This is a guest post by Jake Rheude, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Red Stag Fulfillment.
The B2B world is getting closer to B2C in many cases, but you’re still facing a longer lead time and a lot more effort for initial purchases, even as margins shrink and competition grows. The downside in the digital economy is that your B2B buyers are still just as picky as ever, but B2C offerings are making customers more demanding, especially for shipping.
You still have to balance the many touches and approaches of business buyers, and more of the process is moving online. But with the rise of B2B eCommerce, some power has been taken out of your hands since customers can do more research and purchasing on their own.
As a fulfillment company, Red Stag Fulfillment thinks a lot about B2B buyers and what impacts their purchase decisions. Delivery times, reliability, and, of course, prices are the top factors, but thankfully, they’re easy to control for.
However, if you’re concerned that shipping and delivery could be costing you customers, here are three questions to ask yourself and a few thoughts on how to respond in case you don’t like the answers you give.
Are you putting demanding people in the wrong boxes?
When we think of demanding customers, especially regarding digital services and quick delivery, some tend to picture Millennials sitting in apartments across big cities or sneaking down to Starbucks for free Wi-Fi to order from your store.
However, the desire for faster shipping cuts across nearly every demographic for online shoppers. To highlight how big of a desire this is for just about anyone who will ever run into your eCommerce brand, consider this:
Last year, the Global Web Index surveyed nearly 3,000 weekly Walmart shoppers aged 16 to 64. Nearly one-third wanted next-day delivery options. People trekking into physical Walmart locations said that next-day shipping would make them more likely to buy online.
Another important stat from this survey: 77% of these shoppers said free delivery options would increase their likelihood of buying online.
Your B2B buyers are also individual Amazon users when they get home at the end of the workday. Their expectations for shopping online don’t have a clear distinction between the office and the couch. You can’t impose this one them, so it’s time to adapt.
So, whatever box you had put the people wanting fast, free shipping in, get them out; all of your customers have these demands.
Does your shopping cart scare away customers?
There’s a direct correlation between order satisfaction and your order and fulfillment processes. That means that whenever anything goes wrong, you’re almost guaranteed to have an unhappy customer at the end of the day.
When someone is trying to start a purchase order, they’re specifically interacting with you. Every touchpoint they encounter in the process relates back to your company, both the good and the bad. One area that’s often bad, but that can easily be improved, is your shopping cart.
Customer service starts with the shopping experience, and that needs to include the shopping cart and checkout screens. Specific to the B2B space, your cart needs to be clear, your shipping options need to be readily available, and deals need to be easy to achieve.
We combed through multiple reports and studies to find out a few things about the state of B2B online shopping:
• Unexpected shipping charges are the top reason people abandon a shopping cart.
• More than 60% of people will abandon a shopping cart because the shipping cost makes the order total higher than they wanted.
• About half will leave your site and cart if their orders don’t reach the minimum for free shipping.
• A little less than a quarter will walk away if delivery is too slow and there’s no expedited option — good news for you is that B2B shoppers are more willing than the average B2C consumer to pay for that faster shipping.
• They mirror B2C shoppers in that almost half will abandon a cart if the estimated delivery date is more than a week away from when the order is purchased.
Plus, you should know that 28% of all U.S. online shoppers have abandoned a cart because checkout was too long or complex. That’s not limited to B2B buyers, but it is a stat worth remembering if this section has already made you realize you need to reconfigure your cart and checkout pages.
Do you deal with B2B negotiators?
Your B2B buyers are demanding. You already knew that. But, thinking about their demands gives you a chance to put their needs in the right perspective. We’re not thinking about people who demand more blogs and case studies or mobile-friendly websites, but the ones who really want to negotiate.
They want options, and stale delivery times just aren’t going to make them happy. The good news is that these B2B buyers are often willing to pay a little more to have things the way they want them.
Options you provide can be on pricing, volume-based discounts, shipping modes, invoicing or receivable specifications. One thing that must be on there is delivery speed and choices around delivery options, according to a broad study UPS did on successful eCommerce B2B brands.
A takeaway worth repeating from that survey is that options don’t have to mean you’re always negotiating in person on every order. APIs for your website and warehouse can automate proper shipping option displays and make sure orders start as soon as the system processes payment.
APIs are one of the best ways a B2B eCommerce brand can ensure it’s meeting delivery time needs and promises.
3 ways to respond to these new needs
Now you’ve got a handle on what these customers are looking for, it’s time to respond. How does your business do that?
We know of three offerings proven to be reliable tools for increasing the negotiating power you have with B2B customers and keeping them in your cart the whole way through.
1. Offer free shipping
If you can’t be the fastest, you might try being free for your domestic orders. It’ll prevent customers from having sticker shock when they get the checkout page. Plus, you can plaster “Free Shipping!” notifications across your site and get plenty of attention from new customers.
Paying for this can be a little tricky if you don’t require a minimum purchase amount. Some brands will include a small shipping cost in their goods to make up the difference. Weigh those two options based on existing customers and what you think they’ll react best to — follow the wisdom that it’s cheaper to keep a customer than win a new one.
2. Charge a flat rate and expedite
Charge your customers a flat rate for the goods they purchase and, behind the scenes, adjust your shipping methods and options to whatever gets orders there quickest and closest to that rate. You might bounce between carriers a lot or have different agreements for different zones, and the customer doesn’t need to see any of it.
Your flat rate needs to be researched so customers feel comfortable with it and it doesn’t cost you sales. You might be over or under the final cost to get things there in 2-3 days, but you’ll still be slightly ahead of the hole that free shipping causes.
One note is that customers paying a flat rate will be a little more demanding than those who get free shipping.
3. Let a professional service handle it
Sometimes warehouses are unwieldy beasts that take up too much time to control, keep stock of, and get deliveries out on time. If your struggles with on-time delivery aren’t about making things fast enough, but are instead about order mistakes or slow fulfillment, consider getting outside help.
Today, you can get a wide range of assistance and support from shipping professionals. There are plenty of services offering automation with your order software, and even same-day pick and pack 3PL fulfillment capabilities. These logistics providers can power your shopping cart to not only provide the best price, but also to have clear shipping estimates, and give you a countdown to when an order can be filled the same day or next day.
Add in the benefit of returns processing, and you might be able to save a bit on your current costs while also improving the reliability of your fulfillment, which boosts customer service and customer lifetime value.
We hope these tips help you understand the abundance of fulfillment options that are at your fingertips when running your eCommerce business, and we wish you the best of luck in beating your sales goals this quarter!
Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.