Think about the last time you made a purchase. Maybe you went into a store to buy a new sweater, found one that you liked and tried it on. Being the savvy consumer that you are, even if you loved the sweater, you may have checked online before buying it to see if you could get a better price or waited for Black Friday and purchased it online then.
Much like B2C, B2B buying increasingly has its own flavor of omnichannel purchasing. Your client may be on location with a sales rep, on a computer at work or using their mobile phone during their commute. In today’s digital society, it’s increasingly common for multiple channels to be involved in a single purchase, and that’s exactly the kind of customer experience that an omnichannel approach supports and encourages.
Because of this, B2B omnichannel delivery also means being able to provide a higher degree of personalization to the customer than ever before. High value B2B sales often require greater depth of detail, so the omnichannel e-Commerce solution needs to deliver more than simple product and price information: it needs to create an online environment that, for example, provides recommendations based on previous interactions or customer purchases, regardless of how they previously took place.
This complexity of getting the e-Commerce sales process right is deterring some B2B companies from fully imagining its potential. Currently, 96% of B2B companies say they have not fully completed their digital transformation, with more than 75% indicating that challenges are holding them back, including: getting right and complete client data in one system; product information not being available in a single system; and a lack of real-time inventory information. Less than half of these businesses have an omnichannel strategy in place.
But, companies that are postponing this transition are leaving money on the table. B2B customers want to buy from them online. As many as 75% of B2B companies have customers who have asked if they can purchase from them online, with the top reasons being ease of purchase, not waiting for a sales rep and insight into inventory and delivery times.
B2B businesses that are already taking advantage of e-Commerce systems have experienced major benefits. On average, they see ROI within the first year, with a 22% increase in revenue growth and a 21% increase in profitability. Of those businesses with an omnichannel strategy, a whopping 64% have seen an increase in sales. If e-Commerce is a spark that ignites sales, omnichannel is the flame.
But for omnichannel to be successful in B2B, it must go beyond simply ensuring the online experience matches the offline one, to fully supporting the buyer throughout the entire, often complex, sales process. Omnichannel is a way of thinking that begins with your client and adapts to their behavior. It ensures a seamless user experience across channels, from start to finish, and ensures that your clients are getting consistent messaging across channels. The more integrated these channels are with one another, the better. Achieving a sustainable balance between the online and offline worlds is the key to boosting customer satisfaction and sales performance. All channels should collaborate seamlessly, while complementing and strengthening each other’s performance.
This means using client data to try to understand their behaviors and preferences. You can be steps ahead in the buying process by knowing which trends are relevant to that client, which products to recommend for their shopping basket and making sure that the price is optimized for a specific customer. In addition to ensuring that you’re not lagging behind, it also shows your clients that you understand their buying wishes and can keep up with their demands throughout their journey. At the end of the day, omnichannel is so effective in driving sales because buyers want to connect with the brands they trust, not the channels they use.
Michiel Schipperus has been working in e-Commerce since 1999 when he joined ISM eGroup. It was here that the concept for Sana Commerce originated. Today Sana is a separate business.
Over the years, Schipperus has consulted many distributors and manufacturers on how to successfully set up an online sales channel. These lessons learned from more than 100 B2B e-Commerce cases were used to develop the Sana Commerce product. Together with the whole team at Sana, it is his mission to show distribution businesses and manufacturers that the road to online success is shorter than they think.