Single channel B2B buying is dead. The future of B2B eCommerce is omni-channel. You may be asking yourself “what is omni-channel B2B eCommerce” and “why does everyone keep talking about it?” It is a fully integrated approach to sales, in this instance with a specific focus on B2B eCommerce, which provides your customers with a unified shopping experience across both online & offline channels.
Adopting an omni-channel approach is highly beneficial to your business. Research by Sana Commerce highlighted that 64% of respondents revealed the main success of their omni-channel strategy was an increase in sales revenue. In fact, findings from the Aberdeen Group showed that B2B companies who took an omni-channel approach to eCommerce generated year-over-year revenue growth 2.1 times greater than that of companies who did not.
Rethinking Your Company’s Sales Strategy Due To The Changing B2B Shopping Landscape
Digital transformation has completely disrupted how businesses conduct B2B sales over the past few years. In the past, your business probably received customer orders through phone calls or emails. Then, you would receive payment through a check or bank transfer. This is a huge contrast to today, where your customers can purchase goods online on websites, send or receive order updates on messaging applications such as Whatsapp, and make online mobile payments.
With such a massive shift in B2B buying behavior, traditional company-centric ways of running a business are not effective anymore. If you are a wholesaler, distributor or manufacturer, the chances are you probably have an existing online store or are considering implementing one as part of your B2B ecommerce strategy. However, it is not as straightforward as setting up a web-store and your sales will increase immediately. Your website needs to have the appropriate features, design and data collection and can work hand-in-hand with your business’s workflow applications. For your web store to be successful, your business needs to create a streamlined user experience for your customers to purchase your products or services in the shortest time possible with the least friction.
For a B2B business to be competitive, it is imperative to have an omni-channel strategy. However, implementing a successful omni-channel plan is difficult. A report by 1WorldSync found that almost 50% of businesses surveyed had lost more than $1 million due to omni-channels sale challenges such as lack of proper digital infrastructure support and lack of complete understanding of the eCommerce market.
Today, we will be providing you with 4 tips to help your business build up a strong foundation for your omni-channel B2B eCommerce strategy.
Tip 1: Put Your Customers At The Forefront Of Your B2B eCommerce Omni-Channel Strategy
B2B buying is a complicated process. You probably already know your way around dealing with the varying demands of B2B customers. These customers have many demands. They want to have flexible purchase options. They want to be able to purchases products 24/7. They want to have easy access to information on your products and services through the convenient medium of a web channel.
Essentially, B2B customers expect the same experience they receive when shopping on consumer websites, for example, Amazon and Macy’s. They are looking for the B2B shopping experience to have the same ease-of-use alongside a state-of-the-art buying experience similar to these consumer eCommerce websites. However, 65% of B2B customers commented that their B2B buying experience does not match their consumer shopping experience on Amazon and similar sites. To be successful in B2B eCommerce, companies need to close the gap between the shopping experience they are delivering and their customers’ actual experiences.
If you are hoping to grow your omni-channel B2B sales, B2B eCommerce customer experience needs to be a top business priority and must be taken seriously. The Customer 2020 report indicates that in 3 years’ time, customer experience will surpass product and price as the main differentiating factor for brands.
What can your business do to win customers over successfully? You will need to learn how your customers shop at different touch points, i.e., what is their purchase journey and what is important to them at each step in the journey. This is achieved by digging deep into your ideal customer's persona to have a complete understanding of their purchase behavior, both online and offline. With this information, you can analyze and identify which technology can best assist you to engage your customers’ wants and needs most effectively at every stage of their purchase journey. By delivering a consistent and personalized customer experience, your customer will continue to come back and purchase from you.
Tip 2: Empower Your Sales Staff
One of the biggest myths surrounding omni-channel b2B eCommerce is that a B2B eCommerce sales channel can completely replace the need for a sales team. We don’t subscribe to this at all. In fact, salespeople play an essential role in an organization’s omni-channel strategy.
Traditionally, sales team members are responsible for manual and repetitive tasks such as manual order taking or handling customers’ order questions alongside other duties such as lead generation. A B2B eCommerce solution augments sales teams by helping to eliminate or reduce the manual tasks a sales team typically has to do. With a B2B eCommerce solution, your sales staff has more time to focus on high-value sales activities. For example, sales teams would have more time to drive higher customer engagement by upselling product recommendations or creating custom deals. Your sales staff could focus on these and other revenue-generating activities, helping your business grow further, faster.
Tip 3: Embrace Transparency & Consistency In Your Organization
One of the biggest challenges a company faces when implementing their omni-channel B2B eCommerce strategy is ensuring the consistency of product information that customers receive. Inconsistent product information communicated to customers can lead to missed sales opportunities, purchases of wrong products or product quantities, refunds and a fragile buyer-supplier relationship.
To achieve consistency, your business has to create unified messaging for your customers. At every point of interaction in all your different sales channels, your customers need to receive the same information. For example, a customer should obtain the same pricing information if they view an online product catalog and if they call the company up for a price quotation. In this example, having price discrepancies for your business’s products can confuse your customers and be a turn-off, resulting in lost sales and lower business revenue.
To solve issues like this, the key to success is to have transparency within your organization. By having transparency, information can be easily shared with all your staff members, making it easy to obtain the correct information to pass on to customers.
What method can your organization use to achieve consistency and transparency? This brings us to our last tip.
Tip 4: Have A Single Source Of Truth
Having a single source of truth brings consistency and transparency throughout your organization. A single source of truth is the one source of data that everyone in your company can agree upon as the real trusted number for some operating data. When you centralize your data, your business is more likely to have accurate, up-to-date information. Having real-time data will allow you to more accurately assess your current performance and plan better for the future.
Additionally, a single source of truth is very important for omni-channel b2b eCommerce. A single source of truth in your business resolves disconnects between multiple sales channels, as well as any disconnects between the department in your business. Currently, more than 80% of business do not integrate product management across web, mobile, applications and physical stores. With a proper integrated system, your company will no longer have to worry about missing or inaccurate information.
In many cases, businesses use Excel spreadsheets to share information within their organization. In the early stages, Excel is a cheap and affordable way to manage your data. However, Excel’s limited features are not robust enough to be a sustainable and scalable solution for your growing business. Research has shown that an average business user waste 18 hours each month maintaining spreadsheets. Apart from it being a time-consuming process, other disadvantages to using spreadsheets to manage data are high error rates and a lack of real-time information.
The best solution to help your business achieve a single source of truth is to look for a software provider to integrate all your crucial business applications into a single platform. For example, if you are a food manufacturer, a good software platform will allow you to do inventory and order management, while at the same time integrating with your various accounting, fulfillment and payment applications to create a streamline business process. With an integrated platform, some of the benefits your business can experience include:
- Saving time on the manual collection and compilation of data.
- Reducing data entry mistakes arising from manual data transfer.
- Reducing confusion on how to find the most updated information.
Implementing an omni-channel B2B eCommece strategy is an important step for any B2B business. Current time-consuming, error-ridden sales interactions would be transformed into streamlined, convenient sales processes, consumer-grade shopping experiences for your customers, and expanded, global reach for your business.
If you are a wholesaler, distributor or manufacturer, we have just the solution for you. With Sweet’s fully integrated order and inventory management solution, you can manage your entire operation down from the vendor purchasing process up to the sales process. Sweet also allows you to manage both B2B and B2C eCommerce, with our very own Sweet’s B2B eCommerce Portal and integrations to applications like Shopify. Also, our software offers integrations to business application such as QuickBooks online and ShipStation, allowing you to streamline your entire business operation. Sign up for a 14-day free trial today and experience the benefits Sweet can bring to your business.