By Paul Demery – Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce for internet RETAILER
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A new “quote-to-cart” online buying system at I.T. products seller Vology, along with a new way for buyers to quickly authorize purchases, are designed to expedite purchases and boost conversion rates. In the process, this also will boost natural search rankings, the company says.
Vology Inc., a provider of information technology gear and related professional services, until recently used a slow, labor-intensive process of e-mailing price quotes to customers in hopes they would complete a purchase. It took about 10 steps for a sales rep to create and send a PDF, confirm its receipt, wait for the buyer to get authorization, and then manually enter orders received. “It was so 2005,” says Debi Steigerwald, director of e-commerce.
That’s a long time ago in Internet years, but Vology—a business-to-business reseller of I.T. products like Internet routers and other networking gear from companies including Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. —is now using a new in-house-developed “quote to cart” system that streamlines the process, Steigerwald says.
Customers often need to place high-volume orders for I.T. gear that can run into many thousands of dollars, so it’s not surprising that many will seek a price quote before completing a purchase, either online or with a sales rep. But now when a customer requests a price quote, the sales rep has the option to e-mail the quote contained within an image of an online cart.
The shopper then receives her list of requested items with Vology’s quoted prices, and then can either click to purchase it through an e-mail link to the shopping cart or, if necessary, route the e-mail to a supervisor or purchasing manager authorized to approve the purchase before the customer clicks to buy.
Vology introduced its quote-to-cart feature in February, following the launch of a new e-commerce platform in late 2012. Although conversions from the quote-to-cart e-mails have shown an increase over conventional quotes, it’s too soon to say provide performance metrics on the new system, Steigerwald says. Nonetheless, she says she’s confident it will lead to increased sales while requiring less time and effort to close sales with customers. Meanwhile, overall online traffic and sales are increasing, she adds.
The increases in traffic and sales, she adds, are setting the stage for further improvements. For one thing, by cutting out several steps formerly involved in creating and sharing price-quote PDFs, Vology has reduced its operating costs related to selling many commodity items. That has increased the amount of time sales reps and staff technology experts can spend advising customers on new and more complex products and consulting services. “We’re providing more consulting services along with commodities,” Steigerwald says.
Also important, she adds, is that she expects increased traffic and sales will improve Vology’s rankings in Google searches. As more traffic hits Vology.com and its conversion rate increases, Steigerwald says, Vology will be better positioned to become certified as a Google Trusted Store. Google requires a minimum number of monthly completed online orders, among other criteria, for an e-commerce site to obtain that designation.
Vology expects the Trusted Store logo, in turn, will further boost conversion rates, Steigerwald figures.
Vology is also taking other steps to improve conversion and boost search rankings through search engine optimization, or SEO. For example, as it learns which of its close to 100,000 products are most popular, it will develop unique product content and images to make those products stand out more with search engine spiders, further boosting search rankings Steigerwald says.
When the company launched its new e-commerce site in 2012, it chose to go with an open-source e-commerce platform from Broadleaf Commerce, which provided good flexibility for modifying product content. Vology deployed its new site with help from Dallas web design and consulting firm Credera. Open-source technology grants the user access to the software source code for making modifications.
Vology is also preparing to test a new checkout option from Apruve Inc., a startup company based in Minneapolis. Because many online shoppers of I.T. products are not authorized to complete a purchase they often must e-mail information on a pending online shopping cart to others for approval. Meanwhile, they abandon their carts, Steigerwald says. “They may or may not come back,” she says.
Apruve provides a web-hosted application that, when linked from an e-commerce site’s checkout page, lets the shopper click an Apruve icon to automatically have the e-commerce site e-mail the shopping cart information to one or more authorized persons at the shopper’s company. The shopper can either select from the names of authorized persons already entered in the application, or enter a new name and e-mail address.
As the shopping cart is put on hold, instead of abandoned, the Apruve application forwards an e-mail to the authorized buyer with a link to the shopping cart for completing the transaction. “What Apruve has come up with is brilliant,” Steigerwald says.
Although Vology is just beginning to deploy Apruve, it cooperated with the payment technology vendor at the recent DEMO Enterprise technology trade show in San Francisco, where Apruve demonstrated how its application would work on Vology.com. Vology was impressed enough to make Apruve available as a checkout option by the end of this month, Steigerwald says.
Apruve charges fees equal to 3.5% of transaction values, plus 35 cents per transaction, according to Apruve CEO Michael Noble.
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