Welcome everyone to the eCommerce marketing podcast. I am your host Arlen Robinson. And today we have a very special guest Chloe Thomas. Chloe Thomas is an e-commerce expert focused on e-commerce strategy. Marketing to help Ecommerce people make better decisions as they build their path to success.

She’s the author of several books keynote speaker and advisor and host of the e-commerce master plan podcast. Her latest book is an Amazon bestseller entitled customer persuasion how to influence your customers to buy more and why in ethical approach will always win. Welcome to the podcast Chloe.

How’s it going? Oh, hey Arlen. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me on yes. Yeah, not a problem. Well, yeah, you have a pretty exciting background. I took a little look at you you seem to be kind of making a name for yourself over there in the in the UK and you know, what I always like to do is find a little bit about how how my guests have gotten started so early.

How did you really get started in the industry? And how did you become an expert and he Commerce? Okay, I’ll give you a kind of like the semi long version because there’s some entertaining point or hope entertaining points in any way I started when I left you I got a job at Barclays Bank in their marketing department and after about 18 months realized I didn’t want to work in banking.

So applied to every marketing job going trying to leave the bank and the first company I got I got the years from was a. UK High Street retailer who ran a mail order catalog and also an online website back in 2004 2005. This would have been quite early days and I went to the went there to look after their catalog marketing and got the e-commerce bug whilst I was there and slowly.

Okay, so he got myself involved in ever more amount of the e-commerce side of things then after two Christmases there I moved on to work for a business who. Running the mail order side of a number of different mail order business about six seven eight different retailers and their I was their head of e-commerce.

So I got to be the kid in the candy shop. It was back when you know, they all kind of had a vaguely pasted together website where a Catholic would mail and maybe maybe two weeks after the catalog mouth. The right products would be on the website a couple of would have been missed off. They have got a photo or something, you know back in those day.

I remember those days. Yeah. But he was it was it was very cool building the first websites for all of them and it was like going into a client again. Have you ever sent an email? Yeah. I said no no to your customers to your customers like no email addresses. You got. Oh, let me have a look. Oh, we’ve got 60,000.

Is that good? Okay, that’s pretty good. So I got to really play around for a few years there and then turn that into a kind of consultancy marketing agency that I sold. Can you have last year and then five years ago? I started eCommerce master plan where I write books speaking events advise customers just really do all I can to help eCommerce business owners become more successful primarily on 20 know trying to find the traffic side of things.

But of course, you can’t you can’t improve the traffic and the sales without touching on the website and often The Branding and you know, the whole the whole nine yards really sure your mouth most definitely we have that said that’s. Awesome, uh, and actually for my u.s. Listeners that aren’t familiar with the terminology unni.

I’m familiar with your schooling system a little bit because I watch a lot of British TV shows with what unions. Why don’t you explain what you need is a US based listeners. So, I don’t know if I can turn it into American temps. But um, basically I was actually at Oxford University where I studied history.

So that’s where I was from the ages of 18 to 22. So where we get our degrees, I guess it would it be the equivalent of being at Harvard or Princeton or something. Yeah. So every University, I know it’s after your what your guys equivalent of our high school is of course you go to university, but I thought there was another level prior to that that you guys go to.

Education, we do like college where we were like at College from 16 to 18 where we take a levels and then we go degrees after that. Then you can go post-grad after that guy. So that’s what it is. So it’s the 16 to 18 period where you’re taking pretty much college-level courses and then after that you can go on to UNI.

That’s the next level. All right. Yeah. Okay. I have to I have to admit I watch an awful lot of American TV and I still when they say grades and I have no idea. You talked about but but like 37 years into watching American TV, and I still haven’t bothered to look it up. It’s what it’s weird. Isn’t it?

The things we just let fast as fine. Yeah, that is true. Yeah, I’ve just picked up that school system. That’s because like I said, I’ve watched a lot of British shows on Netflix and you know these days there’s a ton of content. So, um, you know, it makes all of a sudden Global. Oh, yeah. Thanks for breaking that down.

You know, we’re gonna be kind of focused on, you know, really your background with. Commerce B2B e-commerce specifically business the business. I knew I know I do have a large audience base of businesses that sell to other businesses when you’re an expert in that Arena. So what I want to First find out is you know what typically what must have business typically do differently to attract other businesses to their websites as opposed to you know, attracting consumers is there you know, is there a big difference and what if some of the things that you’ve noticed that you’ve guided your.

