Omni Channel Strategy

How to Develop a B2B Omnichannel Strategy that Works

The Omnichannel strategy involves providing the customer with a unified customer experience across all channels. And this has a significant impact on your business results.

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The expectations from online-savvy B2B buyers are driving sellers to present a coherent, functional, Omnichannel experience on their retail websites. B2B customers, used to rich online buying experiences on B2C sites, demand an Omnichannel experience in work purchases in B2B as well.

Building an Omnichannel experience for B2B sellers is not an easy task. The process requires advancement and investment in technology, restructuring organizational structure, and smoothening internal processes. Giving an all-around experience in B2B would become difficult for competitors to match up.

Forrester Study Statistics:

Developing an Omnichannel strategy is a topic which needed a detailed assessment. In August 2014, Accenture and an SAP company called Hybris Software together commissioned a study by Forrester Consulting. The firm surveyed 526 B2B companies and 930 B2B buyers across Canada, France, Germany, the US, and the UK at organizations with at least 1,000 employees. The study showed that 49% of B2B buyers surveyed prefer to make work-related purchases on the same websites they use for personal purchases. 32% of buyers begin their research on brand manufacturer sites and 25% on search engines, and they even expect more work-related purchases to be completed online in the next three years. 52% of buyers surveyed expect one out of two of their purchases to be made online in three years’ time.

Significant aspects that emerged during this study:

  • Higher demands from customers are forcing B2B sellers to provide an excellent Omnichannel experience akin to the B2C online experiences
  • A seamless Omnichannel experience would increase the customer loyalty – they expect Omnichannel strategy as a standard and providing the experience would ensure repeated orders for the retailers
  • Traders who fail to adapt falls behind in competition – they need to invest in and upgrade to an excellent platform
  • Along with technology investment, the business would require changes in process and organizational structures – meaning a balanced investment in people and technology

The Changing Trends in Customer Expectations

B2C like functionality is expected of B2B work purchases by users who are used to unparalleled B2C online commerce experiences. The buyer journey is making a monumental shift from the conventional sifting through catalogs and speaking to salespersons to the contemporary researching for products online and slowly venturing into buying online.

Customer Expectations :

  • Enhanced Fulfillment Capabilities – to be able to track and trace your shipments, seamless delivery, providing an estimated time of delivery and/or delivery on the very next day is considered to be a given for most customers these days. Almost 78% of buyers and 83% of consumers find the fulfillment phase to be essential for business.
  • Inventory Visibility – More than 70% of B2B buyers and consumers emphasized that visibility of the available products across channels is crucial.
  • Superior Customer Experience – Adding additional services like store locators, product recommendations, user reviews and self-servicing accounts for services provide an enriching buying experience and heighten customer convenience.

The customer is no longer satisfied with an incomplete buying experience. They always expect an Omnichannel experience which lets them view and takes stock of inventory across channels, view account history, analyze the activities, track and trace delivery and return/exchange products – that too across the channels. They want the entire process to work under one roof – and get a bird’s eye view at that, at all times. 75% of target customers want to make work-related purchases online, and 68% wants to see all their online activities. 75% of the B2B buyers around the world would buy again from the same supplier because of that supplier’s Omnichannel capabilities. All the above statistics constitutes a whopping segment of consumer behavior in favor of Omnichannel experience in B2B.

What does a customer look for in a site? What keeps them loyal to a brand?

  • Price – Consistent low prices with transparency on extra charges like shipping, duties, and taxes
  • Customer service – Supreme customer service delivered in a swift, personalized manner
  • Selection of Products – an extensive range of products and a credible source of product information

Online shopping has fundamentally changed how customers interact with B2B companies. The companies are vying for consumer’s attention, pushed by the changing customer journey trends, giving importance to Omnichannel customers since they tend to add more lifetime value as consumers.

They understand the importance of maintaining the customer relations and are hence focusing on customer satisfaction as the primary driver by :

  • Meeting the customer expectations to gain trust and procure long time loyal buyers
  • Providing the best Omnichannel experience to customers to give them an edge over the pure-play Internet suppliers
  • Leveraging of efficiencies and saving cost by inventory management, assortment, and visibility

While looking for customer delight and providing a B2B e-commerce shopping experience, they need to focus on these key factors:

  • Enhanced search function pinpointing the right product
  • Improved personalization with product and service recommendations
  • Improved integration with back-end systems like accounting and financing
  • Multiple payment options facilitating independent payment

THE THREE FUNDAMENTAL RULES OF B2B OMNI-CHANNEL STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT

When a company decides to excel in Omnichannel experience for its customers to ensure customer delight, longevity, and their long-term survival, the three vital influencing factors that can help them achieve success are :

  • Investment in Technology
  • Altering the Organizational Structure
  • Strengthening the In-house Processes

The trick is to weave Omnichannel capabilities into the fabric of your business if you want your company thriving long-term with increased profits, revenue, and sales. Let us have a look at the details.

I) Leveraging Technology to Serve Target Buyers: How To

1. Updating the Platform: Enhance, change or upgrade your eCommerce platform in the next six months or so to get ahead in the competition. It starts with basics such as an efficient search, rich content to make swift decisions, ease of navigation, etc.

2. Supporting Multiple Channels: The platform needs to support a variety of channels with cross-selling and up-selling options.

3. Custom Global Experience: The platform has to appeal to a multilingual international crowd and should be adept at personalized pricing, product recommendations, and user reviews.

4. Efficient Reporting and Analytics: Getting access to details like buying patterns, business trends and the impact of campaigns would help enhance the buying experience.

5. Providing Single View of Inventory: Single view allows visibility to the buyers across channels and helps in the easy replenishment of stocks.

II) How to Back the Technology Change with Organizational Change

1. Organizational Structures Aligned to Customer Trends: Along with the technological investment, the companies need to make changes in line with the customer behavior and purchase patterns.

2. Address Channel Conflict: While shifting online, the sales and channel partners should be assured of their position and revenue in the business so that there is no conflict of interests.

3. Enhance Staff Skills: To bring in a 360-degree change, the company’s staff should be equipped with handling the changes and trends happening in their work environment.

4. Integrating Back-Office Systems: Integrating the likes of legacy systems and customizing creates a major impact on adapting.

III) Overview on How to Develop a B2B Omni-Channel Process Change

1. Evaluate Product Portfolio for Complexity: Listing products per sophistication and understanding the ones requiring professional expertise in selling will help manage and simplify the complicated selling process.

2. Map Customer Journeys: Mapping the customers’ buying trends, the channels they approach and their interests would help to get a clear picture for developing personalized sales and marketing campaigns targeted at them.

3. Match Buying Phases with Channels: Gauge the best channels to divert the customers to close the sales by studying their browsing and searching tendencies.

4. Seamless Sharing of Data and Analytics: The sharing of data to be ensured across processes, channels, locations, and companies so that the functional wheel rotates smoothly.

With reference to the above factors and studies, developing a consumer-centric Omnichannel platform backed by investment in technology, process change and reconstruction of the organizational structure is the way to get ahead in pleasing the savvy B2B consumers of the future. Following this strategy is sure to help retailers grow to colossal proportions in more ways than one.

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