Let’s face it, Amazon has changed everything. It has made things like researching a purchase, tracking an order and getting answers quickly (to even the most mundane questions) routine. Obviously in the world of Amazon, most of this happens via online channels. However, even car companies have figured out how to get you what you need in real-time via an onboard computer system accessible through a touchscreen in the dash – or through connectivity to a mobile app. I can tell my car is unlocked from 3,000 miles away!
All of this influences the way consumers expect to make purchases. But aren’t business people consumers too? It is our argument that B2B companies need to understand how consumer experiences are starting to influence B2B relationships and expectations – and why they should do this well before their competition does.
In the past, person-to-person relationships between sales people and clients were the backbone of how businesses functioned with each other. Information, sales sheets, orders, sales calls — they all happened in an analog way. And although we are not advocating against the in-person touch as a way to build relationships, we believe business relationships can be enhanced by the online experience. As consumers have come to expect digital experiences, B2B has to keep up with that shift, but to what degree? At the most elementary level, if a B2B company cannot offer information about its products or services online, it will surely lose customers to competitors who are further along in their adaption to the digitization of commerce.
A Strong Web Presence
When a customer wants to know more about a product or service, they will search online and you’ll want to make sure your company and products are found. This is the first benefit of having a strong web presence. But your website should be more than a place to showcase your company and the services you offer. It should be a place for your prospect to engage with your company, ask questions or request more information. Capturing leads through contact forms or chat functions on your website are perfect tools for enhancing the customer experience and the first step in turning website visitors into customers, even when you don’t have a “buy now” button on your site.
A well-designed website will be intuitive, with the visitor knowing exactly what they are supposed to do. It should also reflect your brand and be a place where you can share high quality information created specifically for your ideal audience. Also consider whether it is interactive, engaging and mobile-friendly. These are just a few of the ways you can adjust your website to adapt to an increasingly digital B2B audience.
Moving into the Future of B2B with Digital
The digitization of B2B commerce will look different for each company. A business might not launch into an online credit card transaction to pay for heavy equipment the way a consumer buys books for their book group, but you can still use a digital infrastructure to automate how the sale happens, making it easier for your customer along the way. Your website can provide information about your products, opportunities to ask questions and more information, or the ability to understand the cost savings through a calculator, request a quote, or completing an online credit application to submit a purchase order.
For smaller transactions, your company can certainly find success with online sales, which is great for keeping up with customers who are fairly self-sufficient. Let them buy something online, then reach out to them in person to see what else you can do for them and build the relationship. When you connect automation, the ease of the web, and the personal touch of quality sales staff, you are living in the B2B digital world of commerce.
Digitization in Support of Sales
A good website helps sales. A sales team with a strong online support system is even better. As much as your clients benefit from digitization, your sales team will, too. Instead of dealing with a person-to-person and/or paper-based inventory, sales and analytics, digitization speeds up the process and nets benefits for salespeople, giving them more time to spend on nurturing relationships and increasing order sizes.
Automating some sales functions makes it easier to handle transactions from the exploratory phase through purchasing. Your sales people can let inventory, specifications, and sales support happen digitally. With the time they save, they can dive into the personal aspect of sales, which is where the magic happens. Your customers may want to buy their products online, but it is the relationship that builds trust for them to make a purchase with you in the first place. Get your sales team out of the paperwork business and into the relationship building business and you’re sure to see sales grow.
Digitization can help your company go far and wide across the internet. Product information is easily distributed, both organically, and as part of your sales strategies. Customer satisfaction improves with greater access to information and services. However, we understand not every business will fully digitize. Some may do it bit by bit as it can be managed. Small steps, like an improved web presence, a digital catalog option, or automated order status and tracking, can go a long way to bringing your company up to speed.
You may not need to do it like Amazon, although buying fifty tons of carrots online with your credit card and having it delivered by a drone within hours would be pretty cool. It’s not really necessary now is it?