To do yeah, it’s um, it’s an interesting one. I’ve been a bit involved with B2B e-commerce pretty much from when I probably for the last 10 years. I would say as a rough guess, you know, like helping people take their wholesale business online and and then once they’ve got it online helping them grow the sales and it’s actually a lot of people think an apology’s to your listeners.

This is not what I think but a lot of people think B2B e-commerce is the dull side of. Us right I actually think at times and b2c customers. I’m sorry about this. I actually think sometimes it’s more fascinating than B to C because the types of customers so much more diverse you have when you’re a B2B e-commerce business Summit sometimes depending on what products you’re selling and who your target is your customers behave like normal consumers, you know, like they you know, the one the one man consultancy who needs to buy some paper.

Printer behaves just like the average man on the street when he wants to buy paper for his printer. He nips down to Staples. Well, he goes online and was it from Amazon basically, you know, and for the, you know, the stationery business he was trying to service him. Actually, they’re servicing him like he would be a consumer.

But then you go right the way through to the B2B businesses who are as a case. So I have another book called B2B e-commerce Master Plan and there’s a case study in there from a business who sell industrial Parts. I called industrial ancillaries and they sell to people who are keeping factories running.

Now that customer Buys in a completely different way to the consumer, right? You know, they are they only want you when they’ve got a got a massive problem and they want that. And they’re gonna buy on a part number and then they’re just completely different. You’re the only person that can I come to you so so when it comes to what do you do to attract the customers to your website and to get them to buy?

I think it some for some B2B e-commerce businesses. It’s very similar to all the consumer marketing that’s out there. You know. It’s about being on Google. It’s about being on the right social network. It’s about building the relationship as you would with any consumer, but for some it’s completely different.

So I think the find the right marketing you have to start by understanding your customer. Right? Right. That’s that’s very important. I I had on a previous episode of the podcast. I talked to another gentleman where we talked about Divine defining the customers Persona and that’s very key. And I think like you said regardless of whether you’re selling to other businesses or to you know, just consumers.

That’s that’s really one of the things that you want to do early on in the business. If not, you know at the Inception of the business because you know, you’ve got to figure out who it is you’re selling to who is that ideal customer and then you know, your marketing efforts efforts can be channeled behind that and um pointed in the direction of where those particular types of people.

So, yeah, that’s very important but the very cool things for the B2B e-commerce. Operator is that usually you’ve got a much closer relationship with your customers than the b2c e-commerce business has because until you go eCommerce. You’ve been you’ve been going to their office to speak to them to get the order or they’ve been phoning you on a regular basis, you know every week or every day to place those orders.

So you’ve actually you actually already know you’ve seen the whites of their eyes, you know a lot more about that Avatar about that Persona than the beach. See which can make it a lot more straightforward to work out how to get the marketing right to go to them because what I find with the bigger the more kind of traditional in inverted commas, B2B businesses, you know, the wholesalers the manufacturers is that when they move online they kind of have a two-pronged.

Marketing challenge or you know getting people to the website challenge one is the opportunity of getting new customers to find you and start buying from you. But kind of the bigger one is how do you get your existing customer base to start using that website, you know, right if they if they’re used to picking up the phone and placing their order with Tracy every Friday.

And now you want them to go on the website and do it themselves. It’s a big leap for that customer. So there’s a lot you have to do on the adoption. Front to get the customers adopting the new method other than just simply churning through new customer acquisition. Yes. Yeah, that’s definitely so right about that.

It’s and so it entailed the relationship is like you said it’s different but in it actually really is a lot stronger of a relationship because you know, you’re. You’re dealing with another business on the other end. That’s making a an ending what it is you’re selling making a purchasing decision for that particular business and you know, there’s a lot of depending on the type of business it is and what is your purchasing?

You know, there’s a lot that kind of can go beyond goes behind that. You know, it’s not like you’re just coming. They’re doing a one-off purchase and then, you know kind of a hi and bye. Especially if it’s a business that you’re going to be continually purchasing from. Yes. It’s something that where you know, the relationship can definitely go deeper and one of the things that you did mention really kind of brings me to my next question when you kind of defining the differences between you know, B2B business versus b2c.

You know, B2B business is getting their sights set up and trying to figure out the best way to provide their product or Services. What should. Be different with regards to the checkout process or the purchase order process. And I know that’s kind of a general question and it can vary based on the business.

