Trending This Week: Lessons in Online Selling from Ecommerce Giants

January 5, 2018

Trending in Sales

It's not a universal truth, but ecommerce retail sites generally don’t require a great deal of involvement from salespeople. Since the research, shopping, and transactions all occur online, the entire process tends to be fairly autonomous for the user.

So what can consumer-facing companies like Walmart, Apple, and Amazon teach B2B sales professionals who operate within a prolonged, high-consideration purchase funnel?

Perhaps more than you would first suspect. 

Finely Tuned Conversion Machines

The three aforementioned companies were recognized by Gabriel Shaoolian in a recent Entrepreneur article, which highlighted some of the savvy design and user experience decisions that helped drive their continued success in 2017.

Walmart, Apple, and Amazon have become such gargantuan ecommerce mainstays that it’s easy to view their online selling proficiency as self-sustaining, but in each case there are expansive teams full of smart people making very purposeful choices about each element of their site’s interface.

It’s all about removing friction and creating a seamless, consistent experience for the buyer. Therein lie the takeaways for a B2B sales team.

Walmart Masters the Mobile Side

The number of users accessing the web via mobile surpassed desktop about four years ago, and now the gap just continues to grow. This trend applies to basically any industry, including those in the B2B space, as eMarketer noted earlier this year:

B2B buyers use their mobile devices to conduct business. "B2B customers have mobility in mind. That means mobile is more than a channel; it's really a moment, a point in time and space when a B2B customer pulls out a mobile device and wants to do something for work within the immediate context. — Wilson Raj, global director of customer intelligence at SAS Institute, an analytics and business intelligence software and services provider.

This is a crucial focus for B2B organizations. Every interaction should be optimized for mobile devices. In part, that means following Walmart’s example in terms of website design — consistency with the desktop version, dynamic CTAs, simplified navigation — but it also means ensuring your sales approach is calibrated for on-the-go buyers engaging via smartphone.

Sometimes, that’s as basic as being mindful of shorter attention spans, and condensing your messaging accordingly. But there are also specific tools and tactics you can utilize to become more mobile-friendly as a salesperson.

For instance, stay active on social channels and share compelling content; you never know when a prospect might be idly scrolling on her phone and come across your post. To that end, make sure your contact info is easily discovered. Also, encourage your company to use LinkedIn features such as Lead Gen Forms, which removes the tedium of filling out numerous fields on a small screen.

Apple Stays on Brand

Anyone who has used Apple products, or ventured into one of its stores, knows that the brand maintains a stunning level of aesthetic and functional uniformity across everything it manufactures. This extends to its marketing materials, customer service, and beyond.

“Apple's brand consistency, from products to an ecommerce website, pays off in a big way,” writes Shaoolian. “Brand allegiance and a smooth experience lower bounce rates, which ultimately boost sales.”

Sales teams don’t usually have much control over product or website design, but can certainly play a major role in providing consistent brand experiences for buyers. The most critical factor in doing so is getting on the same page with marketing so that every touchpoint in the sales funnel aligns with a strategic, overarching plan.

This greatly improves engagement and responsiveness. For instance, data from our Power Couples eBook showed that LinkedIn members who have been exposed to a company’s marketing content on the platform are 25 percent more likely to respond to a Sales Navigator InMail from a salesperson at the same company. And if that InMail message carries familiar cues and recognizable context tying to the marketing campaign, it’s all the more likely to resonate.

Amazon Props Up Its Products

Shaoolian argues that Amazon’s website is not actually all that well designed. The pages are crowded and littered with ads. Navigation could stand to be more intuitive. However, what this ecommerce interface excels at is putting the goods front and center, and letting them speak for themselves.

When perusing Amazon, it’s very easy to find product details, customer reviews, customized suggestions, and everything else you need to inform your purchase. The checkout process is usually quite painless, and the follow-up service generally receives high marks. We live in an age where people expect quick and tailored experiences; Amazon delivers them, and avoids getting in its own way.

B2B sales pros should follow suit. While it can be tempting to talk about yourself or your company to build credibility, buyers are mostly interested in what you’re offering and how it’s going to help them. Lead with personalized insights and relevant third-party content. Do all you can to make the process of communicating, and accessing pertinent assets, smooth and straightforward.

One tool that can help in this regard is PointDrive, a feature within Sales Navigator that vastly enhances the practice of sharing content and sales collateral digitally. Taking clunky email attachments out of the equation is exactly the kind of efficiency measure that helps businesses like Amazon dominate. (Not to mention the ability to test, measure, and improve.)

Boost Your Online Selling Prowess in 2018

As a new year closes in on us, many sales pros are setting fresh goals, and enlisting new techniques to achieve them. As you make your own plans for 2018, consider adopting the tenets of mobile-compatibility, brand consistency, and customization employed by these thriving ecommerce heavyweights.

While the audiences and methodologies may vary wildly, anyone who’s in the business of selling online can benefit from these universal principles of outstanding digital service and engagement.

For more ideas on making B2B buying easier, subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog