With b2b eCommerce continuing to gain traction, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors that are already seeing the benefits of an online sale channel now face the challenge of offering a similar quality of buying experience across all customer touch points. Today’s business buyers interact with sellers in many different ways and want the same streamlined engagement across all channels.
A consistent, high quality omnichannel customer experience is also key to transitioning offline buyers into confident eCommerce users. Here we take a closer look at recent piece of research from Forrester, which provides some insights on how to prepare and implement an effective b2b omnichannel strategy, and how technology integration can help to facilitate these plans.
Understand the buyer’s journey
Firstly, b2b sellers need to have a clear understanding of the buyer’s journey. Business-to-business customers typically demonstrate more complex buying behaviour than b2c shoppers, spending longer researching sellers and products before making purchase decisions. They expect a personalised sales and marketing experience at every engagement and look to establish longer-term partnerships with suppliers – which is why a consistent approach across all channels is so important.
Secondly, sales teams must be able to support ominchannel experiences. As an increasing number of customers switch to buying online, or mix eCommerce with traditional forms of engagement such as phone calls and face-to-face meetings, sales reps will need to lead the way in navigating customers through their digital transition. As offline and online customer experiences converge, maintaining consistency is critical and a task that sales people should be well placed to tackle.
Aim for continuous digital transformation
At the same time, the sales function will also have the opportunity to use data on customer preferences collected from the eCommerce platform to help develop digital sales strategies. In our experience, companies should aim for continuous long-term eCommerce transformation – switching to online selling is a significant move that needs to be implemented in multiple phases. Firms should start the process with carefully controlled trials that help them get to grips with customer engagement online, and test specific eCommerce features and software integrations.
The capabilities of the technology behind your eCommerce platform will shape eCommerce strategy and the omnichannel customer offering. Customers and your sales team will want access to specific b2b features, with a built-in ability to evolve functionality over time, as the business demands. So choosing the right b2b eCommerce solution and the best b2b technology integration partner is critical to optimising omnichannel performance.
Integration, integration, integration
According to Forrester, the issue of poor technology integration is the greatest threat to b2b eCommerce success – and it’s also the biggest challenge for b2b companies to overcome. In Forrester’s study, over 50% of respondents said that integration with existing and legacy technologies as very or extremely challenging. Get it right and you’ll quickly benefit from the cost savings and efficiencies that come with streamlined eCommerce, while your customers will enjoy a slick and rewarding customer experience.
Integration of your customer-facing website with backend business and accounting systems (such as Sage or Pegasus), along with seamless transition between desktop and mobile is at the heart of market-leading b2b eCommerce platforms. In fact, analysis from Google and Boston Consulting Group says that mobile drives, or influences an average of more than 40% of revenue in leading b2b companies and that by 2020, around 70% of b2b search queries will be through mobile devices.
The best b2b integrated eCommerce platforms allow manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors to accelerate digital commerce transformation by ensuring that a large number of the key features they need are already built into the solution. Such features are specifically aimed at b2b buyers and can include real-time inventory, account-specific pricing and discount structures, individual order histories, and the ability to tailor offers and promotions. The way the platform works should align closely the buyer journey, and it needs to support a range of omnichannel customer (and sales team) experiences.