But are there some key things that a business needs to consider? When that when they’re thinking about that whole purchase or checkout process? Oh, yes. Definitely. I mean the first thing to bear in mind whenever you’re working on a checkout process if you’ve got to make it as frictionless as possible so as easy for.

Customer to kind of place that or don’t get oh my god. I’ve already placed the order that’s brilliant because there was so little friction as they go through it and the thing about B2B, you know, the business customer is that they have different friction points, you know, if you think about how they’re placing that order it’s a very different scenario to what you would get on a standard b2c e-commerce site.

So you want to make sure you’ve got things like in the checkout itself the option to pay by invoice, you know. Nice business customers want to get an invoice at the end of each month. They don’t want to put their credit card details in each time. They check out so there has to be that invoice and if you’re going to go for the invoice thing then then it’s also going to be integrated with your payment system and your CRM and your account management software so that you can match that up with what their credit limit is.

Okay? Yeah. That whole mechanic has to be in there together with and you mentioned it earlier you might have different people with different roles and responsibilities in the business. So it might be you want to be able to you want the people in the branches, you know across the country each store managers to be able to place their order, but centrally that’s going to be signed off by the purchasing manager at head office.

So it’s possible to get your eCommerce site to manage the entire process. So it’s really easy for your customer as a whole from the branch manager through to the Head Office Team and the accounts team to manage their relationship with you via that platform which saves so much time in Manpower. So your team can then get on with selling and chatting and upselling rather than you know, Doing the minutia of everything.

So the whole kind of invoice credit limit purchase order sign of side of things has to be in that check out and has to be done in a way that works if that’s how your customers buy from you the other kind of changes in terms of getting the purchase kind of happened just before the checkout. So a B2B a business customer will frequently by the same product again, and again and again, right you might have thousands tens of thousands.

Of different products but your each customer will probably have the same 10 or 20 they buy each time. So to create like a personalized best sellers list, so not the best sellers of what everybody on your platform buys. But what that particular customer buys. Here’s what you buy the most they can do a very quick order or they can go back and see previous orders.

And so those are the very key functionality for most B2B e-commerce sites. And then the other one is. What we used to call back in the mail-order days gosh going back a few years now is like the quick catalog look up so they can just enter those skews, you know, those codes those item codes from your catalogs because we all know that you know, a really good B2B customer will know the codes of the products they frequently order.

So that’s how they want to order just putting those codes in putting in the quantities and bang. There’s the order then you need that on the website as well. So there’s there’s lots of different ways. You can go to make it easy for them and to. That friction. Yeah, that’s that’s definitely so true.

And one of the things I thought about when you were mentioning providing, you know, like order history stuff like that for these types of for B2B e-commerce solution. You almost need to provide in a way that even depends on the customer but it almost need to provide some forward-facing analytics to that Customer because like you said, you know, you’re getting your site is getting all.

What that particular business is ordering from month to month or however often and so they you know, they’re busy running their business and it really in order to kind of prove improve your wholesale cycle if you’re able to provide them with as much analytics about okay, you know, maybe at the end of the year you can provide them with some analytics like all right, it seems like during the months of January and February there was a spike in your ordering of this product.

I mean, you know. Businesses that are ordering they probably know this or they may already know this but you know, maybe they don’t but it’s it would be a good reminder so that you know, they you would kind of stand out in that type of situation because you know, you’re they’re seeing that you know, you’re taking the time to look at what they’re ordering and then kind of help give them some suggestions as to you know, how to best make adjustments on you know what it is or or during the times that they may need to order and and get products fulfilled.

Lately, you know if you can go back to them ago actually if you based on your ordering history, we can see that if you bought this in a larger pack size you would be saving X dollars per month and you know, the product wouldn’t be going off, you know, so it’s going to be this would be in your in your interest and interestingly once you start getting into that kind of data you can then start creating some really quite.

Quite cool and you know if you like me, this is really cool. So really cool marketing automation where you’re seeing this person hasn’t ordered or this one of your branches has an ordered or they’ve ordered, you know, flagging up the alerts to the person who’s signing off the purchase orders of this is a really odd order from these guys.

I think they might have screwed up. Yeah, they may have hit the turn instead of the one or something. So there’s there’s loads. Of levels, once you’ve got all the data centrally that you can you can really improve things for the customer. Yeah, for sure and you know speaking of providing all of these things in the in the whole purchasing experience What In your experience or in your opinion, what are some eCommerce shopping cart Solutions or e-commerce solutions that are better for B2B and it is there any that you could recommend.

