Top 6 Features a B2B Subscription Business must have
An e-commerce platform enables businesses to sell online. Different businesses opt for different kinds of platforms. With the increase in the adoption of the internet, a large portion of the B2C industry has moved from brick and mortar to e-commerce. B2B has always been perceived as one where sales representatives charm potential customers in person to secure a successful sale.
But the numbers paint a different picture. According to a B2B e-commerce 2019 report, the global market valuation of the B2B e-commerce market is $12.2 trillion, 6 times the B2C market. The two biggest players are Alibaba and Amazon Business.
B2B buyers are increasingly moving towards making their purchases online. Whether it is the selling of goods or services, B2B sellers need their own e-commerce platform. Within the e-commerce ecosystem, most sellers are moving towards a subscription-based model. One-time sales are being transformed into a recurring revenue source, ensuring brand loyalty, and streamlined customer experience. Focus is also being placed on cross-selling and upselling.
In order to have a strong online presence and be a top player in the market, your subscription-based service needs to be robust. Its features must be different from that of a B2C business. The needs of the two target customer segments are entirely different. What a B2C customer expects is very different from what a B2B customer wants.
Below are the top 6 features that your subscription-based model must have:
1. Customer Segmentation and Profiling
In a B2C model, each customer is equal. But this philosophy cannot be followed in a B2B model. Customers vary depending on their requirements. The ticket sizes of B2B customers are much higher than those of B2C customers. It is important to segment and profile customers based on certain factors:
- Product selection
- Minimum Order Quantity
- Frequency of Reorder or Renewal
- Bulk Orders
Sometimes, you work out special corporate rates for bulk orders and expect a certain minimum guarantee. This requires a customized shopping cart experience for each customer. The pricing options visible to them must be different, as you wouldn’t want them to bargain with you based on the rates you are offering to another customer.
2. Offering Bulk Discounts
Bulk discounts are the need of the hour. They encourage B2B buyers to buy in higher quantities. You need to alter the discount percentage based on the number of users the subscription plan is being bought for.
The switching cost for customers is very low. If they encounter better deals from some other service providers, and they require the services for large quantities, they are bound to switch. The consumer mentality is to always go where a better rate is offered. In the B2B business, the order values are so high that even a small discount percentage goes a long way in securing an order.
3. Flexible Modes of Payment
B2C customers often prefer the choice of different payment options. It is no different for B2B customers. If anything, they would want additional options. For example, bulk payments of a higher value are often made using cheques. This option needs to be on your platform and there should be a mechanism in place for the actual collection of the cheques.
Another common practice in B2B businesses is credit. Payments are usually made after a certain duration like 30 days or 60 days and the services are provided on credit. You must accommodate this into your e-commerce platform and provide a purchase order number. This helps you keep track of pending payments and avoiding confusion later.
Another payment option that B2B businesses look for is partial payment, wherein they make the payment in milestones, depending on the level and progress of services provided. There might be other preferences depending on the customer and his or her line of business. You should be flexible enough to accommodate if not all, most of the payment options that your customers would prefer.
4. Easy To Reorder Previously Purchased Products/Services
When ordering a product or a service for the first time, you navigate through all the offerings and features. You evaluate the pros and cons of each plan and carefully decide on what you would like to buy. Imagine repeating the process over and over again?
If you are happy with the chosen plan and do not wish to switch, you wouldn’t want to go through the hassle of browsing and selection again. It would be much more convenient if you just had a renew or reorder option. You must provide a history of all the purchases made by a customer in the past. The user should then be allowed to reorder or renew whichever past purchase he or she wants. This helps the customer save time and counts towards a better consumer experience. While this may not seem like a lot, it helps retain your customers.
5. Make Your Website Mobile Responsive
How much time do you spend on your smartphone? How many products do you browse on your phone whenever you get the time? According to Pixel Union, by 2021, online sales will be dominated by mobile phones, capturing a market share of about 54%. About 67% of consumers window shop digitally, and 77% of those ending up buying impulsively. While impulsive buying may not be true for B2B businesses, they too have increasingly started making their purchases through their mobile phones.
If the actual purchase is not happening through a smartphone, product research is definitely happening there. If your website is not mobile responsive, it might deter customers from spending time on it and they will immediately switch to faster and more efficient websites. You might lose out on a sale in spite of better product offerings, only because your website was not mobile responsive.
Mobile commerce is the way forward and we must keep up with it.
6. Digital Marketing Strategy
While you may have the best website out there with the best product offering, what use is it if your customers don’t know about it? It is important to market yourself in order to gain visibility. You must follow SEO practices to make your website rank higher in search engines. Most people don’t go beyond the first page of the search results. You must get there.
The power of social media must be harnessed to gain traction. With regular content and a few strategies, you can get enough followers. You can integrate your profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc with your website and redirect your followers. They might end up being potential customers.
While offline marketing still works, with more and more people spending all their time online, digital marketing is taking over.
While you will need more features in addition to the ones mentioned above, these cannot be compromised upon. Your business model today needs to have a strong online presence. Having said that, a strong presence will get you leads, but they will convert into customers depending on your products and services, the way you price them, the way you customize them for your customers, your willingness to make adjustments, flexibility, etc.
The market today is such that the reigns are in the hands of the buyer. If you cannot provide what he or she wants, there will be someone out there who can. So, make yourself indispensable for your customer.