Wherever you are on the digital maturity curve, obey the omnipresent customer. This is one of the messages from our 2019 E-commerce Report “Speed beats perfection”. According to 400 B2B organisations across Benelux, France, Germany, the Nordics, the UK and the USA, the future customer will likely expect a very human experience, driven and supported by ambient technology. Integrating these elements seamlessly is key.
Digital is more than a trend
There can be little doubt that the future is increasingly digital, as B2B buyers not only demand a B2C-like experience but also want a seamless interaction with an authentic organization right across all its touchpoints. The majority of B2B revenues now come from digital sales channels. But even for more complex scenarios than the recurring order of consumables, for example the delivery of construction site equipment, B2B buyers do at least some online research at the very beginning. As Forrester states: “74% of business buyers told us they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.”
We live in the age of the empowered buyer. B2B companies must respond to this by re-weighting the balance between online and offline sales processes and touchpoints. So what can a B2B vendor do to increase sales (by automating and getting digital), while at the other hand nurture a very personal customer relationship?
Consider these 3 strategies to approach B2B buyers
- Maintain individuality!
Each of your clients has specific needs. By knowing what they like, on an individual level, you can increase their loyalty and, by using cross- and upselling activities, trigger additional sales. Ways to do that are while meeting for a cup of coffee, which is nice sometimes, but not always manageable – or by analyzing their shopping behaviour and displaying referred articles and e-services in their personal account section of a customer portal. Maybe a combination of both approaches is the ideal way.
- Humanize your company!
B2B purchases are not done by single persons anymore. In order to earn the trust of a diverse group of people from different generations, you need a colorful bouquet of approaches. You can provide fact sheets based on your product data as well as emotional storytelling articles on a company blog. You can offer them a white paper to flip through or maintain active and interesting social media channels – because what modern buyers care about is more than the What. It is the Why, the How, the Who. Earn their trust by providing them them with support to their (not only business) challenges, rather than by pointing a product to their face straight away.
- Emotional intelligence for the win!
We're entering a time where emotional intelligence will matter more than ever before. Questions like “what’s in their mind?”, “How does this affect him / her?” will become driving forces in either nurturing personal relationships between sales reps and customers, but also in digital sales, where the answers of those questions should be the leading ones for each EPIC or new user story at the beginning of an agile development sprint for your e-commerce solution. By providing the possibility of online feedback to products, regular sentiment analysis can be a starting point to adjust your website to the needs of your B2B customer segments.
Technology for convenience
When appropriately integrated, technology will certainly become the driving force behind things like optimized customer data, personalization, online buying and services, the convenience of things smart devices and voice commands, as well as preferred sales channels such as mobile and smart watches. Yet, it will be ambient. An enabler, sitting in the background powering the convenience and experience that customers want. But, it has to be seamless. All the parts must be connected, because your B2B customer experience is only as strong as your weakest link.
Remember, digitized B2B commerce does not mean unhuman and faceless. Far from it. Advanced digital systems can greatly enhance what we know about our clients and how we interact with them effectively. Organizational improvement will always require a human touch, and B2B businesses will always need salespeople. I think it’s fair to say that relationship building remains key in any kind of B2B commerce operation.