Betsy Silver, Business Development Director at RDA comments on an article from Information Age - "Are your legacy systems getting in the way of enabling your customers to purchase when, where and how they want? Modernizing your back office systems and moving them to the cloud provides the agility needed to help make your B2B ecommerce initiatives successful.”
In the world of manufacturing, customer needs are as varied as they are complex. Often, these companies have built long term relationships with their customers based on trusty salespeople to provide recommendations, ensure order accuracy and assist with order logistics, leading with a mantra of “service” as a competitive differentiator. That said, customers are increasingly expecting they should be able to interact in much the same way online. As such, manufacturers must be able to connect and transact with them wherever they are and whenever it’s convenient.
And the rewards are generous for those that do – 60% of B2B executives say their customers spend more overall when they touch multiple channels. Clearly, providing robust digital experiences for buyers will pay dividends in the long term.
But facilitating those experiences is much easier said than done. Due to legacy IT and business process considerations, it is often difficult for businesses to replicate the fluidity they’re able to provide customers offline.
There are options for companies to consider when buying a commerce platform, but most are solely focused on the online experience. As the marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, B2B sellers are looking for strategies to capitalise on buyers’ digital spending power. No matter the platform you choose, a cloud-based infrastructure will help any B2B brands stay competitive in the digital age through the following capabilities.
Be anywhere and everywhere: B2B businesses need to enable buyers to purchase when, where and how they want if they are going to obtain and retain loyal customers. In the cloud, it’s easy for manufacturers or distributors to do business anywhere.
An auto repair expert can order spare parts when he’s in the field responding to a service request, for example. Or a grocery store owner can place beverage orders while reviewing inventory numbers in his or her office after store hours.
Traditional B2B commerce often required phone calls or in-person meetings with sales representatives, which is inconvenient for the buyer and costly for the seller. And those that do have an e-commerce site typically lack mobile capabilities or require too many steps for a user to complete an order, making it difficult to engage on the go.
Put the customer first: Connectivity with a company’s investments in CRM can go a long way to helping make sure that your various channels are consistent when interacting with customers.
Integration with CRM gives manufacturers and distributors a holistic view of their buyers to further create personalised offerings that mimic the way in which a company’s best sales reps already operate.
Having offers, promotions, order statuses readily available to sales people, and being able to drive multi-touch campaigns across e-commerce, marketing, and in person should be the guiding principle as e-commerce programs take shape.
A beverage supplier, for instance, can offer convenience store owners customised recommendations based on their location, store layout, previous purchases or industry trends. This degree of personalisation helps customers remain financially responsible long term, which keeps them happy and loyal to your business. And if they call their sales rep, that person should be able to offer the same information.
Be agile: The ability to adapt to evolving customer demands is incredibly valuable, especially given the pace of technology advancements and subsequent customer expectations. Implementing an agile methodology within your organisation can go a long way when it comes to resources and value add.
IT decision makers who build their commerce platform on the cloud have an advantage in this area. The cloud offers the flexibility necessary for B2B sellers to accommodate different needs of buyers — regardless of industry. While buyers of construction site supplies might require complex ordering capabilities that allow for items to be shipped to multiple locations, a software buyer might need access to marketplaces to sift through implementation partners.
Probably the most frequently missed requirement by companies developing their first B2B commerce experience is the need to accommodate change. Cloud-based systems are more likely to provide the underlying agility to accommodate modern digital expectations.
With US B2B e-commerce growth expected to reach $1.13 trillion by 2020, businesses recognise the benefits of embracing digital commerce. That said, many struggle with the right approach, and don’t know how to best integrate online with more traditional channels.
Emerging cloud platforms for commerce are increasingly giving companies the best of both worlds – ways to meet or exceed online expectations, but doing so while reinforcing the power of the companies’ salespeople and traditional values placed on service. Being mindful of the core principles above, companies can shape their digital future based on what’s made them great all along – customer focus.