It is widely known and understood that prospects and customers begin their online product search on a search engine or on Amazon. In fact, according to a survey by PowerReviews 35% of customers begin their search on Google and 38% on Amazon.
Customers are looking for convenience when considering a purchase. Most prefer to search online rather than talking to one of your sales reps or walking into a store. Depending on the industry, as many as 80% of customers have researched their product purchase online before they even talk to you.
To take advantage of these growing customer habits, you must ensure that your products are findable through online search engines. Here are three tips to help make that happen.
When a prospect enters key words into the search field in Google or Amazon or another vendor site, how will they know that the best results will be presented? What can be very frustrating for the prospect, and a lost customer for you, is when no suitable results are presented. What the user will see will be the results crafted by the best search engine optimizers, pay-per-click managers, and feature advertisers. What the user is not necessarily seeing are the results that meet their needs.
We understand that search engine ranking is important, but consider this: What it you reallocated some of the resources spent on SEO or PPC advertising and used it for producing and displaying great content? What if you really let your products tell their stories? Not only would you be rewarded by Google’s website crawlers organically for having great content, but also your potential customers would find your products more easily and buy from you. In addition, as you review key word usage on your site, you will be able to more appropriately refine your key word selection through a feedback loop to reflect the words that your customers use to find products on your site. Read more on this topic.
Once a potential customer has found your site, you want them to be able to find suitable products within your assortment quickly and easily. By setting up a great taxonomy within inRiver, your products and associated attributes will be organized and properly classified, assisting users in being able to efficiently search and filter for the SKU that best meets their needs.
Read more on taxonomy and how it benefits your downstream channels in this blog by our partner, Earley Information Science.
Product Up-sell and Cross-sell
One way your business adds value is by helping customers make informed purchasing decisions. This does not just apply to the way you promote single products ― it also applies to the way you cross-sell and up-sell.
When you have high-quality information—categorized and tagged appropriately—it is easy to show customers how to combine complementary products. You gain a competitive advantage and increase revenue because you give your customers an in-depth understanding of the product and guide them toward the ideal solution for their needs.
When you deploy inRiver Product Marketing Cloud, you are able to quickly and easily create product assortments and relationships—in the manner of a “look book” for retailers or “additional parts and services” for B2B vendors. Contact us for a demo!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver
Forrester analyst Andy Hoar wrote an excellent report—“Death of a (B2B) Salesman”—about how B2B buyer preferences have quickly and fundamentally shifted. The name of the report refers to the trend that B2B buyers increasingly prefer to self-educate versus talk to sales representatives to learn about products and services. They also think that buying online is more convenient than buying from a salesperson. As Andy Hoar concludes, the B2B buyer behavior has changed signiﬁcantly in the past few years, but B2B corporate sales activity has not.
When more than 70% of customers do not want to interact with sales representatives, the appearance of the sales funnel changes in a dramatic way. Instead of looking in a printed catalog and calling the sales rep, B2B buyers are now starting their buying journey—and their entry into the funnel—by searching Google, Amazon Business, or other B2B eCommerce sites, increasingly using a mobile device while being on the go. You need to quickly help them find you, guide them to the right solution, and gain their trust without any human interaction. This is not easy to do, but a lot of business and revenue will be lost if you fail. In contrast, a lot of business will be won if you succeed.
So how can you turn this dramatic shift to your advantage and gain B2B sales superpowers?
Step 1: Get found.
To be found you need to be great at SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and provide Google and Amazon with the right high-quality content. SEO is constantly changing as Google and others optimize and modify their search algorithms, and many people make a good living out of consulting on the subject. However, without that high-quality content, these consultants cannot help you, because the foundation for successful SEO is high-quality, keyword-rich content. You need to provide this content to all your attracting channels, and to do so, you need to produce large amounts of it. It is much more efficient if it is created and stored granularly—instead of as large chunks of text—and is professionally localized.
Step 2: Guide the customer.
If you succeed with step 1, congratulations! The buyer has found you. You now need to guide them, as they most likely landed on a product page and not on a Home or category page. Your goal now is to provide the buyer with a guided navigation that quickly presents relevant products and the associated ecosystem of up-sells and cross-sells. Since the buyer may be using a mobile device, time is of the essence, and your on-site search and navigation will determine if they will find what you have to sell.
Your on-site search must be fast and efficient. Most likely, your search functionality is driving the guided (faceted) navigation. It is called a search engine for a reason, and the fuel for that engine is product content—high-quality, granular content.
