The ‘E’ needs to stand for ‘easy’ in e-commerce

Study finds customer experience hinders B2B online product sales


While B2B e-commerce continues to gain acceptance among electrical contractors, the growth of the market is being hindered by a mediocre shopping experience, a recent study found.

The e-commerce company hybris conducted an Electrical Wholesaling E-Commerce Audit and found just 40% of wholesalers have either basic e-commerce Websites or no e-commerce sites at all.

“The demand for quality online shopping has moved beyond the consumer marketplace and into B2B sales,” said Steve Kramer, executive vice president for sales in the Americas at hybris. “B2B purchasing professionals want a quick and simple online buying experience. This audit shows a huge opportunity for improvement among businesses in the electrical wholesaling sector.”

According to the audit, three in five Websites showed a list of dimensions and other specifications, but only one in four allowed the customer to enlarge the main product image. To provide the information buyers need, websites must have high-resolution product images, offer full technical specifications and downloadable PDF manuals when applicable. Product reviews are also helpful, but are largely unavailable on wholesaler websites.

“One of the best ways to provide detailed product information is to allow customers to submit their own reviews. They often highlight specific features that brands don’t even realize are important to customers,” said Kramer. “In the B2B world, reviews demonstrate that a wholesaler is partnering with their customers by offering the best and most useful advice for choosing the right product.”

Although advanced search functionality is a staple of most B2C e-commerce offerings, many B2B sites only offer basic search functions. According to the audit, 98% of sites allowed customers to search by product code, but only 48% enabled customers to search by product attributes like size, brand or price.

“B2B websites should cater to consumers by allowing them to search by application, product names, codes, keywords or the ability to look up the details of prior orders,” Kramer said. “A website’s search function should also recognize frequently misspelled words and offer auto-complete capabilities that consumers have come to rely on in traditional search engines.”

The study also found the best e-commerce sites offer a range of shipping options – next-day delivery, on a weekend or during a specific time period. Of the audited sites where information about shipping was available:

  • Nearly nine in ten offered next-day shipping, but very few offered additional options
  • Only 7% made information about shipping ready and available to anyone visiting
  • Only 14% showed shipping cost information on their product page 

“For electrical wholesale customers who often need items on short notice, fast and easy shipping is crucial,” said Kramer. “From shipping to product details, our research found that there is a large disparity between what buyers want in an e-commerce platform and the current state of electrical wholesaling websites. By investing in an optimized e-commerce channel, wholesalers can equip their organizations with the tools they need to meet their customers’ e-commerce expectations.”

The study was conducted by hybris by analyzing the Websites of the top 200 companies of Electrical Wholesaling magazine. 

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