With customer expectations changing, Kees de Vos takes a look at why today’s enterprises need to transform themselves into channel neutral organisations where operational efficiency and enhanced customer experience and loyalty are top of mind.
Today’s increasingly complex multichannel world represents both a challenge and an opportunity for the enterprise. While ecommerce is still an emerging strategy for many industries, more and more business customers are demanding functionality that matches their online consumer experiences and increasingly expect to be able to seamlessly interact through any medium – online, mobile, call centre or sales representative.
With the user experience becoming increasingly fundamental to the adoption and success of B2B sites, organisations are now looking to improve customer engagement and loyalty in new ways such as tailored self-service options and mobility. As a result, maintaining brand positioning and consistency of content across all channels is becoming increasingly essential.
Meanwhile, from an operational efficiency perspective, organisations are battling with reduced product margins, shorter product life cycles and increased friction in multi-channel sales. Companies are looking to consolidate systems on a single platform capable of supporting their global business, regardless of channel or locale. A comprehensive ecommerce solution represents an opportunity to streamline business operations and simplify the complexity of B2B transactions, while delivering a single view of everything – customers, inventory, product and content.
This twin requirement to optimise and innovate means organisations are turning to ‘next generation’ B2B ecommerce to achieve targeted business outcomes and deliver the enhanced customer experiences that will be key to maintaining both revenue and market share.
The evolutionary curve
Largely transaction focused, first generation B2B sites were primarily order-taking tools with limited or basic catalogue information. Featuring flat HTML product pages and other elements, all too often it was impossible for a customer to complete a transaction online without resorting to faxing confirmations or authorisations.
But today’s users are increasingly influenced by their personal consumer retail experience; they expect to encounter modern ecommerce capabilities that include rich and interactive displays, personalised content and guided search. In other words, they expect a robust, informative, responsive and personalised experience that includes the ability to self-service any requirement – including managing replenishment programs, returns and warranty claims.
Examining the opportunities
In the near term, there are several opportunities that B2B enterprises should be targeting in their eccmmerce platforms and programs:
- Customer satisfaction – improve customer satisfaction and loyalty by delivering multichannel convenience through a single platform. In the current marketplace, seamless and personalized customer experiences represent a real value to buyers.
- Cost reductions – streamline business operations and reduce costs to deliver a better customer experience while reducing investment in call centres and customer service departments.
- Increased revenue – capture new market segments and fully leverage opportunities in the digital marketplace. For this reason, the enterprise should target revenue opportunities as a measurable outcome of any eCommerce program investment.
- More conversions – strategically embrace the lessons and best practices of B2C ecommerce and benefit from opportunities to increase online conversion rates through their ecommerce platforms.
- Transaction management – substantially improve transactional efficiency and the customer experience by making product content, distribution channels, order management, fulfilment and other transactional features more accessible to customers
Top tips for putting B2B multichannel into play
- Offer customers their preferred channel – many customers don’t necessarily want to interact with a sales representative and would prefer to transact solely in the online channel; for example they may want to search for a solution online before discussing with the sales team.
- Improve responsiveness and service – using self-service, real-time chat or voice services makes it easy for customers to find information fast and resolve issues, creating a stronger and more profitable relationship.
- Make it easier to do business – implement streamlined purchasing, payment and inventory processes while providing unique product assortment, pricing and business flows.
- Tailor the user experience – provide targeted dynamic content and sophisticated search capabilities.
- Gain full control over content – managing content can be one of the most challenging aspects of managing your commerce operations, but with Product Content Management you can centrally manage all your content – video, manuals, buyer guides and more - and business data, and expand into new markets with ease.
- Ensure full integration with ERP, CRM and inventory and manufacturing systems as well as customer data and contract terms – ensuring sales, call centre personnel and support teams has exactly the right information they need, when they need it, regardless of the channel the customer uses.
- Identify ways to release sales teams from being customer service representatives, so they can undertake more strategic sales initiatives and focus on higher value sales activities.
- Integrate web, customer service, print, mobile and social commerce to deliver a fully faceted multichannel experience.
While enterprises can feel daunted by multichannel commerce, there’s no escaping the fact that simply playing lip service to multichannel risks being left behind as others take up the baton and deliver exactly what their customers and partner organisations want.
Getting multichannel right is all about facilitating the buying cycle more efficiently, delivering the right information across every touch point and across every customer facing group within the extended enterprise value chain. The good news is that done well, multichannel cuts through the complexity and cost of doing business, while making the enterprise a customer-focused and responsive organisation that has a 360 degree view of their customers.
Kees de Vos is VP business consulting at hybris.