How to Make Your B2B E-commerce Journey Personal and Your Customers Loyal

April 11, 2023

Serving the customer online as personally as you do offline? That’s the next step for many wholesalers. But it is no longer an option for a successful wholesaler not to embrace e-commerce and an omnichannel strategy. Especially since customers are increasingly orienting themselves online. Personalization increases consumer loyalty and Share of Wallet, but how can you make sure that every step of the consumer journey—online and offline—includes that personalized touch? The goal is to avoid adding more complexity than is necessary. Choose the low-hanging fruit by starting with your current channels. Since especially within the B2B market, there are plenty of opportunities which are discussed in this article.

#1 Start With the Existing Email Flow

Nearly every wholesaler uses offline and online channels to display products and share promotions. And that’s great: customers are already familiar with these channels, and with a relatively minor intervention, offers in mailings can be further personalized. The transition from one size fits all to personalized mailings has taken place. From one size fits all and the same offer for everyone, to a smaller number of perfect fit offers that fit the customers’ needs so well that the likelihood of purchase increases significantly. Offers that are also in line with the rising need for self-service since it enables users to find what they’re seeking for more easily. Offers that are even in line with the increasing need for self-service since it enables users to find what they’re seeking for more easily. This way, a wholesaler easily guides customers through the often very extensive product catalog. Next to this, a wholesaler has the ability to introduce clients to brand-new items that would perfectly suit their needs but that they are not aware of yet.

Approach in Practice

Let’s dive deeper in some of the personalization cases and start with a wholesaler that has a specialization for food professionals. Their goal is to constantly provide their clients with the best products and services, both online and off. However, one of the primary issues was how to do this given the enormous number of 80,000 items available. Although it is an offline tool, physical leaflets still are of high value for many wholesalers. Since they are placed in the canteens and available to all people in one company. The only thing to keep in mind is that these leaflets need to contain relevant products, and with personalization it is possible to select the most relevant items. Next to this they used follow-up mailings to select the most relevant offers from the leaflet and send these targeted to specific people. This boosts the consumers’ sense that this wholesaler understands their needs, is willing to assist them, and has the products which they are searching for. Both online conversion and the chance of customers visiting physical locations are rising.

Starting from an existing channel has been the first step and it ensured that the way is cleared to make further steps in the organization. This wholesaler is using AI to sort out the most relevant offers per customer for them. But they just use it in the existing systems, allowing the company to stay in control of what the algorithms are doing.

Make the Effect Understandable

Starting with mailings has another advantage. It facilitates rapid and simple comprehension of the effect of personalization. Everyone receives emails, and everyone can relate to how annoying it is to have 20 more unread emails in your inbox. By sharing the right product at the right time, with help of personalization, you overcome this issue. This makes it a great way to get the organization on board with this new approach. For example, this wholesaler sent a personalized e-mail to members of the MT to demonstrate the business case. They used a manually created example for this purpose, based on the same elements of personalization. The effect immediately appeared: the offers were spot-on and it was much clearer than showing complicated data-driven AI models and predictions. Because they could now really see the effect in front of them, it caught on immediately.

#2 Personalize the Webshop

Make sure the e-commerce environment suits the demands and wishes of the client. This is another another excellent example of low-hanging fruit. It acts as a business card for your online product range. There is much to gain from this element, particularly since that the bulk of B2B buyers acquire their information online. Why is this ripe for picking? It’s likely that the company already has the data in place to provide the online store a more customized layout. Since users must log in, the identity of each visitor to the website is instantly apparent. Based on click behavior and past orders, an AI algorithm can easily learn what might be interesting for this specific customer. Thanks to the purchase data available through customer badges, even a customer’s offline behavior can be included. Combining all the data, enables them to offer the most relevant products to the customer. Whether it is a product that he already bought in the past, as well as related articles that suit the product they are searching for. Advising & inspiring them with the best products.

Happy Customer and Bigger Share of Wallet

What would such a custom online store look like? Consider an industrial and construction wholesaler. Every buyer would see the exact same thing without personalization. Whether they are painters, carpenters, or bricklayers. The client leaves after hopefully purchasing what he was seeking. The customer’s purchasing habits are not greatly influenced by the wholesaler in question. It can be very different when AI is being used. When a painter visits the website, an overview of brushes, rollers, and paints is displayed right away. The webpage also prominently features an offer of the newest wood restoration solutions because the AI system has discovered that this specific painter mostly works on historic, listed houses. And after winter, many windows and door frames will likely require some repairing. As soon as the painter receives a good, tailored offer, he adds the items to his shopping basket. Alternatively, even better, there is a wish list of the products most important to this specific painter available in the store. Such a customized website has an obvious outcome. The painter is pleased because he has discovered items that, while not specifically sought after, greatly assist him in performing his work even better. The boost in conversion rate, brought on by the higher Share of Wallet, makes the wholesaler pleased as well. Because of the quick and simple purchasing experience compared to previously, this consumer is also much more likely to come back. A painter merely wants to go back to work as soon as possible; he doesn’t want to take too long looking for what he needs. And more corporate customers agree with that. A wholesaler is a wonderful partner if they help with that.

#3 Assist the Account Manager Gain Sharper Insights

The account manager plays a central role at many wholesalers. He serves as the intermediary between the product portfolio and the clients, offering them tailored guidance. However, this function is evolving due to digitalization. We see for example that smaller businesses have less need for an account manager. Since they are increasingly conducting their own web research, ss a result of the trend to self-service.The prerequisite is then that they can easily and quickly find what they are looking by having a wholesaler’s online offerings tailored to their demand.

Full Focus on the Large Accounts

Are there any differences for the larger clients? As more of their customers conduct their own web searches, an on-demand relevant solution is also essential. Herein lays the reason for the account manager’s evolving role: less and less is he a salesperson, and more and more he transforms into an advisor, helped by the outcomes that AI and customization bring. This is fantastic since it enables the account manager to concentrate even more on their interactions with important clients. Also, if clients can more easily navigate the online products of the wholesalers, this presents chances to dramatically expand the customer portfolio. Excellent service and suitable offers are no longer dependent on the account manager; instead, personalization makes them accessible to all businesses, big and small. Even in businesses without an account manager, there is always that sense of individuality.

Small Steps to Great Success

In other words, changing to a more personalized client journey is usually not an overnight transition and it doesn’t have to be. Because the change only becomes manageable by beginning with small steps and using existing channels, both for the company and for the clients. And that’s excellent because you’ll eventually learn whatever method of working works best for you. Existing e-mail flows, the webshop and the account managers are rewarding places to start. With the right effort, they deliver a lot. And they offer a good basis to build on that personalized customer journey.

Inspired and want to start with an AI decisioning engine?

Are you also curious about how your data can be used for a personalized customer journey? Find out more in our product guide. Prefer to get in touch with one of our experts immediately to see what the possibilities are for your organization? Request a no-obligation demo.