By Craig Witt
Amazon Business, Amazon’s B2B division, now has more than 1 million global customers in dozens of sectors, and is on track to generate $10 billion in annualized sales. It recently expanded its services into three new global markets, bringing the number of countries it supports to eight. And its $1 billion acquisition of an online pharmacy—and deals with insurance and drug-benefit organizations—mark the latest big moves in expanding its medical products and services offerings.
While Amazon’s success has always hinged on disrupting traditional business models, its foray into B2B offers valuable learning for B2B sellers. There’s a lot on the line: B2B e-commerce transactions are expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2021.
B2B companies should closely watch Amazon’s approach to customer attraction and retention, so they can invest in strategies to position themselves competitively.
Strategy is Everything in the Global Marketplace
If Amazon Business’ global success tells us one thing, it’s that providing convenient, personalized customer experiences—even in the B2B space—is vital. For global audiences, that means offering translated, culturally relevant online user experiences for international customers.
Other key marketing and customer retention strategies include:
1. Transactional websites.
Buying habits among B2B customers are increasingly coming to resemble those of B2C. Almost 90 percent of B2B buyers conduct their product research—and make their B2B purchases—online. But to attract savvy and web-literate customers, B2B companies must provide quality e-commerce experiences.
The right platform is key. Transactional platforms designed for B2C e-commerce may not meet the needs of B2B companies. Look for platforms with the flexibility and scalability to expand to new markets.
Localize your transaction model. Be ready to support preferred local payment options or use a transactional platform that offers multi-currency support. Display prices—and fulfillment costs—in local currencies.
2. Investment in data.
A robust analytics platform that accurately captures and reports website traffic, user engagement, and other KPIs also contains valuable insights about how customers interact with your brand. Mine your data for opportunities to improve the customer experience.
Speed up fulfillment. Your website data can tell you which products are popular in which country, allowing you to localize product inventory and provide fast cross-border fulfillment. Offering your local customers the most efficient fulfillment options for their regions also minimizes your shipping costs and times.
Target underserved markets. Underserved markets provide valuable growth opportunities. Translating your website to reach countries where Amazon has a smaller market share will help you reach these customers through local search engines.
Offer added value. Use your data to suggest new products that better serve your customers’ needs or provide greater value. Additionally, collecting data on the products your customers order, as well as the quantity and frequency in which they order them, can help you predict when they are due to reorder.
3. Customized digital experiences.
The near-universality of digital connectivity has led B2B customers to expect the same sort of quality online experiences that B2C companies typically offer.
Provide brand consistency across media channels. Your brand’s online presence is more than your website. B2B companies with consistent messaging across social media, email and offline channels can build trust, draw traffic and increase sales.
Take advantage of new web technologies. Leveraging technology like chatbots can aid B2B customers by providing a 24/7/365 sales channel anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, not many B2B companies are using them. To provide maximum engagement, localize these experiences.
Use your customers’ preferred languages. Global customers feel more confident about doing business with vendors when those vendors provide fully localized experiences on websites and mobile apps. Help them research products and transact in their preferred languages.
Jumpstart Your Business’s Success
Amazon Business is, no doubt, a formidable opponent, just like its retail counterpart. However, it’s not necessary for every business to become “just like Amazon” to hold its own and carve out a niche in its industry. B2B companies can—and should—learn from Amazon’s best practices and apply them, with data- and value-driven strategies, to differentiate themselves from the competition.
B2B brands can thrive by focusing on meeting customer needs and offering global markets online the convenience that Amazon can deliver, and a key component that it can’t—personalized value.
Craig Witt is the Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing at MotionPoint, a company that solves the operational complexity and cost of website localization. He has 28 years’ experience in building, leading and scaling high performing Go-To-Market teams at global enterprises.