Polish your online offering

26th of September 2019
Polish your online offering

The rise of online purchasing has permanently shifted our shopping habits, including within the business-to-business (B2B) sector. to Sam Rutley, managing director at e-commerce agency PushON, looks at how cleaning supplies retailers can optimise their e-commerce offering.

The rise of online shopping has permanently altered our shopping habits – a fact particularly true for B2B retailers. Indeed, up to 93 per cent of B2B consumers say that they prefer to shop online, with self-serve information, direct from vendors.

This shift towards online shopping is naturally changing customer expectations of what to expect from their retailers. For those that rely on B2B trade in particular, it’s now more important than ever to keep up with the changing market and ensure they’re offering the best e-commerce experience possible.

Cleaning supplies is a particular growth industry for online retail. As it stands, just over half (53 per cent) of janitorial and sanitation (JanSan) suppliers have an e-commerce site, pointing to a major opportunity for those that proactively make e-commerce a priority now.

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at how cleaning supplies retailers can optimise their e-commerce offering.

Adopt a mobile-first mentality

No longer merely a peripheral sales channel, mobile commerce is now an extremely important consideration for any retailer looking to drive sales in an increasingly competitive market. Mobile commerce has grown steadily over time and by 2021, this channel is predicted to account for more than half (54 per cent) of total e-commerce sales.

This growth has also been recognised by Google, which last year began its ‘mobile-first indexing’ initiative. This means businesses that see their mobile site as a secondary consideration will see their SEO suffer as Google will now use the inferior mobile version to determine where their website sits in search rankings.

It’s worth noting that, despite the perception mobile commerce is a largely B2C-centric retail channel, more than half (60 per cent) of B2B buyers cited mobile devices as having had a “significant role” in a recent professional purchase. This further highlights just how important it is for B2B retailers to ensure they offer a fully optimised mobile commerce experience.

B2B retailers should ensure they adopt a similar mobile-first mentality, with a mobile site that has a simple, usability-focused layout, loads quickly and is responsively designed so that on-site content fits seamlessly across both desktop and mobile devices.

Clear product information is key

B2B e-commerce pages generally need to include more detail about the products they sell than their B2C equivalents, due to business customers’ need to ensure they’re purchasing exactly the right tool for the job.

On this note, it’s important to make product information as clear, accurate and as close to the manufacturer’s original description as possible. Product titles – on both category and individual product pages – should also be easy to understand and keyword-laden, making it as easy as possible for customers to find and select the right product immediately.

While product information can (and should) contain information about the product’s various features and benefits, it’s also important of the relevant technical information is included too – particularly in the cleaning sector, wherein many of the products sold may be hazardous or contain potentially dangerous chemicals.

Prioritise usability

One in four business customers cite a website’s usability as the single most important factor deciding where they shop – over both user reviews and even product choice – meaning usability should be an equally important priority for the retailers that serve them.

A key usability factor is ensuring customers can find the products they’re looking for with minimal hassle. If customers cannot find exactly what they are looking for quickly and easily, they’re likely to click away in search of a competitor. Not only does this harm conversion rates, it also makes it less likely the customer will visit the site again – once they’re gone, they’re often gone for good.

Site speed is also crucial. Not only can a slow-loading site negatively impact SEO – Google takes page speed into account in its ranking algorithms – a slower site can lead to cart abandonment and bounce rates skyrocketing. Indeed, recent research found a slow website can increase abandonment by as much as 75 per cent.

There are many easily actionable ways to improve a site’s load speed and subsequently usability, conversion rates and sales. These include reducing the volume and size of images (saving a graphic as a JPEG rather than a PNG can cut its file size in half), structuring the HTML to prioritise immediately visible, above-the-fold content and reducing server response times.

Customer-centric retailers thrive

A key consideration in the B2B retail space is not just attracting customers initially, but also retaining their business in a world of choice. Given this, the age-old business mantra of “the customer is king” holds particularly true for B2B retailers, where repeat orders are common.

This need to put the customer first in order to retain their business is a key source of competitive advantage for forward-thinking B2B retailers; particularly those that combine technology and a customer-centric mindset to take their online offering to the next level.

For example, retailers should consider allowing their customers to build specific, customisable product catalogues in line with their budget. Through this, businesses of all shapes and sizes can quickly and easily request bespoke quotes and purchase supplies that best fit their changing needs, without the usual hassle of multiple layers of customer service interaction.

To this end, another key feature to implement is a dedicated customer service portal where customers can view all their relevant account information – such as invoices, account balance and order history – in one place. Not only does this streamline the customer browsing journey, subsequently improving retention rates, it can also save resources which would previously have gone towards customer support staff; particularly crucial for smaller suppliers where resources may be tight.

Many of the products purchased through cleaning suppliers, such as microfibre cloths, centrefeed rolls and disinfectant, are likely to be purchased in bulk. With this in mind, taking steps to facilitate frictionless purchasing, such as investing in one-click ordering, faster re-ordering and a speedy checkout process are all invaluable ways to engage and retain business.

Offer flexible payment options

While offering a range of payment options is an advisable feature for any e-commerce store, it’s particularly crucial for B2B businesses. Unlike B2C retailers, cleaning supplies companies often have an long-standing relationship with their customers forged through months, or even years, of repeat business. This in turn means it’s important to remember long-standing customers’ buying preferences and when it comes to payment, not everybody will prefer for their payment to be processed online.

So retailers should also offer offline payment methods such as purchase orders via their e-commerce site, which must in turn be flexible enough to accommodate this. Ideally, the platform should also enable retailers to make specific payments available to specific customers, split into demographics such as location, order value or customer group.

So while providing a consistently excellent experience across both online and offline channels is likely to remain crucial to B2B commerce success, there is little doubt e-commerce is quickly becoming the shopping channel of choice for business customers. Retailers who invest in their e-commerce offering now are likely to enjoy long-term growth in sales, conversions and – crucially – customer loyalty.



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