December 3, 2013, 9:48 AM

Building out B2B e-commerce sales

Experts offer tips on how to increase the number of product lines sold per order.

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Manufacturers and distributors often sell only a small part of their catalogs to each customer that purchases online, speakers at a conference on business-to-business e-commerce said Monday. But it’s not because they don’t want the extra sales.

Companies “complain that customers don’t know what they sell,” Linda Taddonio, chief e-commerce strategy officer and co-founder of Insite Software, a provider of e-commerce technology, said at the B2B Multichannel conference in Phoenix. “I tell them they have a marketing problem if their customers don’t know.”

Taddonio and other experts at the conference advised companies to use several marketing techniques to connect with client companies. Steve Howard, a partner in the digital and customer experience marketing strategy practice, industrial sector, at IBM Corp., advised B2B companies to use information on market demand for their products as well as data on each customer’s purchasing behavior and interests expressed through social media. That information can enable their web sites and customer service reps to suggest products when customers need assistance deciding on a purchase.

Sign Up for B@Becnews for FREEGeorge Gallate, CEO of online marketing services firm Rimm-Kaufmann Group, said that companies can win over more customers and increase product sales though online how-to videos. Retailers, though, must take steps to ensure that potential customers find the videos through Internet search and other forms of marketing. And that includes reaching corporate buyers searching on smartphones. “If you’re not using mobile search for B2B, you’re missing out,” he said.

Taddonio added that companies should figure their average number of product lines sold per order, then set a goal to increase the average by at least one product line. Companies with limited marketing budgets, she said, can initially focus on expanding sales with existing customers.

Companies that effectively market to and engage customers in B2B e-commerce, however, can expand the number and types of products sold. Andy Hoar, a business and technology analyst at Forrester Research Inc., told conference attendees that a recent survey Forrester conducted with Internet Retailer found that 45% of companies engaged in B2B e-commerce said they had increased their average number of product lines sold in each order. He added that their marketing strategies included selling more “solution sets” of complementary products, which can result in better profit margins as well as more revenue.

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