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Aug 30, 2007
How To #HOW551:

Borrow Best Tactics From Consumer Ecommerce to Revamp Your B-to-B Site

SUMMARY: Stuck in a B-to-B rut? To boost lead generation and ecommerce transactions, one marketer looked at best practices in consumer marketing. When they retooled their site, changes included:
- Adding lots more images
- Creating unique landing pages for top brand name searches
- Calculating shipping costs

Site traffic is up 587%, and their new lead generation feature has already generated millions in new business.
When Bob Schneider redesigned the Web site for Ellsworth Adhesives, an industrial adhesive and specialty chemical distributor, his goal was to boost ecommerce sales and lead generation for their field sales reps. But to achieve those B-to-B goals, Schneider and his team borrowed techniques from the most successful consumer ecommerce sites.

“If you aren’t thinking B-to-C and are just thinking you’re a B-to-B site, you’re not going to be everything you can be. A lot of the B-to-B sites that we looked at expected a lot of their users,” says Schneider, the company’s former Webmaster who now consults for Ellsworth Adhesives.

B-to-B purchasers are also consumers, who likely have come to expect certain things from the online shopping experience based on their personal purchases at and other top consumer sites. Keeping those shoppers in mind during the redesign, Schneider’s team applied a consumer focus to the site’s design, content, features and search engine optimization strategy.

The final product has been a grand slam, boosting traffic 587%, driving millions of dollars in sales from new features and even helping find new customers, such as universities and research institutions, which now account for 11% of sales.

Here are the top six consumer marketing tactics they used in their B-to-B Web site redesign:

-> Tactic #1. Provide full product information and supporting documents

B-to-B marketers might assume their buyers are experts who don’t need the range of product information that consumers often use to compare one item to another. But Schneider and his team realized that much of what Ellsworth Adhesives sells is hazardous materials with different types of restrictions or products with specialty applications that might not be apparent to new users.

For this reason, they added as much technical information and supporting documentation as they could to the online catalog, helping buyers choose the right product for their job.

Typical information on product pages includes:
o Material safety data sheet
o Technical data sheet
o Product description and typical uses
o Details about key properties, such as base chemistry, viscosity and specific gravity
o Product flash point

-> Tactic #2. Calculate actual shipping costs for orders

Many of the B-to-B ecommerce sites Schneider visited didn’t offer complete shipping cost information upfront during the purchasing process, making it hard to determine the total order cost before completing a transaction.

But just because B-to-B customers aren’t paying with their own money doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned about exploring different options to find the optimum cost. “That same purchasing manager probably visited sometime recently and had a good online shopping experience. So why do they have to put up with you?”

To address this, they added a shipping and sales tax calculator to their online shopping cart that lets customers enter their ZIP Code and then see shipping costs for five FedEx options. If the product is a hazardous or restricted material that can only be shipped in certain ways, the calculator will alert customers of this fact.

Shipping costs and any sales tax are added to the product cost to give total order cost.

-> Tactic #3. Show photographs of every product

Even though customers buy adhesives based on their properties -- not their appearances -- Schneider’s team thought it was important to give customers an exact look at the product they’re buying. As with consumer ecommerce, images can make B-to-B customers comfortable that they’re selecting the right product. What’s more, thumbnail images of each product on the catalog pages help break up what otherwise would be long, boring lists of product names and SKUs.

The task wasn’t easy, though. Not every manufacturer could supply product shots, and the ones they could get were in different formats and styles. For consistency, Schneider and his team bought a digital camera and built a modest in-house photo studio so they could take photographs of every product they carry. “It was a big project, but I feel it’s one of they key elements of the site that differentiates us.”

-> Tactic #4. Provide experts to answer questions

The challenge of matching an adhesive, sealant or other product to a specific industrial process often requires the sales team to work with their clients to identify the right product. Schneider wanted to offer some of that technical expertise online, which would either result in ecommerce sales or start a conversation that could be picked up by a sales rep and eventually closed offline.

The solution was an online technical support Q&A feature, but with a few twists:

- Knowing how dry B-to-B ecommerce can be, the team created a character called “The Glue Doctor,” complete with a cartoon mascot. They named the Q&A section, “Ask the Glue Doctor.”

- Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. CST, technical support personnel are available for live chats.

- After hours, customers could fill out a longer “Glue Doctor Analysis” application, with more details about their proposed application and adhesive needs. These were picked up by the technical support team and typically answered within 24 hours. In addition, the contact name and product details from those queries were passed along as leads to the appropriate field sales rep.

As they hoped, answering customers’ questions has delivered big returns. Glue Doctor chats have generated more than $40 million in sales through ecommerce or through leads generated by their Glue Doctor Analysis forms.

-> Tactic #5. Create unique landing pages for top brand name searches

Search engine optimization was a big element in the site redesign, and among other tactics, Schneider and his team thought carefully about how customers typically search for products.

Like consumers, B-to-B customers often search for specific product or brand names. Rather than pointing those searches to the catalog page that contained those brand names alongside its competitors in the same category, they created unique landing pages for some of the most popular products in their database.

Those items still appeared in the appropriate sections of the online catalog for customers browsing a category, but the brand-specific pages provided a direct route for search customers who know exactly which product they were looking for.

So far, they have created 37 brand-specific pages, but Schneider says more are needed. “You can never have enough of them.”

-> Tactic #6. Use negative keywords to filter out consumers

Although Schneider and his team borrowed tactics from consumer ecommerce, they didn’t want to make their site a destination for consumers looking for home adhesives. So when developing a search advertising strategy, they considered how consumers typically search and what kind of products they look for.

That process helped them develop a list of more than 40 negative terms to apply to the Google AdWords campaigns. Those terms include:
o Bra adhesive
o Airplane glue
o Body glue
o Carpet
o Ceramic
o Photo

“If someone is searching for bra glue and they click on an ad, that costs Ellsworth money and it’s not a good user experience. It’s been engrained in me to always think about the user first.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Ellsworth Adhesive’s Web site redesign:

LivePerson - provided the technology behind “Ask the Glue Doctor” chat feature:

G-Team Marketing - Bob Schneider’s search marketing consulting company:

Ellsworth Adhesives:

See Also:

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