Many B2B companies face the challenge of selling complex products and services online, often citing the belief that their offerings are too intricate for digital commerce. However, this notion is outdated. Modern ecommerce systems offer proven solutions to overcome these challenges, and it is possible to successfully sell even the most complex products online.
Companies that master the art of selling complex products through digital commerce will have a significant advantage over their competitors. By utilizing advanced ecommerce features and tools, such as comprehensive product content, enhanced search and navigation, interactive product configurations, and personalized pricing, B2B companies can enhance their online customer experience and streamline the purchasing process for complex products.
This article highlights four crucial steps to help you overcome obstacles when selling complex products online. These steps are:
- Investing in powerful search, filtering, and navigation tools
- Providing comprehensive product content to educate your customers
- Equipping your sales team with digital tools to enhance their performance
- Implementing online product configurators to facilitate the sale of made-to-order products
By focusing on these key areas, you can streamline the online buying process for your customers and improve the efficiency of your digital channels.
Help Customers to Discover & Understand Your Products
For many business-to-business (B2B) companies, selling a large variety of products and services can make it challenging for customers to find what they need. However, implementing site navigation that makes sense to your customers while also considering different customer personas can help solve this issue.
Catalogs should be organized into categories, preferably in a simple hierarchical structure with an over-arching top-level category. Products should be logically categorized for buyers who prefer a natural information taxonomy with the ability to define multiple levels of subcategories.
Search is the most frequently used feature in any online store, and implementing a Search-as-you-type feature and using autocomplete to show suggested search queries can greatly enhance the customer experience. E-commerce site search engines should be capable of recognizing product names, categories, and product attributes in multiple languages, knowing synonyms, ignoring cases, and understanding syntax.
To ensure customers don’t get overwhelmed with a long list of results, search results should show categories containing the search terms, suggested products, and product-related content like blog posts or landing pages. Utilizing the data generated by customer search queries can help optimize algorithms and configurations to match those search queries with your products, maximizing conversion rates.
For Ecommerce stores with extensive catalogs, filters, also known as facets, are an essential tool to help visitors narrow down search results on category pages.
A particularly useful feature of facets is their ability to show how many products satisfy filter conditions, enabling customers to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for.
By implementing effective site navigation, intelligent search functionality, and relevant filters, B2B companies can reduce complexity and make it easier for customers to find products that fit their requirements.
Educate with Product Content
With many options available and complex products sold online, customers need help to decide which product is right for them. Buyers want to research and understand their options when buying new equipment or selecting a spare part. Merchants need to invest in educating customers about their brand and products and develop tools to help them to make an educated purchase decision.
Savvy buyers consume a lot of content on various online channels before making buying decisions, and businesses need content marketing to drive conversion. Content is much more than just advertising to attract the attention of your target groups. In Ecommerce, content also takes on the role of customer adviser or salesperson. It provides prospective customers with the required information throughout the entire customer journey, from research to product selection and the decision to buy. According to Gartner’s “New B2B Buying Journey”, decision-makers spend 27 percent of their time in the buying process doing online research and only 17 percent in contact with suppliers. Brands use different content types – blogs, news, user guides, e-books, videos, and manuals to showcase their products’ benefits and tell brand stories. Content can be related to your product information, how-to guides, or helping customers realize why your products are better than similar offers from your competitors. Content is relevant during initial research, product selection, before making a decision, and after making a purchase. To attract customers’ attention, create a blog and social media posts. For providing additional support with product selection, invest in white papers, analyst reports, case studies, product demos, and data sheets. And to support customers after the purchase, create, support, and knowledge database, FAQ, and usage and repair instructions.
Digitally Empowered Sales team
While having well-prepared product content is essential to answer most customer questions, some may still require the expertise of a business representative to make a final purchasing decision. Therefore, it’s important to combine the unique advantages of personal and digital selling.
Thankfully, many ecommerce vendors have implemented tools that allow sales representatives to access the ecommerce storefront on behalf of customers. With this feature, sales agents can log in to the store and assist customers in making their purchase decisions.
If salespeople in your industry typically make recommendations prior to purchase, leveraging sales quotes to build draft orders can be another way to use modern technology to guide the order process. Customers can receive recommended orders built by their salesperson online and then convert the quote to an order from their office without any further interaction.
For more information on digitally empowering a sales team, check out my previous article.
Configurable products and bundles
The most complex scenario is when products are made to order or a combination of products needs to be assembled in a specific way to satisfy customer requirements. Manufacturers and distributors of machinery and custom solutions need to find ways to unravel that problem to sell online successfully.
In Ecommerce, it is solved by implementing online product configurators for selling configurable products. A configurable product is a product that customers can change, configure, and personalize before it is purchased. If you can master the implementation of Ecommerce for configurable products, there is no real limit on what you can sell online. Let us look at examples across different industries.
If your business sells corporate ware, you should allow a buyer to customize a t-shirt by adding a company logo, text, and an image. DIY stores, like HomeDepot in the US, sell many configurable products, for example, windows, vanity tops or custom-built closets. The equipment manufacturer needs to give the customer 3D tools to design the final machine or part it needs.
Each of these cases requires the implementation of an online configuration tool that is purposely designed for your business and is integrated into your online store.
Often, merchants are selling a complex combination of products, and you need to guide customers through several steps to make sure they buy the correct combination. You need to break that process into several actions, and customer choice in previous steps may influence what options are available in the next one. In Ecommerce, it is called a Configurable Bundle.
To implement configurable bundle functionality, merchants need to define configuration steps, what products can be selected at each step, define validation rules that may be required to ensure the correct configuration, and implement a price adjustments algorithm based on the choices made by a customer.
Selling complex products online can be challenging, but focusing on these four key areas can help you remove barriers and create a more streamlined and enjoyable customer experience. This can lead to increased sales, customer satisfaction, and loyalty, ultimately helping businesses achieve their growth objectives.
The benefits of adopting a digital commerce strategy for complex products are clear, and companies that embrace this approach will be well-positioned to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace.
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