The Internet has completely transformed our world, including the way we buy. The rates of online and mobile transactions have never been higher, and e-tailers and virtual marketplaces have snagged a remarkable share of customers’ wallets. Merchants like Amazon and Alibaba are broadening their reach beyond their B2C domains and into the B2B commercial landscape – an industry ripe for disruption.
Using their B2C strategies as a precedent, they are implementing a more agile and responsive customer experience in a market not known for being particularly adaptive to changing preferences. At the same time, customers are blurring the lines by bringing their B2C shopping preferences into the B2B space, placing pressure on the electronics and components distribution market as a result.
Yet as the adage goes, jack of all trades, master of none. While e-tailers boast an unmatched shopping experience, they cannot emulate the level of expertise traditional electronics merchants offer their customers. To keep pace and even pull ahead, traditional electronics distributors must become disruptors themselves and proactively shape the customer experience. Modern-day distributors are uniquely positioned to learn and grow from competitors like Amazon while maintaining their veteran role in the B2B market.
Using the successful B2C example of e-tailers, companies should consider the points below to boost customer engagement, elevate the shopping experience, and accentuate what sets them apart.
Targeted Search Features
Robust product portfolios give distributors a leg up against the competition, but this advantage alone is not enough. When most people shop online, they go straight to the “Search Bar.” Providing a straightforward search function that yields relevant results will help customers navigate online catalogs easily and efficiently. Simple search is one of the first impressions of the online shopping space. By doing it well, merchants show their commitment to customer service and providing the best shopping experience possible.
Shoppers should be no more than five (preferably three) clicks away from the product they’re searching for. The longer it takes to find an item, the less likely they are to close the sale and return to your site. This can be achieved by displaying a “quick view” search as the customer types, offering search filters reflective of jargon and popular industry terms, and then providing buyers the option to sort results by brand, price, newness or relevance based on their needs.
Rich Product Content and Engagement
Once they find the item they’re looking for, shoppers expect to learn as much about it as possible. Providing ample and engaging product information has transitioned from being a “nice-to-have” to a necessity. This is one area in particular where B2B buyers are carrying over their B2C preferences. A merchant’s ability to deliver the content customers want increases sales conversions and positively impacts the bottom line. There are three types of content to consider: base, advanced and user-generated.
- Base content is the standard for the electronics industry; this includes a good product title, description, specs, pricing, availability, images and data sheets.
- Advanced content like videos, multiple high-res images, 360-degree views, 3D CAD drawings and other interactive, multimedia features builds on the essentials to create a fuller picture.
- However, user-generated content is the capstone of product info. From customer and expert product reviews and Q&As to collaborative sites (such as communities and social platforms) where customers can network with each other, this type of content places the control back in the hands of buyers. Together, the right kinds of content create a more tangible e-commerce platform by enabling shoppers to envision products they cannot otherwise see or hold.
Additional Use Cases and Resources
While e-tailers boast their B2C buying experience, they are often unable to match, let alone surpass, the deep-rooted industry knowledge traditional electronics merchants offer their customers. Consider providing additional materials and resources grounded in that knowledge that the “other guys” can’t. Examples include live chats with engineers, typical use cases, potential project ideas, accelerated shipping for emergency situations and in-person visits to troubleshoot issues. By sharing their expertise, distributors give shoppers the biggest bang for their buck.
Flexible Check-Out and Delivery Processes
When it comes to finalizing a sale and shipping product, traditional distributors should consult the e-tailing playbook. B2C companies like Amazon and Alibaba are known for streamlined check-out processes via a wide range of payment methods and flexible shipping options. By accepting all major credit/ debit cards, PayPal accounts, gift cards and promotion codes, and offering same-day, standard and custom shipping schedules, merchants empower shoppers to buy on their terms and draw them back for subsequent purchases. Collaborating with your payment partners, web developers and mail carriers can help you meet and exceed customer expectations here. Despite the increased competition, B2C vendors are challenging electronics distributors to up their game. Those that elevate the shopping experience, leverage their industry knowledge, and allow customers to buy on their terms, will win out.
About the Author
Matt Clark is the Global Head of eCommerce and Digital Marketing for Newark element14, a global electronics distributor and online community of more than 400,000 design engineers and tech hobbyists. Learn more at http://www.newark.com.