When it comes to the online buying experience, personalization based on a buyer’s purchasing habits and movement through a marketplace or supplier’s webstore has become table stakes for suppliers. For example, according to to a recent report from Knowde, a B2B marketplace, 73% of millennials prefer a personalized buying experience. Millennials are also comfortable with companies using personal data. That can include online search history and digital interactions to personalize sales outreach, ads, and direct communications.
One of the ways B2B sellers are imitating B2C ecommerce sites is by tailoring what a visitor sees on their websites to the interests of each buyer. Two of the biggest public distributors of maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) products are among the first companies in B2B ecommerce to illustrate how this is done in a B2B digital transaction.
MSC Industrial Supply Co. recommends products to visitors to MSCDirect.com based on their known interests and profiles. That data comes from customer purchase history records and from email marketing data that shows what types of promotions a customer has responded to and the products he’s purchased as a result.
A personalization system from Certona uses that data to suggest alternative and complementary products to someone browsing the MSC site. During testing, the personalization strategy converted 38% more visitors to buyers, increased the average order value by 12% and increased units sold by transaction by 46%, MSC reported.
W.W. Grainger Inc. uses similar technology from Kibo to tailor displays to individual buyers on its Zoro.com ecommerce site, which caters to smaller and midsized businesses.
More than 80% of buyers arriving from a search on Google land on a product page, and those pages have become a focus of Zoro’s personalization efforts. Among the data fed into the personalization system is the content of a Google ad a visitor clicked on or the search terms she used while browsing the Zoro site.
If a returning customer rarely looks at a particular category of goods, such as office supplies, the site’s search technology will prioritize other categories of goods in search results. That can help from overwhelming a potential customer with irrelevant results, a real risk given that Zoro.com offers several million SKUs. The personalization system may also be programmed to offer returning customers a larger discount, as those customers typically buy more over time than a first-time visitor.
When someone adds an item to a shopping cart and arrives at the checkout page, Zoro.com offers related products, but tries not to confuse the buyer by offering lower-priced items.
In the first year after Zoro implemented the personalization system, that the site’s overall conversion rate had increased by 1-2%.