Yeah, it’s um, I always say that you should look at what your requirements are and then find the person who can match that I’ll preface that with that little warning. So again, our Chloe said I had to go with this. I’m not saying you have to go with any of these I’m saying they’re a good starting point.

Sure. So what’s been really interesting it’s over the last couple of years the options for the B2B business have really. I’ve really improved. So you now have pretty good solutions that can be built and adapted on the magenta platform. Also Shopify plus can do it awful lot of the B2B pieces, which is great news because it makes you know makes life a lot easier.

Um, there are also a lot of brilliant specifically B2B agencies because it’s not just about the right software also about finding a team who are familiar with the challenges of be. If you speak to most people who only ever build b2c websites all that functionality. We were just talkin about it wouldn’t even occur to them to suggest it to you.

If you’re going down this route for the first time which a lot of B2B businesses now are then to find a partner to build that website an agency to build that website who’ve been there and done that is going to save you so much time. So in the UK, we’ve got an absolutely fantastic one called aspidistra.

Okay, um, Who specialize in Sage Integrations? If you want all that clever account management purchase order numbers credit limits and all that kind of stuff and you’re on on the stage platform. They are just like the obvious guys to go to because it’s what they specialize in. Okay, I don’t know of anyone in the US or apologies to your listeners, but but there are some phenomenal businesses out there.

So it’s it’s kind of like you could have to do a little bit of hunting to find the B2B guys, but they are awesome when you find them. Yeah, definitely definitely. And you mentioned Shopify plus. I don’t know too much about the plus platform. I know Shopify regular Shopify for for b2c is great. But you know, they’ve been leaders in the BTC space.

So I thought imagine their their Shopify plus platform really, you know, probably has all the all the bells and whistles and everything that that you would need for B2B. Yeah. It’s a place is like what it’s like Shopify plus. Um, so it’s it’s still a beta product. Okay, but it. Say it’s now got the potential to be B2B.

It’s got the potential to do a lot more. So it’s kind of I I would say and I’m guessing here completely. I haven’t spoken to anyone at Shopify about this but my guess is it’s like the enhanced package that they built to make sure they can keep the existing Shopify customers with them as they get larger and larger and larger turnovers.

It’s just a little bit more nuts and bolts that is in the original Shopify. But it’s it’s a very very nice platform. Okay, great. One of the things that I always like to to look at in this I think can help the audience’s, you know, who are some of the large successful B2B e-commerce company. That are doing great things and what can small businesses learn from what they’ve done if there’s like a couple specific key things that you think about that, you know, you can maybe point to that some bits of the bigger guys are doing that.

Some of the smaller guys can kind of glean and learn from of course in the he’s gonna be UK examples, but I think you guys your listeners can still get a fair amount from them. So in the UK, we have some amazing businesses in the beta. The to I would kind of frame up as being proper for B2B e-commerce as we like to think about it would be screw fix who sell uh, tools and screws and all those cattle DIY items and they sell both to Consumers and to trade because of course the the average Builder behaves quite like a consumer, so they and they marry the so you can just you can just go on their website and just place an order you can create yourself a.

Account with all the nuts and bolts that involves they have trade counters that you can go to to physically get the product. They have a catalog so they combined all these complex channels and they do it in such a brilliant way and one of the things I just absolutely love about what they do is their constant focus on their customers needs.

So they for the last four or five years now, if not possibly longer they’ve had next day delivery. For free if you place your order by 7 p.m. In the evening and so long as you spend 20 pounds which about $40 and that is just kind of groundbreaking delivery service, but they know and they built it they found ways of delivering this because they know that the majority of their customers are guys who spent their day on the building site.

They’ve got back home and gone. Oh my God for tomorrow. I need this and they need that delivered the next day or they can’t deliver for their customer. So I think it’s that that real focus on customer service another great one in the UK is Nisbet NIS be who sell Kate product for the catering industry.

So Chef’s whites and knives and all the rest of it. And then again have a very very strong focus on what their customer needs and and I think that’s that’s kind of what the the big guys have really got is they’ve built the systems and the processes and the options and the services that their customer.

Desires, so what I would recommend to your to your listeners is if they’re in the B2B space and they want to improve their e-commerce. They want to go e-commerce is to identify people who are serving a customer base with similar needs to themselves and look at what they’re doing. Yeah, definitely.

