A lot of brick-and-mortar businesses have yet to grapple with selling online, and many have a difficult time reorienting their traditional retail approach to an online environment. Facilities management equipment supplier Grainger has invested heavily in their eCommerce platform. While they are indeed one of the big companies out there, how they are approaching eCommerce is valuable for any business to watch and emulate. For those who prefer to search immediately via product or category, the search box is included in the top banner (Grainger are leaders at search, as we will discuss further in a minute). Grainger have learnt what has worked for their online store home page layout from their very beginning and now use this to create a sense of comfort for returning visitors, while allowing new customers to easily feel a sense of connection.
Features section: this was introduced about a year after the initial website was built, obviously as Grainger learnt more about their customers needs. According to B2B eCommerce best practice, helping customers navigate directly to the information they need in a click or two is essential for this market.
Show business customers what items are most often bought on your website (as these may be similar to the products your new customers are searching for as well).
Over the past four years, Grainger’s online store has increased from offering 480,000 products to in excess of one million. The VP of Ecommerce with Grainger, Paul Miller, has said that Grainger manages 5 million paid search keywords, up from 10,000 in 2010. Start managing a database of all the products you sell and start building a keyword strategy around all the products in your database. If you do not stock or sell all of the product brand names in each category, consider creating pages or blog posts that do comparisons. In our summary of B2B retail best practices, we share a key piece of advice from marketing analyst Diana Huff. Grainger is exemplary in helping customers quickly navigate their site and get to the product pages they need. Use case filters: One of Grainger’s cleverest product search features is the filter menu on the left hand side. Build a search autocomplete or use an API (like the Algolia solution described in our eCommerce API overview) that can help you manage your product content for search.
Think through the use cases for your potential customers (use your customer personas if you have created some).
Grainger takes the best learnings from all eCommerce sites (more on this later) to improve their product description pages. Like with customer-facing eCommerce (for example, Birchbox or BaubleBar), they are also building a recommendation review database to help business customers better research products. Use aggregated data from your sales and website searches to feed back information to other customers.
Encourage user-generated content such as recommendation reviews, or content suited to a B2B audience. Grainger encourages business buyers to conduct their own comparison shopping on the website.
Business buyers often need to demonstrate a business case where they explain why one product was chosen over another. Business products may differ only slightly or may differ in terms of detailed specifications which are not immediately obvious when looking at a product page. Grainger noticed that their business buyers were increasingly using iPads to visit their website. Review your website analytics regularly to review what devices and operating systems your visitors are using to visit your website. To encourage repeat business, Grainger provides an account system so that businesses can sign up and manage their orders and, hopefully, purchase repeatedly through the website. But Grainger also provides a quick checkout service for new customers who may just need a one-off purchase, or are in a hurry and need a specific item as quickly as possible.
But psychologically, the message from Grainger is clear: you do not have to worry about excessive paperwork to get started purchasing through our system. Make sure to explain clearly how customers can buy single, one-off items that can be shipped quickly to meet immediate needs. Consider sending a followup email after delivery has been fulfilled for the first order inviting these customers to set up an account.
In an interview with Meet The Boss TV’s Ben Thompson, Grainger’s VP of Ecommerce Paul Miller suggested online businesses should not overly focus on the idea of “B2B”. You can see this in practice on the Grainger website where, as noted above, techniques from hospitality, travel and social media-focused online retail are used to create meaningful features for a business customer. If you have already been operating a B2C online retail website, look over what has worked best for you in building customer loyalty and engaging shoppers with your website.


