Converting visitors to buyers is what successful ecommerce businesses are all about, both in the B2B world and B2C. But that is only half of the story. This is not a ‘Field of Dreams’ scenario where ‘if you build it they will come’. You need an intentional strategy to get the visitors to your site in the first place (not just any visitors, but the right visitors, at the right time). To do that you need a search strategy. What always surprises me is how many businesses that sell online, have a seemingly ‘either-or’ approach to their online investment, when it should be the exact opposite. Search is how users navigate online, and also how they show their intent. That includes B2B buyers too – You ignore this at your business’s peril.

Search Types

So how does your next new customer find you? Over 2/3 or those conducting online research in their work capacity do so with unbranded and generic terms – however they do often give excellent clues as to their intent. We can classify these into four main search types:

  1. Transactional

  2. Navigational

  3. Informational

  4. Investigational

‘Transactional’ searchers are usually the most ready to purchase.
Search terms such as ‘Best price for [PRODUCT]’ or ‘[PRODUCT] with free next day delivery’ or ‘In stock [PRODUCT]’ are your main clues to their current point on the path to purchase.

Those with ‘Navigational’ intent are perhaps looking for a showroom or somewhere to view the product they are interested in.
Searches including ‘[PRODUCT] suppliers near me’ or ‘[PRODUCT] distributors delivering to [MY LOCATION]’.

‘Informational’ researchers intent is weaker, they are looking for more data, which could indicate they are on the path to purchase, or that they have already purchased and are looking for support. Searches such as  ‘how to Install a [PRODUCT]’ and ‘How does a [PRODUCT] work’ indicate this weaker ‘Investigational’ category.

Your search strategy should take this into account, and should inform content and product pages accordingly.

B2B Buyer Searches

Google research suggests that B2B buyers make an average of 12 online searches before engaging with a particular suppliers site. If your B2B ecommerce site is being found online by a new customer, the chances are that it is more random chance than by design. It is likely that your competitors are enjoying more success than you where they are following a more definitive approach with a deliberate and strategic approach to their investment in SEO/Adwords.

Industry Disruptors

If aggregators and marketplaces like Amazon haven’t disrupted your industry yet, chances are it won’t be long. You only have to look at the travel industry, now dominated by aggregators/online travel agents such as to identify a prime example of a deliberate well-considered online strategy where website and SEO/Adwords investment work hand-in-hand.

Be Found

Back in 2014 Accenture research found that 49% of B2B buyers prefer buying from B2C websites for work purchases. A lot has happened in the last 3 years but even if your ecommerce site today better resembles a B2C one with an improved user experience, less abandoned carts and increased basket size – what’s the point if new customers can’t find you?