Definitely you kind of hit it right on the nail because. You know, I always think that you can you know, there’s somebody out there that is doing what you’re doing, but maybe just at a larger scale and so, you know, a lot of times there’s really no need to try to reinvent the wheel and you can really learn a lot from just you know, like looking at another business in a similar space, but that may just be at a higher level.

So that’s that’s some great advice. Can I give you one more example? Sure. Okay. So the really big ones. Which at the moment is Amazon you have now launched Amazon business in the UK. They’ve been pushing it for the last maybe three or four months and slowly rolling out new functionality and it’s very interesting.

I find to see how they’re doing that and how they’re they’ve basically decided we’re now in the world would be to be right now. We now have. You know purchase order numbers and there and that that which is always been a problem. If you’re a business buying on Amazon to try and get the vat. I mean and the sales tax and all of that.

So I think that they’re one which I think it’s, you know, given how phenomenally good they are Ecommerce there one which if I was you know, a beat any B2B business. Oh be keeping an eye on what Amazon’s doing both in terms of as the threat to their own business, but also to see what I can pick up and learn and adapt from what they’re doing.

Yeah. Yeah for sure. Yeah you definitely. I think all eyes are on Amazon number of reasons there. Uh-oh. They’re Giants in the space. And so it’s going to be interesting to see where that goes for sure. And so one of the things I always like to wrap up with is getting some final advice and what do you think is the one thing an e-commerce business can do right now to help their business grow get traffic and get sales.

Um, and you know, it can be anything related to eCommerce business. I hope this doesn’t. Like a cop-out but my answer would be to focus on building the human connection with customers and prospective customers by which I mean, um that you have it’s quite easy and e-commerce to forget that your customers are humans bizarre as that sounds because the numbers on a sheet, you know a lot of the time and what is a fundamental about human beings is that we buy from people we like and we buy from.

People we feel we have a connection with and the more your business can make someone feel the more likely they are to buy from you in the more they will buy from you. That’s a quote. That’s that’s a kind of destroyed quote from Daniel Kahneman who’s a Nobel prize-winning neuroscientist. Okay, so he knows.

Stuff, right um and so practical ways to go about this because I know the people listening. Okay, that’s all well and good Chloe, but but what do we actually do? And it’s things like, you know on your about us page. Don’t just have your address and your phone number tell people about why you created the business why?

Why you chose the products that you’ve got have a picture of your team and the you know, the warehouse show them behind the curtain and you know building a bit that way and then I think welcome campaigns, you know, someone someone first buys from you or when they first sign up to your emails to put some of that content out in your welcome campaign as well.

I think is a hugely powerful way to do it. And if you can manage to find a way of putting on your homepage then so much the better but that can often be a bit more challenging. So it’s kind of revealing the humans and the thoughts of the humans behind the business to a. More Humans to the business to get them to buy.

Yeah, that’s that’s definitely so true a lot of businesses that are e-commerce forget that a lot of times and you know, they kind of remain behind a the virtual wall so to speak and yeah, you know that human connection definitely can go a long way because you know, bottom line is people people purchase from companies, they like they and or people they like, you know, so you’re able to create a report and kind of open, you know, pull back the.

Little bit and show what’s going on who the individuals are that are behind the company that can definitely go a long way. So yeah appreciate that. Yeah, that’s actually a tip that I never actually had before and um, yeah, I’m sure our listeners would appreciate it. Well, Chloe will definitely appreciate talking to you today and all of the insightful advice that you’ve provided now if my listeners want to get in touch with you, how do they do that?

Well, if they had over to eCommerce master plan nice and easy, hopefully to remember that one. Um, they can find out all about me. You can find links there to all my books. There’s five of them about e-commerce in total. Don’t worry. I’m not going to read out the names of them, but based on the content we’ve been talked about today.

Probably B2B e-commerce master plan is very relevant. And then that human connection would be customer persuasion, which you kindly mentioned in the intro all Diesel’s all of those are the website. These are the podcast. And everything else I’m up to is that eCommerce master plan? Okay, great.

Well, thanks again. Chloe was great talking to you and you have a great rest of your day. Oh, it’s been marvelous talkin to you to thank you Arlen. Sure. Thank you for listening to the e-commerce marketing podcast to access Ecommerce videos and other resources to help your business. Grow. Please visit get forward slash videos subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for e-commerce marketing podcast and please.

Leave a rating and a review. Thanks for listening. See you next time.

Podcast Guest Inf

Chloe Thomas
Founder, eCommerceMasterPlan.com