By Andrew Ardron on Mon 09 January 2017 in Web & eCommerce
You don’t need to be Arkwright to appreciate the business benefits of being open all hours...
“If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.” – Warren Buffett
You don’t need to be Arkwright to appreciate the business benefits of being open all hours. Yet a surprising number of B2B companies have the metaphorical ‘closed sign’ in their shop-windows at times when customers are poised to make a purchase. In an era where consumer expectations are being redefined, if your business can’t find a way of delivering ‘always-on’ service, it’s likely to kick the bucket long before you do. Fortunately, that way already exists; it’s called eCommerce.
Theory of evolution
In the consumer world, eCommerce is all around us; it’s immersed in our culture and encouraging retailers to redesign services in line with a changing world. Both common sense and evolution both dictate that B2B companies must therefore apply B2C logic if they’re to thrive in the new economy. The B2B application of eCommerce has been a slow burner. Some companies have questioned its appropriateness for their sector, while others have tried it with mixed results – often because of flawed methodology. Early adopters are triumphing, but for many, the natural default is to stick to the tried-and-tested. Yet change is inevitable – because if you let your competitors get ahead of the game, the rest will be history.
To eCommerce or not to eCommerce? That is the question!
The world isn’t black and white. There are lots of businesses that sell a hybrid of ‘goods’, combined with ‘explicit’ and ‘implicit services’ – but this shouldn’t close the door on the eCommerce opportunity.
Like the High Street, if a purchasing decision requires advice, consultation via traditional ‘people’ channels – field representatives or telesales – is still available. Even then, that dialogue can be strengthened by eCommerce, notably the visibility of previous online engagement that’s held within the system. And once a purchase is made, it forms the basis for future orders (such as repeat orders, spare parts and consumables) that can be quickly actioned via eCommerce mechanisms until a new consultation is required. This provides a better customer experience without sacrificing the personal service.
Often B2B customers want to make quick transactions that fit in with their busy routines; time is a precious commodity. However, many SMEs force their customers to go through unwieldy and inefficient purchasing processes that rob them of that valuable time.
This could be the telesales call that’s lost in translation and results in an incorrect order; the unnecessary one-hour rep visit that only culminates in the same order as last time; the mispriced invoice that occurs when face-to-face agreements don’t correlate with the details in the CRM or ERP; or, when a customer visits outside trading hours, the onerous web form that leads to a duplicate conversation with telesales the following morning. In all these scenarios, customers would be better served – and have greater certainty in their purchase – by more familiar online tools.
Integrated eCommerce goes beyond improving the customer experience – it can fuel productivity and efficiency gains. For example, with the online channel taking care of product purchases, sales resources can be more effectively deployed; telesales executives can be trained to provide more consultative sales support, whilst field-based personnel can focus on business development rather than technical consultancy.
An effective eCommerce platform can also highlight a clear point of differentiation against competitors; the ability to respond quickly and accelerate delivery can be a valuable weapon against the overseas distributor who’s beating you on price.
The strategic addition of eCommerce functionality can transform B2B operations. The most effective solutions fully integrate with your CRM and ERP/accounting systems. This is essential to ensure that client records – detailing engagement across all channels –integrate with stock control, accounting and supply chain operations to guarantee seamless service.
Typically, CRM and accounting systems operate in silos. This often leads to gaps in information that can disrupt order processes, blight communications and compromise the customer journey. Accounts-integrated CRM and eCommerce solutions can fix these gaps to assure continuity and consistency of customer service – and deliver a unified omnichannel experience.
So the questions for B2B organisations are simple:
- Do your customers operate online?
- And, if they do, could you improve their lives by giving them the kind of service that mirrors their consumer experiences?
If you’re a B2B company that hasn’t already considered eCommerce, it’s probably time you did. There’s a diminishing role for the traditional corner shop with a ‘closed for lunch’ sign in the window. In the fast-changing high street of B2B stores, you really do need to be open all hours.
Could an accounts-integrated CRM and eCommerce solution be for your business? Contact us!