Marketing teams in charge of business-to-business (B2B) products and services have been dealing with rapid change for many years. The profiles of B2B buyers are changing, with digital natives stepping into decision-maker roles. As a result, the details of where, when, and how deals are done are shifting dramatically from year to year—and e-commerce has grown ever-more important and impactful on companies’ bottom lines.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. And the shift to digital-first B2B sales and marketing suddenly became more urgent than ever before.
The first quarter of 2020 was a tumultuous one for B2B sellers, with disruptions like office closures and a global economic slowdown but also a broad uptick in B2B e-commerce. To take advantage of this rapid movement to online deal-making and sales, B2B marketing teams must think beyond traditional strategies and sales structures and embrace digital marketing.
With budget-friendly options, increased efficiency through micro-targeting, and the flexibility to adjust campaigns on the fly, digital marketing offers B2B vendors myriad benefits as they look to keep pace with the “new normal."
Read on for details about five B2B e-commerce marketing strategies that all teams should be adding to their arsenal.
When someone visits a website to look around, it’s safe to assume that that person is interested in the products or services offered by the owner of that website. Retargeting is a powerful tactic that allows digital marketers to place ads in front of users who have visited their website or even specific pages within the site.
For most B2B marketers, retargeting offers the potential for a huge return on investment. A couple hundred dollars per month can power a retargeting campaign on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Compare that monthly budget to the lifetime value of even a single customer, and it’s easy to see why retargeting is such a popular digital marketing strategy.
A good place to start with setting up retargeting for B2B e-commerce marketing is Google Tag Manager.
LinkedIn has long been a powerful tool for B2B e-commerce, and this marketing strategy is a perfect example of the platform’s potential. Essentially, account-based marketing is the practice of targeting specific accounts (companies) that a B2B seller is looking to engage in. Using this strategy, B2B marketers can double-down on companies that their counterparts on the sales team have on their target account list, by placing LinkedIn ads in front of employees at those companies.
Compared with retargeting campaigns, account-based marketing tends to be a more expensive tactic for B2B e-commerce—but it offers a degree of specificity that few if any other tactics can match. Through LinkedIn, B2B marketers can design the precise audiences who will see their ads. That might be a fairly wide range (i.e. people in senior-level roles at companies in Texas with more than 5,000 employees), or it might be super specific (i.e. people in senior-level finance roles at American Airlines). Targeting a more specific audience will cost more per click, but also allows marketers to deliver highly customized messaging to best engage the audience.
For as long as there has been digital marketing, email has been a key part of any effective strategy. Marketing automation represents a more recent iteration of email marketing, and is among the best ways to nurture new contacts in a B2B sales funnel. The tactic uses a series of emails to engage contacts or leads over time, with the ultimate goal of converting them into customers.
Marketing automation begins with someone handing over their email address, usually in exchange for something of value, like a webinar registration or to download a piece of interesting content. Then the B2B marketer’s email sequence kicks in. Generally, the email series will include a “welcome” message, one or more emails that offer the contact something they’re interested in, and of course a few emails aiming to entice them to browse products or services.
The good news for B2B marketers when it comes to marketing automation is that, because people opt-in to the campaigns by giving their email addresses, the only ongoing cost is software. And there are plenty of great software options to choose from.
Appearing at or towards the top of the results page for relevant search terms is among the most important goals for any e-commerce strategy, whether B2B or B2C. Because people searching for the products or services that a B2B seller offers are high-intent potential customers, every B2B e-commerce marketing budget should include a line item for paid search.
There are a number of ways that B2B marketers can elevate their paid search efforts to most effectively engage potential buyers. First, they should be strategic about the search terms they choose to spend against, not least because the cost will depend on the search volume for the keywords or phrases selected. Testing and optimizing the campaign based on what terms are driving the most clicks at the best cost is key.
Second, before launching a paid search campaign, B2B marketers should integrate their product or services pages with Google Shopping. This integration ensures that the “previews” that appear on users’ results pages include rich data and images, which help to drive clicks.
Beyond the digital ads that bring potential customers to B2B e-commerce platforms, there are also marketing tactics to optimize the website experience itself. One of the most impactful ways to increase engagement and conversion on a B2B e-commerce platform is website personalization.
Personalizing the online shopping experience for users can be as simple as adapting content based on the website visitor’s device, so that mobile users see slightly different options than those on desktop. (As Episerver notes, mobile users may be more interested in contact information for the business.)
Of course, website personalization for B2B e-commerce can get much more sophisticated, from product recommendations powered by machine learning to easy reorder options based on past behavior. The best personalization choices for a B2B e-commerce website will depend on the target audience, business goals, and more.
In today's digital-first world, B2B marketers must deliver user experiences that are just as robust and seamless as their B2C counterparts. See how simple improvements to your B2B e-commerce platform can lead to significant growth using our B2B E-commerce Growth Calculator.