Guide: 10 tips for better online logistics sales

Percent of online B2B buyersBy 2020, B2B eCommerce should be worth $6.7 trillion dollars. And who doesn’t want a slice of that pie. A B2B buyer survey recently found that over 45% of B2B buyers are willing to seal a PO online.

More B2B industries are shifting to website sales. Freight is no different. From EDI to XML to online sales, shippers are demanding more accurate, (and faster) service. As a matter of fact, instant access to pricing and shipment data is the #2 shipper request, according to the annual 3PL study. So freight forwarders need to be selling online (read our free white paper about online freight sales here).
Which raises the question:

How can logistics providers optimize their websites for online sales?

Using inbound digital marketing techniques, this article will provide a basic, actionable tutorial for improving the experience provided by logistics websites. And we’ll do it with this story:

Source: Flickr (RustyClarck)

Source: Flickr (RustyClarck)

How did you buy your last TV?

You might not have decided to shop at a particular store until, one day, while looking around on Facebook, you see a friend share something about a specific store – maybe about the customer service or a sale.

(Ask yourself: How did you first hear about the store?)

So you visit the store, just to look around. You quickly find yourself in the TV section. No need to ask any employee, the signs lead you right there.

The TVs are all hanging on the wall with a basketball game playing. One in particular, hanging front and center, draws your attention. You  see a sticker with the main features – HDMI inputs, 3D-enabled, smart internet connection – and are interested, before you see the price tag.

(Ask yourself: How did you immediately identify the important features and values so easily?)

A salesperson sidles up to you, chats for a second and then mentions a great offer. You negotiate while watching the game, already picturing it in your living room. You seal the deal, pay with a credit card, using a handheld swiper the salesperson is holding, and head home.

(Ask yourself: How did the store make sure you closed the deal?)

Let’s talk online instant freight quotes.

We can split your television experience into three parts that will help us evaluate your logistics website.

  1. Optimize traffic
  2. Communicate values
  3. Make the process work

Confused? Don’t worry, we’re going to break this down.

Step I: Optimize website traffic

Why did you choose  that specific store? Maybe you came across it while walking in the street, maybe a friend recommended it and maybe you saw it mentioned somewhere.

In order to gain more low-cost online business, freight forwarders need to get shippers to their website. They need to attract the right target – shippers looking for their unique value propositions – in order to entice them down the line.

Downloadable resources on the Kerry Logistics homepage

Example of content marketing on the Kerry Logistics homepage

What to check on your page:

  1. Expand your inbound funnel: Create content that will help more people find your page and attract new customers. Many large forwarders have resource sections with white papers, calculators and more. Multiple landing pages about specific features can also help increase traffic.
  2. Social Media: Spreading content on social media, or even engaging potential clients over different social media accounts, can be a great source of web traffic. Identify where the type of shippers you are seeking spend time online and look for them there. We find that LinkedIn is the best place to find qualified shippers. 
  3. Optimize your search: SEO (search engine optimization) means ensuring that your website’s structure brings in the right audience. Does your site use keywords shippers will be searching for on Google? Do you have the right webpage title? SEO is complicated and constantly changes; it may be worth speaking to an expert about this.
Screenshot of how freight vendors use social media

How Expeditors uses logistics updates to communicate with potential customers

Wait. Just because you walked into a store doesn’t mean you’re ready to buy.

Step II: Communicate the value and make it easy to close

You found your way to the TVs and know what you want. The salesperson seals the deal with you, at the right time andwith the right information.

Online Freight Sales Infographic (Click for full size)

Online Freight Sales

Logistics websites needs to clearly communicate the exact right message to the right target at the right time. You’ll need to decide who your website is targeting. With the limited space available, you’ll need to decide whether to optimize for new, inbound prospects or for existing customers.

For example, we found that 70% of top 20 freight forwarders companies optimize their websites for existing clients, not inbound prospects (see the infographic on right).

What to check on your page:

  1. Ensure that you have the right calls-to-action – bold buttons that guide prospect interactions with your website.
  2. Provide the right way for the prospects to interact with you. Just having a telephone number or a email form isn’t enough. Forward thinking forwarders are using online rate management in order to provide instant, online quoting to prospects, gaining more customers than ever.
  3. Enhance the funnel, so that a prospect landing on your page will get escorted through the complete quote request process until, at the very least, your inbound sales time has a solid lead, or, you manage to get a full online quote request.
Example of website optimization of freight forwarder websites

Example of placement of calls to action from CH Robinson’s Website

Step III: Make the process work (even when prospects leave)

You found the TV in the store in seconds. They were set up on the wall in the right way, almost forcing your eye to the right place. The salesperson showed up at the right time and offered the sale at the right time. Rest assured that the store set-up andthe salesperson’s pitch was the result of careful testing and optimization.

Websites are even easier to optimize. Make sure that your page is laid out right, test that it’s working, change what isn’t and make sure you can bring back prospects who drop out.

Example of freight website with Z pattern overlay

Websites are usually viewed in a Z-pattern. Placing content accordingly will make sure the right stuff gets seen.

What to check on your page:

  1. Check whether the site is laid out with the most important items that you want website visitors to see first. Specifically, make sure that the important items are visible before prospects scroll down. You can also optimize the layout so it corresponds to the Z-layout above.
  2. 55% of B2B buyers research business purchases on mobile devices and 24% have actually made purchases on mobile devices. Are you prepared to lose half of all potential customers on your site? No? Then make sure that your site works well on mobile devices and tablets.
  3. It takes time to make sure that your website works like a Swiss watch. Make sure that you have software that tracks exactly what happens when visitors come to your website. It’s not only about measuring the clicks. Use heat maps to see where visitors are clicking…or more importantly, where they aren’t. Ready to get advanced? Software like Optimizely will let you make small website changes to track improvements.
  4. Inevitably visitors will reach your site, attempt to generate price quotes…and then leave. Ad retargeting lets you show online advertisements to those specific people at a significantly lower cost than most online advertising. Check out sites like AdRoll to learn more.

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