B2B ecommerce sales will experience explosive growth in the coming years, eclipsing the revenue generated from B2C markets. Just think about the average value of a business order when compared to that of a consumer. And yet, B2C brands seem to dominate digital channels, harnessing the power of marketing automation to reach the right customer, with the right message, and at the right time.
In this year’s Hitting the Mark, B2B brands scored 26% below their B2C counterparts across all criteria. With their global ecommerce worth set to reach an eye-watering $6.6 trillion by 2020, B2Bs need to put their foot of the gas.
Email still remains the most popular tactic employed by B2B marketers, perhaps down to the returns on investment: £32 for every £1 according to the DMA. To take their ecommerce to the next level and capitalize on this predicted growth, companies need to digitalize their marketing activities and adopt smarter tactics.
Marketing automation is the answer. B2B companies can dissect the lifecycle of their customers and create powerful, data-driven programs to complement every stage of the buying journey.
Food for thought:
- Make context the source of everything you do
- Define your audiences
- Blitzing your contacts with emails is a dead end
- Content is hot right now
1. Welcome program
The welcome program is widely considered by industry professionals to be the most important automation in the marketer’s armory. Its importance rests on one single factor: the initiation of the customer relationship and the ability to influence future perceptions. Whether you’re onboarding a new client or introducing your brand to prospects, the welcome program is your vehicle to drive a positive relationship from the start.
In your welcome program, you’ll need to:
- introduce your brand and its USPs
- ask for preferences to tailor the customer experience
- set expectations and reinforce any special benefits of signing up: i.e. exclusive content
2. Nurture Program
Nurturing prospects into customers – and customers into repeat-buyers – is the essential ingredient of business growth and success. From the moment an assistant registers interest to when a c-level buyer signs on the dotted line (and beyond), nurturing contacts is a non-stop marketing effort that delivers the goods. This is the ‘right people, right time’ element of your marketing mix.
When scoping out your nurture program, consider the following:
- Product-specific information, i.e. promotional and editorial
- Base this on your web insight, preferences and where customers are in the buying cycle
- Set-up of various newsletter automations, per category and audience segment for example
3. Abandoned browse program
A prospect’s browse behavior is a great indication of where they sit in the buying cycle – viewing a price page might suggest a high intent to purchase, for instance. Triggering an email off the back of this action could spur the prospect to return to the website and review the pricing page again – they might even book a demo, request a sample product or buy from you.
Best tactics to lure web visitors back:
- Ensure the email is 100% on brand and reflects your website
- Include some inspirational content that’s relevant to what the subscriber was browsing
- Recommend the right product or service based on the data you hold
4. Abandoned cart program
The cart recovery program is a tried-and-tested quick win for B2Bs, delivering sensational results every time. It’s a simple triggered campaign to implement and is proven to get deals over the line. This is due to the hyper-targeted nature of the communication – you’re nudging prospects who, having dedicated time to place items in their cart, have a very high propensity to buy. Not sending these emails is throwing money away. Madness!
Top tips for an effective B2B cart recovery email:
- Send the email within 24 hours of the abandoned action
- Pull in product details and imagery to contextualize the message
- Direct subscribers back to their cart with an eye-catching call to action that’s above the fold
5. Aftersales program
The post-purchase period is a delicate timeframe where expectations hang in the balance. Overdelivering on your promise will keep customers happy, while falling short can jeopardize your retention.
Being super-attentive to new customers will build enthusiasm over the products or services they’ve acquired. In the long term, this level of care can abate churn and generate brand advocacy.
To deliver a smooth aftersales journey, you should:
- thank customers for purchasing with you over a competitor
- ask for a product rating and review of the service experienced by customers
- be transparent. From once an order is placed right through to delivery and usage, it’s important to provide relevant information that adds value to the customer experience
6. Upsell Program
There’s an art to upselling and it’s wise to be subtle in your approach. As is often the case with many email programs, the devil is in the data. Pushing random products to contacts after they’ve purchased could cause them to unsubscribe and makes for an altogether unpleasant email experience that could tarnish the business relationship.
Tailoring the experience on the other hand can boost a customer’s lifetime value and keep them in your good books.
To get the balance just right:
- promote complementary products or services that will enhance a customer’s account and improve their business processes
- base these recommendations on past-purchases, web behavior and preferences
- be customer-centric, offering contact details should subscribers want to discuss a particular product or feature over the phone
7. Replenishment program
This program isn’t for every B2B. Brands that sell products with a short lifespan will need to ensure their customers’ stocks are replenished. An effective way to remind them is to enrol contacts onto a replenishment program – this would work particularly well for stationery brands that supply their clients for monthly or annual events, for example.
Employing this program will depend on both your business and the products/services you offer.
If it’s relevant to you, don’t forget to:
- calculate the frequency of purchase based on the needs of customers
- use a loyalty scheme to make replenishment worthwhile to clients
- offer more for less: it might be an idea to inspire customers to bulk-buy at a reduced cost
8. Loyalty program
Inspiring loyalty is a must, as failing to make customers sticky can have serious consequences for business continuity. Unhappy customers, even indifferent ones, will move through the funnel at a quicker pace – eventually there won’t be enough business coming in to compensate for clients slipping through the net.
To generate loyalty among customers:
- award them with bonus points or a special gift every time they buy
- invite them to exclusive events that will add value to the business relationship
- offer perks that incentivize them to spend more or upgrade their package
9. Lapsed customer program
Sustaining engagement is a challenge faced by many businesses. But customers that drop off the face of the earth aren’t lost forever. You should try, at the very least, to win them back and rekindle some brand love. Simple re-engagement programs are tried and tested sources of revenue – and every B2B should be implementing them.
- Nudge dormant contacts with an attention-grabbing subject line (i.e. ‘We Miss You’) and reveal the content they’ve been missing out on
- Ask these subscribers whether or not they’d like to continue receiving emails from you
- If after several attempts contacts remain inactive, perform a health-check of your database and filter them out – this should improve your deliverability
10. Data-driven program(s)
Conceptualizing email campaigns off the back of data is a winning tactic for B2Bs. Why? Because extracting powerful insights from customers will deliver more targeted emails, inspiring readers to engage and buy with you.
Examples include messages (triggered by geolocation) promoting a specific event or store sale that’s relevant to the individual; another would be a triggered email following up a form submission or demo request. In both cases, the high level of relevancy exhibited in these campaigns will tap into readers’ emotions and spur action.
When planning your data-driven programs, think about:
- context: will subscribers realize who you are, what you’re saying and the reason why?
- relevancy: does the content pair perfectly with the context of the message?
- calls to action: don’t waste time. It’s all about captivating the audience at the right moment – send them somewhere and get them to do something.
Want to see some killer examples of B2B automation? Download the full guide to find out more.
10 winning automations for B2B ecommerce