to your buyers too?

Support Complex Commerce Scenarios

A self-service portal is only as useful as the capabilities it can handle without interference. Examples of this include:

  • Multi-buyer accounts, with the ability for multiple staff to place orders on behalf of an account, and an admin to invite and manage users on such an account
  • An Order Approval workflow, where the admin can review and authorize orders before they’re continued forward in the process
  • An ability to review and pay open invoices, and see what orders still need to be closed out
  • Deposit/balance billing scenarios where a deposit is initially captured, with the balance (or multiple payment installments, as the case may be) can be paid later

Being able to manage the more complex scenarios means less frequent need for salesperson intervention, when buyers are comfortable making the purchases themselves.

Offer Help When Needed

Anytime new technology is rolled out, some handholding is generally needed for everyone to get comfortable with it. Your buyers will likely have questions, or get stuck, as they get acclimated with things. So having a a sales team and customer service team well versed in your order portal, able to help when a challenge arises, can actually make buyers feel more comfortable placing their orders there, knowing they have a helping hand.

A portal can also offer features that can allow for aided transaction scenarios, including:

  • Sales Quotes: Salespeople can build an order that their buyers can then approve and pay for instantly, when salesperson help building the order is needed.
  • Log in as the Customer: Some solutions will have a feature where you can log in as a buyer and see what they see, an easy way to assist them or offer guidance on what to do next.
  • Add/Adjust Items to Buyers’ Carts: Some solutions will also let you have some ability to manage what’s in a buyer’s cart, so if they’re having trouble finding an item or need help getting something into a cart for ordering, you can help on the Admin side.

If the technology helps your team, you can in turn use the technology to help your buyers.

Zoey Offers a Powerful Self-Service Solution

Hundreds of companies rely on Zoey for self-service ordering solutions for their buyers, with a generous array of features to make it work exactly as you need it to for your business. Talk to our Success Team to learn how you can make Zoey’s self-service order portal capabilities work for your business:

Talk to the Zoey Success Team

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