Step 3: Gain trust.
If you have your product attributes and assortment in order, the B2B buyer should now have a few alternatives to choose from that match their need. Like any great sales rep, your goal now is to build rapport and trust with the customer—through your website interaction. You need to make it fast and easy to compare products, by providing all the necessary information. Most importantly, you need to display accurate information that is consistent across all the touchpoints in the customer's buying journey. Even small errors, such as the gross weight being lower than the net weight, will make the rest of your information not seem very trustworthy. On the other hand, a product video or a 360-degree spin will increase the chances of a sale, by increasing the customer's confidence in your product.
Selling complex products
If you sell complex products, it is often necessary to have an expert, such as a customer care or sales representative, help the customer to create a correct order. However, even if that is the case, most buyers will have done considerable research before they contact your sales rep or product expert. B2B buyers are empowered buyers, and you need to empower your sales team to meet this new challenge. Buyers and sellers alike need access to all the knowledge you have about the product, and they need it in real time, just like your website. You may also need to augment this information with a CPQ tool (Configure Price Quote) with configuration capabilities, which will unquestionably drive the need for more and extremely accurate product information.
Content is still king!
I hope you get my point. Content is the foundation for turning this dramatic shift to your advantage, in all phases of the buying journey, and irrespective of the systems and tools you invest in. Don't get me wrong: digital marketing and sales tools are necessary to manage the new B2B sales funnel efficiently. But before you invest in tools that empower customers and sales reps alike, invest in your content and keep investing in it. Content is a lot like fruit; it is a perishable asset with a shelf life, and you can never stop producing and updating it.
Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver
The other day, my seventh-grade son walked into my home office to complain that the strap on his saxophone broke, so he couldn’t play it. You may be thinking what I was thinking: “My gosh, they really do come up with creative ways to get out of practicing!”
However, in this case, the problem really was the torn saxophone strap.
Unfortunately, we live in a small town, approximately 45 miles from the nearest music store. Thankfully, we live only seconds away from Amazon.com! When I searched on ‘alto saxophone strap’ 18 pages of choices were presented to me; just two days later, the item arrived on my front porch.
Many of you can likely relate to this story. It is often more convenient to order an obscure item online and wait a couple of days, than to plan a trip to a specialty store. It may even be worth it to wait a couple of days for more commodity items, if you can avoid planning, driving, and perusing store shelves.
As a consumer, I love Amazon, and according to the data below—compiled by BloomReach, Inc. from a survey taken this past Labor Day—I am not alone. Not only are many consumers happy to shop on Amazon, but more than half of online shoppers begin their search on Amazon, completely bypassing Google and Yahoo.
Where customers start their product search (Source: State of Amazon 2016, BloomReach)
As a shopper, I love finding what I need right away on the Amazon marketplace. But as a business person, I recognize the challenges that this trend is introducing for retailers.
Because so many shoppers start their online search on Amazon, being found on Amazon is your top priority. Experienced Amazon sellers know that product titles, descriptions, and product features that include optimized key words provide the best chance of your product being displayed at the top of Amazon’s search results. But before you can do this, you need to have your product information complete, organized, and appealing. Your product information needs to clearly communicate the story that each product is trying to tell.
Here are some quick tips for organizing your product information for better results on Amazon:
First, check out Amazon’s guidelines for product titles. When you are writing your product title, make sure that it includes the most relevant key words for your product—not only those that shoppers search on, but also those that most clearly tell your product’s story. Put these first in your title, with more generic attributes following. This is becoming increasingly important as users search with mobile devices that may truncate your product title.
Product descriptions provide your best opportunity to introduce product messaging and key words to improve your SEO. However, don’t let the need for key words trump your ability to tell your product story. You need to maintain consistency across your channels when describing your product. As your customers shop around to find the best price and shipping rates, they need to be presented with consistent messaging about your product. Find the right balance between your product story and SEO requirements.
Consistency is critical when selecting your most important product features. Having a central store of product information can help you ensure that your information is correct on the Amazon marketplace and all other sites where your products are displayed. For Amazon specifically, choose the most pertinent features that shoppers need to know about to display in this section. And keep telling the product story with compelling copy—after all, it is still “above the fold!”
By first determining the story that you want your product to tell and then following Amazon’s guidelines for key words and formatting, you can get your products to the top of those 18 pages of search results on Amazon.com.
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager North America, inRiver