Today’s market is an exciting time for B2B companies. B2B commerce is growing and changing at a rapid pace. Many decision makers are realizing that the days of sales calls and catalog browsing are being replaced by digital searches and purchases. With all of these changes comes the stark reality that if companies want to maintain and grow their marketshare, they must evolve. Now B2B customers are savvier and use multiple digital channels to research and purchase products. They are more connected, more informed and more in control of the buying process than ever before. In highly competitive markets where big-dollar projects are on the line, customers value accessibility, flexibility and convenience, which is why understanding their buyer journey is critical.
Forrester Research, Inc. refers to this new era of the connected buyer as the “Age of the Customer” wherein successful companies will consistently rethink and rework their approach in order to systematically anticipate and respond to customer needs. So what exactly does this mean and how does it impact your ability to develop a winning B2B eCommerce strategy?
This article and Part II will discuss key themes shared in the white paper and in the webinar, and provide a broad framework for developing an effective eCommerce strategy.
First, let’s start with three crucial elements of a customer-centric eCommerce strategy:
- Don’t build old processes around new technology. Instead, rethink the way you engage with today’s buyer and leverage technology to strengthen those relationships.
- Don’t assume digital customers have the same purchase path as more traditional offline buyers. Rather, use technology to gauge customer behavior and test new methods of customer engagement.
- Don’t stop with B2C best practices. Go beyond them. You can borrow B2C tactics, but the complexity of B2B transactions including pricing, data management and integration will drive personalization and customization to the next level.
Now, let’s look at the first concept in more depth...
Don’t build old processes around new technology.
This idea is really about rethinking your engagement process. The way we conduct business has changed dramatically thanks in part to digitalization. Handshakes have been replaced by digital signatures, and the widespread adoption of smart phones and tablets has changed the way people look for and buy products. The digital world has forced companies to re-evaluate the way they engage with customers. Even the livelihood of the traditional salesperson has been called into question.
Today’s business environment demands that companies take an omni-channel approach that works across diverse functions to deliver the right kind of customer engagement and experience.
Business take place offline and online, via desktop, mobile, tablet and apps. All of these touchpoints need to be connected and integrated, and the process for managing customer engagement across these touchpoints starts with your internal process.
Internal silos must be broken and internal misalignment must be fixed. Teams must have a shared understanding of the collective business objective, technology capabilities and the role they play in acquiring and engaging with new and existing buyers. Once the right internal structure is in place, you can view the omni-channel holistically and play around with new sales channels and techniques that produce the right level of customer engagement.
Bring Mobile into the Mix.
Mobile is an important channel to bring into your omni-channel fold. So are tablets. Remember, buyers want accessibility, flexibility and convenience. They want to research and compare product information, services and prices – and they want to do it quickly and easily whether they are traveling and/or on a project site.
But don’t make the mistake of treating mobile information like a mini version of your web site. What works on a desktop might not work on a small phone screen. Rethink how buyers use mobile and tablets versus how they use the desktop. Understanding your buyer journey will uncover insight that will help you to more effectively shape the content on a mobile app, for example. Images, dense text and drop-down features typically found on some websites may not work for mobile. Mobile users want quick information, and they don’t want to click through a lot of channels to get there. Your mobile B2B consumer wants to get to the point and keep moving.
A mobile-first approach will also help your internal team. Mobile-enabled sales teams are more effective when they can access product information anywhere at any time.
Read Part II of this article now.
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