Review our Best eCommerce Websites series and see what features work best for customers and consider how to apply these winning strategies for B2B online retail. While it is just as important to focus on a delightful, useful and efficient customer experience for business buyers as it is for consumers, there are also some specific business environments that are helpful to understand when targeting this market. Share product details: Often business buyers must check with their colleagues or the end users in the organization before they can confirm a purchase. Bulk ordering: Grainger provides a simple feature so that buyers can copy and paste item codes into a scratch pad and calculate bulk purchasing prices. Easy Reorder: Like subscription retail, Grainger offers a service where business customers can quickly repeat their previous order. Paperwork Integration: For large customers, Grainger integrates their ordering system into their customer’s financial record systems so there is a clear paper trail for purchases. Create specific features that make it easy for business customers to manage the paper trail necessary when purchasing online. When you identify large enterprise customers, consider investing in helping them integrate directly into your sales interface, for example, establishing approval authority chains so as to more easily facilitate purchasing across their employee pool.
Review our subscription retail summary and consider how to apply repeat subscription services for business customers who buy perishable items and products that need regular restocking. You don’t need to aspire to be an industry heavyweight to make use of many of the techniques that Grainger has introduced on their website. Mark BoydMark Boyd is a freelance writer based in Barcelona, focusing on the ways we use technology to connect and interact.
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She says that B2B customers are “busy and efficient” and want to head straight to product pages. For example, for hand and portable lamps, not only are there the usual candidates for product filters in this category to help speed up search (things like lamp type, watts and voltage), but there are filters to help for individual business use cases. Or look through the FAQs pages of supplier websites, or your own support desk database to identify what sort of use cases buyers are most needing to confirm when selecting a product.
For example, like a hotel bookings site, Grainger shows what other customers searched for or bought once you have reached a product page.


You may need to think more about LinkedIn or industry professional Twitter accounts than the usual social media targets.
Start small if you need to: your top searched for items of the month, or your top sold items.
For example, perhaps some customers would be able to share the business case that helped them argue for purchasing particular products, or sharing of unique use cases about how businesses are using the products they are buying. They have a feature where as you go through the site, you can select particular products under a comparison tick-box. Making it easier for buyers to compare rather than “tune out” and turn to another task encourages purchasing. In essence, there is not that much different to signing up for an account and utilizing the quick checkout system.
Make sure your system stores agreed data (address and shipping details, name of business and purchaser) so that these buyers can set up an account after they have received their first order. Consider providing some discount or incentive on their first order as an account holder to encourage repeat business. While it is valuable to consider business buyer motivations when carrying out market research, Paul Miller reminds us that at the end of the day, it is a human shopper that is making the decisions.
Grainger provides a one-click button service to let buyers send a copy of the product page to anyone else in the organization. Even for smaller customers, Grainger offers an easy clickable interface for those buyers who need to print off and file an invoice when they order online. Consider reaching out to initial customers to check if they are able to easily document and file their purchasing history with you, or whether they need invoices or purchase orders in a particular format, or any other documentation. As a B2B retailer with consistent growth and a proven capacity to scale their operations for the internet, they are an ideal candidate to watch and follow, and to copy their best practices.
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And B2B online retail is seeing exceptional growth as business buyers start researching and burying products directly online. This means there are a lot of opportunities to enter the B2B online retail market and build a reputation. But when brick-and-mortar do create a strong online presence, it is worth paying attention. At the start of this year, they announced that they had surpassed $3 billion in eCommerce sales for the first time. In fact, the left-hand menu replicates the drop down top menu of “products” so that whichever way the visitor likes to navigate, they can quickly get to where they want to go. PPC advertising data analysis provider SEMRush shows that Grainger is positioned first in the keywords it is buying. Build up until you can recommend other products for every single product page on your website. Then you can navigate to a page which will show you all of these products side by side so you can better decide which product is best suited to your business needs.
For example, if there is a growing section using iPhones to access your website, maybe you need to start investing in an iPhone app. In fact, business customers who have used the quick checkout now have all of their information at the ready so that they can now open an account for repeat purchases.
By following their example, your B2B online retail business can also be on a path to growth each year.
Save those and enter them on their websites (after making an account-when you sign up for pampers you will get 100pts) When you have a certain amount of points, you can cash in for Free rewards. It is a also a fast growing market with businesses frequently buying from new vendors outside their usual supplier networks.
You don’t even need to know how to spell submersible to start getting the right suggestions! Also, things like number of reviews and price are listed lower down in the filter menu so customers can quickly scan what other filter options they have before they head to these “go to” filter choices. For example, if a business needed to buy a floor scraper, they could see that customers also viewed replacement scraper blades, which might be a reminder to stock up on this item when purchasing a scraper themselves. If the majority of your customers are using a Chrome web browser, can you create an extension to make it easier for them to stay connected with your retail services?



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