Online B2B sellers spend on cross-selling and imaging technology

After learning that good pictures and product recommendations boost conversion rates and sales, B2B companies are spending more on them, Forrester Research finds.

Paul Demery

What features on business-to-business e-commerce sites are most effective in driving sales? Displaying related items on product detail pages, showing strong and alternative product images, and site search that lets buyers filter results by product category and characteristic.

That’s what Forrester Research Inc. found in a survey it conducted of 155 B2B professionals last fall in conjunction with Internet Retailer magazine.

“These are features … that we believe the vast majority of B2B companies must implement in the near term,” writes Forrester analyst Andy Hoar, who specializes in B2B e-commerce technology and strategies.

Forrester listed 32 site features in the study and ranked them by the percentage of respondents who said they would be “actively spending” money on them in 2014. It then grouped the features as “high priority,” or slated for spending by more than 60% of respondents; “priority,” those cited by 50% to 58%; and “low-priority,” 40% to 49%. Another eight features didn’t make the priority cut, cited by between 23% and 38% of respondents.

Following are the features with the percentage of respondents spending on them this year:

High priority:

● Related products on product detail page, 72%
● Product images/alternate images, 70%
● Filters for segmenting site search results, 65%
● Video, 61%


● Customer order history, 58%
● Web site personalization, 55%
● Recommendations/special offers at checkout, 55%
● Detailed shipment tracking, 55%
● Top sellers, 55%
● Top-rated products, 51%

Low priority:

● Calculating tax and freight costs, 49%
● Customer ratings and reviews, 48%
● A/B testing of site design, 45%
● Coupon or promotion codes, 44%
● Live chat, 43%
● “What’s new” section, 42%
● Category buying guides, 41%
● Mobile productivity features, 41%
● Guest checkout, 40%
● Order templates, 40%
● One-click checkout, 40%

The rest:

● Alternative payment methods, 38%
● Automatic re-order, 36%
● Shipping alternatives for special orders, 34%
● Saved searches, 34%
● Expert reviews, 34%
● Inventory/margin-driven search results, 32%
● Microsites, 32%
● Expert communities, 27%
● Daily offers, 23%

Forrester also cites examples of B2B e-commerce companies that it says have effectively deployed some of the high-priority and priority features:

● McMaster-Carr, a distributor of maintenance, repair and operations supplies, and medical device manufacturer EndoChoice have excelled in “compelling photo merchandising.”
● Hubert Co., a distributor of food service equipment, and electronics components distributor Allied Electronics “have successfully infused personalization into on-site cross-sell and upsell situations.”
● Mary Kay, a wholesaler of cosmetics, offers effective site-search filters (i.e., sort by price or brand) to help buyers more quickly find their desired products; and ProtoIndustrial.com, an online product catalog of tools manufacturer Stanley Black & Decker that links to distributors, allows customers to maintain a persistent shopping cart so they don’t have to repeat earlier searches and refill their carts after a break in shopping.

Forrester also notes that some features cited as low priority should receive more attention by B2B companies. They include A/B testing of site design, “to truly know what’s working and why it’s working,” the study says. It also cites such assisted selling features as customer reviews and live chat customer service, which “have proven useful for increasing conversion rates and return on investment.”

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Andy Hoar, b2b e-commerce, B2B site design, B2B technology spending, B2B_Episerver_7_15, B2b_Insite_7_15, Forrester Research, product images, product recommendations, site search, video, web site personalization