It’s no secret that the rise of the internet heavily disrupted nearly all industries.
As consumers gained immediate access to brand and product information, business sales cycles were thrown off.
Suddenly, earning customers wasn’t just about putting your number in the Yellow Pages or driving to a new city and taking potential customers out for drinks.
The sales cycle changed – from outbound to inbound.
- Inbound marketing is now a no-brainer for successful businesses with online storefronts.
- Outbound marketing is falling more and more by the wayside.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is the process of producing valuable information and content in an effort to increase your search engine rankings and therefore increasing traffic to your site as well as brand discoverability.
This is an important shift in how selling has long been accomplished.
Few salesmen travel door to door anymore. Few even do so much as leave their home office.
Now, customers call upon businesses – and they often do this when presented with helpful, educational content that earns their trust.
Sure, sales people do still call out and talk to potential customers, but…
Inbound marketing is an undeniable business need in today’s world.
And, nearly all industries are taking full advantage.
This why the number of blog posts produced each day is so high (2 million) and why the SEO game has gotten so competitive.
Writers aren’t cheap, and good writers can be difficult to find. Plus, you need more than a writer to make an inbound strategy effective.
You need the whole company to sign on to the effort.
Lagging behind on this, however, are often businesses in the B2B space.
Estimates predict that online B2B selling will top $1.18 trillion by 2021.
But it isn’t that these businesses are going to necessarily boom unexpectedly.
It’s instead that they have yet to fully implement modern success strategies the B2C world has long known produce incrementally high ROI.
These include launching:
- Online storefronts.
- Optimizing for SEO.
- Putting a smart inbound strategy in place.
Texas America Safety Company (T.A.S.C.O.) knows just how well online and inbound can work.
The team launched their online store in 1996, and immediately saw the business benefit.
- Their online selling success as a B2B brand.
- What they’ve learned over the last two decades online.
- What they are planning for the future.
Read the full interview below.
When did you first launch your B2B ecommerce site?
Texas America Safety Company (T.A.S.C.O.) started business almost 20 years ago selling occupational safety supplies through the oil patch in West Texas.
For many years, we visited as many customers as possible with our delivery van and sold our products directly from the vehicle.
Around 1996, we opened up our first website and soon thereafter discovered the B2B ecommerce benefits of selling online.
No more spending hours driving the countryside to visit a few customers. Now, the customers could shop our products 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Adding our products online and effectively marketing our website was able to dramatically increase our sales.
We now have a thriving business thanks to the internet.
Has online B2B customer behavior changed in the last 22 years?
Our main website was designed using older HTML, and for 16 years had performed exceptionally well on the search engines.
The code was written free hand using the best tools of the time.
Over the last few years, however, the search engine algorithms and customer expectations have changed.
Customers and search engines now want a more integrated website design that is mobile friendly and more responsive to customer wants and needs.
T.A.S.C.O.’s mobile site.
We noticed our online clicks and sales had started to slip a little at a time.
Over the last year, it became obvious that no amount of modification to the old design was going to help recover our search engine relevance.
It was time to find new tools that are the best of our time to make sure we continued to see the benefits of b2b ecommerce.
What B2B ecommerce features did you need?
It was a difficult decision to move from our old tried and trusted platform, but after quite a bit of research we choose BigCommerce to host our new ecommerce site.
I was able to visit their facility and meet some of the people that would help us with our account.
Both the BigCommerce wholesale ecommerce platform and their staff was top notch and very helpful with the change over.
When we did have a question, we were able to quickly answer them with a simple chat or email ticket.
In addition, the interface was easy to use, and the batch import/export features greatly sped up the migration.
The wide range of templates helped us to construct a site that perfectly fit our needs.
We still maintained the look and feel from our old site, but with all of the all of the tools and b2b ecommerce benefits of a modern platform.
Finally, we were ready to make the switch.
We then re-launched our flagship website and right away starting seeing positive results.
Were there any moments of fear during migration?
Moving the site was very worrisome.
However, with help from BigCommerce, the new site launched without a hitch.
We were able to seamlessly transfer to the new ecommerce site without any loss of sales or down time.
In addition, our existing customers have sent all positive messages concerning the change-over and are happy with the new site.
We also noticed the shopping cart was much better now.
T.A.S.C.O.’s checkout keeps users on the same site with navigation, showing customers additional upsell options for all their safety needs.
We have been able to recover many more orders with the shopping cart abandonment feature.
All in all, the analytics are showing a measurable improvement.
What trends are you seeing in B2B ecommerce right now?
It would seem customers now prefer to have specialized goods and not just a one size fits all approach.
Since there are so many online re-sellers, price has become much more competitive as well.
Each company needs to find what they do best and try to capitalize on their strengths.
For us, we have introduced several new types of products that are not highly marketed online.
- We have started our own line of hydro dipped custom made hard hats.
- Also, we’re adding several new colors and designs of safety vests that we think will be a hit.
- We also have been offering more customization services with much lower minimum quantities: hard hat custom logos and screen printing on vests, for example.
Customization options like this are easy to add via product variants.
What are you doing to grow B2B sales this year?
Over the next month, we plan on improving the site one product at a time with:
- Better images.
- Better text and usage tips.
Doing this for our 4,000+ plus products will take some time if it’s done right.
We are trying to incorporate information and tips in prominent areas of the site and not just cramming the page full of hundreds of products.
In addition, we are trying to focus the pages around a central theme and keyword in the hopes of offering the customer a usable, informative and attractive shopping place.
T.A.S.C.O.’s Construction Safety 101 guide includes 13 chapters and is only one of more than 10 guides offered on the site.
We want to offer service and information in addition to our products.
Then, once a purchase is made, we want to make sure the customer receives shipping information and delivery status in a simple and non-obtrusive form.
It’s not just about the online shopping experience for us. We also want to supply trust and comfort with the fulfillment aspects of the transaction.
In addition, we are looking to improve our product selection to stay on top of modern trends. In some instances we are hoping to open new markets in our safety arena.
Do you have advice for other B2B brands in launching online?
My advice is to be patient and consistent.
Be sure to concentrate on offering the end user the best shopping experience, and then deliver the products or services promptly.
In addition, make sure the businesses back end systems are as prioritized as the sales and marketing.
Don’t just concentrate on selling, and then have little time, energy, and/or inventory to actually deliver the goods.
4 Keys to B2B Ecommerce Benefits and Sales
Gary Brownlee identified 4 keys to achieving high search ranking and high conversions in the B2B ecommerce space.
These 4 tactics have set his business up for success over the last 22 years –– with tweaks every couple of years to account for algorithm changes and industry updates.
Here is what your B2B business should focus on now:
- Mobile-friendly website.
- Product customization.
- Educational guides for SEO and to prove industry expertise.
- Easy checkout and payment options (PayPal + Consumer Credit).
If you take nothing else away from this piece, let those 4 tenants guide you to the benefits of B2B ecommerce for your own brand.
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