According to Google research, 89% of U.S. marketers reported that personalization on their websites or apps increased revenue. B2B companies are forced to keep pace with customers’ digital preferences and high expectations now more than ever. Customers are comparing the B2B online experience to the B2C online experience and won’t hesitate to voice their opinions publicly. System delays, process inconsistencies, and a lack of personalization and customization are just what customers need to start packing their virtual bags.
We’ve summarized the findings of a recent study we conducted to understand how B2B buyers perceive the current eBusiness experience. The survey went out to 125 B2B buyers in the U.S. In this post, we also discuss the urgency with which leading B2B companies must respond to the new digital paradigm across channels and devices. Lastly, we provide ideas and advice on how companies can change the game with next-generation customer portals developed with the one-to-one experience in mind.
The Research in a Nutshell:
- Almost 40% of respondents ranked process issues as the top source of friction when conducting eBusiness
- Customer experience ranked #1 for attracting and retaining loyal customers
- Only 15% of B2B buyers are fully engaged
- 53% of B2B buyers feel that companies are only somewhat responsive to their needs
- 43% percent of buyers believe getting things done easily is most important
- The retail industry was ranked #1 in providing the best eCommerce customer engagement
Getting to the Root of the Problem
These data help us identify the root of the problem. Hint: it’s not about your website; it’s about your entire eBusiness process and technology infrastructure. B2B eCommerce is inherently more complex than B2C for some industries, as some require heightened coordination and communication among systems and processes. But that doesn’t matter to customers who want to get things done quickly and easily. Customers care about the experience they encounter and whether it meets or fails their expectations.
Issues like delays associated with the buying process emerged as a common theme among respondents. For example; let’s say John logs in to make a sizeable purchase through his customer portal. Traditionally, his purchase order would generate a ticket that alerts the processing team via email. The processor enters the order into the system which kicks out an invoice. The invoice is then sent back to John for processing and payment. This entire process could take days or even weeks because it depends on the bandwidth of the individuals. This approach also increases the chance of errors occurring. Alternatively, a custom EDI integration would automate the process and take the onus off of the individual. With computer-to-computer electronic data interchange, this whole cumbersome, time-sucking process is seamless not only for the company but the customer too. Sellers can rest assured knowing that their documents are being processed and distributed automatically, saving corporations’ time and money.
Real-Time, Relevant Interactions
Inconsistent or insufficient information about products can frustrate customers who expect companies to have up-to-date information at the ready. Maintaining the integrity and freshness of your data is key to providing the latest and best information in real time. Real-time interactions including intuitive sales and service tools are a must for the on-the-go customer.
Integrating modern data analytics tools with your customer portal enables personalized communications via email and social media channels based on behavioral patterns. B2B customers appreciate proactive communications about the changes that impact them the most via their preferred channel. Custom chatbots can also engage live customers to help drive sales.
Building the Next-Generation eBusiness Experience
Companies must adapt quickly and invest heavily in modernizing their IT infrastructures to be more competitive and responsive to customers’ expectations. Companies should seek out modern, customizable options for hardware, software, networks, IT resources and maintenance to optimize business performance, control costs, and improve the customer and employee experience. Integrating CRM, ERP (including the aging AS/400), inventory, data analytics, billing, content management, and other mission-critical systems are crucial to providing that seamless and personalized experience. Systems that don’t communicate with each other just won’t cut it in a customer-first world. Hosting your eCommerce platform on a private cloud is a smart and secure option. You may also consider a hybrid option that offers a consistent platform that spans data centers and cloud to simplify IT and deliver apps and information to anyone, anytime, anywhere. A hybrid option also allows you to scale the computing power and capabilities that your business demands without wasting onsite technology investments.
According to TechTarget, APIs have steadily improved software quality over the last decade, and the growing number of web services exposed through APIs by cloud providers is also encouraging the creation of cloud-specific applications, internet of things (IoT) efforts, and apps to support mobile devices and users. Integration of APIs such as sales tax calculations, shipping calculations, product catalogs, pricing, and inventory, enable companies to serve up information seamlessly. Simplistic site navigation, self-service, responsive design, and robust search capabilities are all fundamental elements of our era.
Building a next-generation B2B eBusiness experience requires a well-planned customer-first strategy that leverages social, mobile, analytics, and cloud technologies to engage the busy customer. It also requires companies to modernize aging IT infrastructures to enable the optimal response to customer needs and preferences. The fact is you are now competing with companies that have crossed over from the B2C world to take a chunk of your business. Technology plays an integral role in helping you stay competitive. Ultimately, it will come down to how the customer perceives his/her experience with your business that will determine your company’s fate.