The long online Thanksgiving holiday shopping season didn’t go unnoticed by companies that generate all—or a majority—of their web sales through B2B e-commerce.
In fact, many B2B sellers spent the long online consumer buying cycle that begins on Thanksgiving and extends through Monday targeting specific groups of buyers or getting ready for this week, which some B2B e-commerce operators see as their busiest week of the year.
The week prior to Thanksgiving to the long Thanksgiving weekend are typically slow for OfficeSupply.com, a B2B seller of office supplies, furniture, machines, school supplies and related materials. “The week prior to Thanksgiving is relatively slow because businesses are slowing down,” says senior vice president of e-commerce Joseph Schaefer. “The week after is an entirely different story.”
Consumer habits now very much influence B2B behaviors.
OfficeSupply.com, a 15-year-old B2B e-commerce company based in Columbus, Wisconsin, added some holiday themed merchandise for buyers on its site over Thanksgiving week. OfficeSupply.com featured holiday door busters with free giveaways such as pens, batteries, envelopes and letter openers among other items for customers placing orders valued at $25, $50, $75, $100 and higher.
OfficeSupply.com also created a holiday crafts corner on the home page featuring special deals on cardstock, papers and related items. “We do see an uptick in web sales from certain groups like teachers who are taking advantage of the downtime to order new supplies for their classroom or for special holiday projects,” Schaefer says.
Web sales over Thanksgiving week are historically slow, Schaefer says. But the week following Thanksgiving is among the busiest of the year for OfficeSupply.com. In fact, during the business week after Thanksgiving it’s not unusual for OfficeSupply.com to do as much as $1 million in sales, Schaefer says.
That’s because many business buyers are still in purchase mode when they are back to work on Monday with many purchasing managers on a deadline to order supplies by the end of the year, for a rush fourth quarter project or because they have some remaining funds in the budget they need to spend, he says.
B2B Holiday promotions
Purchasing managers of general office supplies also go online to take advantage of deals being offered on the Monday after Thanksgiving, also known as Cyber Monday. “We get a nice uptick after Thanksgiving because it spreads out over a week or more,” Schaefer says.
For other B2B distributors such as State Electric Supply Co., a 67-year-old regional distributor of electrical, data communications and power transmission products, the long online shopping weekend over Thanksgiving is a chance to try out some new marketing and merchandising strategies and gauge what works—and doesn’t, says vice president of e-commerce and strategic sales David Gravely.
“Since Black Friday and Christmas are not typically big events for electrical distributors we are experimenting to see if we can drive behavior and make adjustments for future sales events,” Gravely says. “We do not anticipate the need to ramp up resources, but we already have them in place if need be.”
State Electric debuted a completely retooled and updated website in September. The retooled website features faster and better organized site search that lets users search through an inventory of about 60,000 products to find products by category, manufacturer or such metrics as voltage or lamp wattage. Product pages have been updated for better images with zoom, customer reviews, more content including detailed product specifications, and better images that site visitors can enlarge with a zoom tool.
Features for registered customers also have been updated. Among the new changes: registered customers with accounts can access online pricing specials, ordering tools, quote requests and stored user profiles for expedited checkout. Registered customers can also review orders and manage account details.
Those advanced features for the first time now give State Electric the ability to try more targeted marketing approaches tied to a holiday theme, Gravely says. “With our new platform we are planning a ‘12 Days of Christmas’ online special where each day from Dec. 3-14 we will be offering a different item each day at a reduced price,” he says. “The special price will continue for the 12 days and we selected items that typically sell as gifts during the Christmas season, such as tools.”
Not every B2B e-commerce site is gearing up for more sales activity over Thanksgiving, but savvy B2B sellers that want to stay competitive shouldn’t ignore the fact that millions of business buyers as consumers may spend time and money online, says Brian Beck, senior vice president of e-commerce and omnichannel at B2B web design and development firm Guidance and a well-known B2B e-commerce analyst.
“I have seen consumer online shopping behaviors carry over into B2B because it is a reminder of how ingrained web shopping has become a part of our daily existence,” Beck says. “Consumer habits now very much influence B2B behaviors. This is because they are one and the same – B2B buyers are consumers in their personal lives.”