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Grasping the challenges of knowing and understanding the customer in the B2B e-commerce sector

20 May 2024

In the B2B e-commerce sector, innovation supporting the customer experience is synonymous with competitive advantage. A study by FEVAD (Federation of E-commerce and Distance Selling) , published in April 2022, shows that the digitalisation of purchasing practices in the B2B sphere is continuing to accelerate post-Covid. 40% of the companies surveyed consider that the pandemic has led them to increase their Internet orders (+8 points vs 2020). In this context, how can companies optimise the online experience for customers?  

Knowing and understanding your customer 

Exploiting any Data is an excellent opportunity for companies to improve the customer experience. Within the framework of a transactional relationship, the data gathered helps you know and recognise the users the company interacts with. This data enables you to provide the most appropriate offering, additional products or high value-added services, which will have a direct impact on the income generated in the long term.

Today, retail and distribution players face difficulties reconciling knowledge and understanding of the customer, both online and offline. We must indeed differentiate between the data that helps us get to know the customer (within the framework of a B2B relationship, their belonging to a company, role, location, etc.) and data that enables us to understand them (dynamic analysis of their browsing journey on the website combined with ascertaining their level of satisfaction, gathering verbatims and interaction with a salesperson, etc.). You need to combine these two factors to ensure that you are constantly developing the quality of the solutions on offer. This customer understanding, therefore seems to be the decisive parameter, that gives meaning to the figures and better legibility of needs. 

Identifying the key points of the customer journey

In e-commerce, the competition is omnipresent and trends are constantly evolving. The top considerations when choosing suppliers are online product availability and ease of ordering. Companies must understand their customers by analysing the complexity and multiplicity of their buying journey, for example “Why does a potential buyer visit my website but not make a purchase?” 

The aim for any e-merchant is to offer customers a smooth online experience enabling to find the desired product and the right information they need to make their decision.

In this context, a company’s e-commerce director plays a vital and comprehensive role. They must ensure they analyse external search engines, capture the audience to generate quality traffic to the website, create more human online experiences, with good understanding of the customer experience, and develop online features that contribute to customer satisfaction and better conversion.

Promoting the innovation of your website in an international context

In e-commerce, each website must be intuitive: with, in particular, comprehensiveproduct sheets” and seamless browsing that will help optimise the online search phase: the “Search Experience”. The latter is decisive. Above all, when you know that one of the major issues encountered by users is a snag when using the search bar, when it has not identified the product, the service or the information sought (e.g. a product name commonly used by customers that is not indexed by the website’s internal search engine, an unidentified acronym, a bad translation, etc.).  For a company that is present in several countries, it’s therefore essential to take semantics and linguistics into account, as well as local particularities.

All of a company’s departments must work together around data, so that customer knowledge and understanding are as comprehensive as possible. Once the needs and use cases have been identified, data governance is key to ensuring its optimal management. Companies may outsource their processing with professional partners. However, the organisation within the company is just as important to ensure that the teams are well equipped to analyse this data and therefore understand their customers. 

With the aim of continuous improvement and to optimise understanding of the customer experience, it's also important to be able to put in place satisfaction analysis tools throughout the journey and experimentation tools.


By Sylvie Collombet, Manutan Group E-commerce Director 
Published by JDN in January 2022