2020 has been one for the record books with the global pandemic radically shifting the way buyers and sellers engage, maybe forever. Buyers had already begun showing a preference for digital channels, but the enforcement of global lockdowns procedures has only accelerated this trend. In fact, McKinsey reported that the U.S. eCommerce experienced ten years worth of growth in three-months. So what are the implications of this shift to digital channels?
Business leaders must reimagine the buying experience and look at how to integrate their digital channels with their traditional selling motions so buyers have a coordinated and cohesive buying experience. Today’s buyers expect fast and easy interactions with a high level of personalization along their buying journey, so what can business leaders do to deliver the experiences that drive customer loyalty and retention?
Creating a Seamless, Omnichannel Buying Experience
In order to adapt to the expectations of the new B2B buyer, organizations need to meet buyers where they are. The B2B sales process has traditionally relied heavily on in-person transactions with direct sales but COVID-19 has forced buyers to move to online eCommerce channels. Beyond shifting to digital to survive, vendors must now adapt digital selling strategies accordingly to retain customers. Buyers are craving an eCommerce experience where they can effectively self-serve online. However, vendors also need to think about how the eCommerce channel integrates with traditional in-person sales touchpoints so buyers get a more seamless, consistent buying experience across the board.
Today’s buyers are nimble, weaving in and out of different sales channels to find products and solutions that solve purchasing challenges. Vendors need to reimagine their buying experience to deliver the 24/7 convenience needed to so that buyers are able to make purchasing decisions regardless of where or how they make them. Can they continue their buying process without having to start over? B2B sales teams need to be able to support a true omnichannel experience that gives buyers the flexibility they want, ultimately delivering a great customer experience.
Right Time, Right Place: Why Personalized Product Offers are Essential
Enabling buyers to find the perfect solution for their needs is even more important now that the B2B sales process is moving to self-service. For example, many vendors have robust catalogs with many selection or configuration options, making it easy for buyers to become overwhelmed with finding the right solution. B2B salespeople need to understand the context of buyers and challenges they’re trying to solve and help them find or configure the best solutions to meet their needs. Regardless of whether a purchase is being made online or in-person, buyers have come to expect a high level of personalization in the products presented to them.
Reducing the amount of time to purchase is one key way to match the right solution or product that solves buyers needs. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence can play a role here. AI and machine learning models can help analyze massive data sets and provide recommendations based on that buyer’s preferences. Using AI-based tools enables the end user – whether it’s a seller or eCommerce engine — to understand the context and nuances of customers and tailor product recommendations that perfectly meets their needs. Delivering a great end-to-end customer experience leads to advocacy, which leads to growth.
The Price is Right: Why Transparency is Key in the Self-Service Era
To scale and grow businesses in today’s market, sales teams need to enable buyers to easily find the right solutions to meet their needs – and to do that, delivering the right price is step one to enticing them to make a purchase. In the past, B2B sellers have been reluctant to be transparent about product prices, especially on an eCommerce channel, because it allows them to control the sales process. In today’s ever-increasing digital era, price transparency has become even more critical because sellers are no longer in control – buyers want to be in control of their own purchasing experience. When vendors make it difficult for buyers to get a price for their products or solutions, they risk losing out on winning or retaining business.
To ease the buying decision, vendors must provide transactable prices to buyers in their chosen sales channels. Employing technologies that help sales teams determine what a buyer is willing to pay allows them to respond quickly to buyer inquiries. A buyer should get a consistent price for an order regardless of whether they’re purchasing in-person or online. Vendors need to provide pricing transparency to create the most seamless experience and ease the decision-making process for their customers, and technology can play a role in making this easier. Businesses who can provide transparency and efficiency within the buying process will ultimately build trust with customers.
B2B organizations continue to make over half of their revenue from online purchases, and this figure will only continue to grow. Customers are demanding a fast, streamlined and personalized buying experience and thanks to COVID-19, digital selling is no longer a “nice-to-have” but a “must-have”. Business leaders will need to look for ways to integrate into a customer’s world or risk getting cut out of the relationship and replaced by marketplace options like Amazon. Moving into 2021, B2B sellers will need to take a leaf out of the B2C retail playbook to avoid striking out before it’s too late.