Don’t Let Your Customers Walk Away Online - Modern Distribution Management

Don’t Let Your Customers Walk Away Online

Dont make it hard to do business with you.

If your customer walked into one of your branches and couldn’t find the information he needed about your products, or someone to consult with to ensure he gets the right tool for the job, he’d probably walk right out. That should not surprise you.

The same is true online. A customer will leave your website and go to a competitor’s if his experience is poor. In this case, he doesn’t even need to get into his car. It only takes a few clicks, and you’ve lost the sale.

Shopping happens before the transaction and includes finding, researching and selecting a product, but not buying or purchasing the product. Based on our survey of nearly 8,500 customers of distributors – the results of which were detailed in the second edition of our MDM report, “What Customers Want”– customers now prefer electronic shopping methods (manufacturer and distributor websites, and search engine), marking a significant shift away from print. 

That shift makes what I’m about to say that much more important. As part of our end-user preferences research, we asked customers to tell us the most common reason they leave a distributor’s website without buying. They include:

  • Not enough product information 
  • Hard to use 
  • Can’t find what I need 
  • Product not available 
  • Price too high or not shown 

These reasons show that it’s all about the customer’s efficiency, something that’s become increasingly important in the past few years thanks to the growing expectation that the B2B shopping experience should mirror that of the B2C experience.

This matters even if you don’t have an online shopping cart. Just a small percentage of online shopping by distributors’ customers actually leads to placing an order on a distributor’s website. Instead, a customer is doing their research online and then picking up the phone, sending an order by email, or submitting via EDI.

How well are you positioned to meet your customers’ expectations online so that they stay rather than run to your competitor? Here are a few questions to get you thinking about potential areas for improvement:

  • How easy is it for your customers to navigate your website? There are more than enough good websites out there with tried-and-true navigation. Find them, and emulate them. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
  • How robust is your product data?Make sure the data on at least 10% of your SKUs (those that make up 90% or more of your revenue) is detailed, as well as supplemented by technical literature and videos. Also, make sure it is SEO-optimized. This is becoming easier with the help of buying group and association product data initiatives.
  • Are you showing price, even when they aren’t logged in? Some respondents said they would leave a website if they couldn’t see the pricing at all. In most cases, we recommend showing list price to all visitors if they are not logged in.
  • How well does your search engine work?Our research shows that you may lose future orders and even the customer relationship if they are unable to find what they need and have to work harder as a result. A few tests of the search on your website and a competitor’s site will be enough to tell you how much you are missing. An improvement in the search engine could increase conversion by several percentage points.
  • How easy is it for a customer to talk with one of your customer service reps or technical specialists while they are shopping online? If you’ve integrated chat into your website, make sure that you are using the latest chat technology and that the rep behind the chat has the power and expertise to help your customers find and buy the right product (or they have immediate access to someone who does).
  • Do your customers go to a manufacturer’s website before they come to yours? Your goal should be to become the primary place they shop. The gaps between those who have invested in making their websites a destination and those who haven’t is widening.

Understanding your customers’ needs is critical today. If you’d like to learn more about what customers want from you in the shopping and buying process, order our report from MDM, “What Customers Want – 2ndEdition: A Distributor’s Guide to Customer Buying & Shopping Preferences.”

Jonathan Bein is the author of “What Customers Want,”published by MDM, and is the managing partner of Real Results Marketing. Contact him at jonathan@realresultsmarketing.comor visit

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