With more and more B2B buyers moving online, B2B businesses need to start adopting smarter eCommerce and digital technologies to stay competitive without sacrificing great customer experience. A majority of B2B buyers actually prefer the convenience of a self-service portal over face-to-face interaction, however, 76% of B2B buyers still find it helpful to talk to a salesperson when researching and considering a new product.
Buyer relationships in a B2B eCommerce world are about striking a balance between convenience and personalised service. B2B buyers still want to have trusted relationships with their suppliers, which means your B2B business needs to offer exceptional customer service at every stage of the buying process. Selling B2B online should still be about cultivating and nurturing successful long-term buyer relationships that comes from great customer experience.
Why is great customer experience in B2B eCommerce important?
Widespread digital adoption and automation of many commercial interactions have affected the way businesses purchase products and services. Increasingly, they think and act like their B2C counterparts — accustomed to fast, seamless online transactions, fulfilment, and account servicing tailored to their unique specifications. After all, B2B buyers don’t simply unlearn their B2C experiences when they come to work. Yet less than 30% of B2B customers say suppliers provide great customer experience.
Importantly, the purchasing behaviour of the current generation in the workforce acts as a catalyst behind this trend. As millennials ascend through the business ranks, they bring their digitalised worldview to the workplace, where 61% of B2B transactions now start online. Recently, more than 80% of business purchasers surveyed want a B2C-level customer experience, and two-thirds have switched vendors to get it.
Achieving great customer experience through better technology and automation represents a huge opportunity for most B2B businesses. When companies provide a personalised and seamless experience, they can generate an average revenue growth that is twice the rate of competitors with less-developed digital platforms.
How B2B businesses can achieve great customer experience
Although the ideal approach to drive B2B eCommerce sales using great customer experience varies across industries and companies, most successful models are built using the following features:
Personalised customer experiences
Personalised and automated customer interactions extend beyond the basic purchase funnel to all activities involved in meeting customer needs and expectations. All functions ranging from fulfilment to customer support and billing should be designed to provide the best experience for buyers.
Segmenting customer needs
Segmenting customers by needs and buying behaviour allows companies to create tailored experiences for each group. Customer requirements vary by type of business and will vary by product type. Despite these differences, adopting effective use of tools such as artificial intelligence, analytics and algorithms will be crucial to understand customer needs and predict buying behaviour of customer segments.
Easy customer interactions
Endeavour to facilitate seamless buyer and seller transactions with digital technologies to meaningfully automate interactions and processes, from ordering and payment through to fulfilment, replenishment and customer service. Sellers also need to increase customer choice for their preferred transaction channel, phone, online, mobile or in-person while also ensuring a consistent and great customer experience across all channels.
Companies that offer B2B customers a personalised online and great customer experience can capitalise on that growth and help drive B2B eCommerce sales. Personalised interactions stand out in intensely competitive markets, driving sales, enhancing efficiency, and strengthening customer relationships. Customers are always going to be tough to please, and in a world where they have more choice than ever, B2B businesses are going to have to do that much more to create competitive advantages along customer experience. The good news is there are proven practices and tools that can be used to help achieve great customer experience and drive B2B eCommerce sales.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.