As B2B buyers demand more digital purchasing options and related customer service, manufacturers should deploy five effective methods to win them over as loyal customers, Jeri Kelley of Oracle Commerce writes.

JeriKelley_Oracle

Jeri Kelley

A seismic shift has taken place across almost every aspect of the sales process: Sales are now driven by a customer’s preference for digital interaction. So what does that mean for manufacturers?

No matter what type of product or services you sell or who your buyers are, you can win over B2B buyers in today’s digital era.

Chances are, your B2B sales experience is a bit dated: only 38% of businesses have fully implemented B2B ecommerce strategies worldwide, according to eMarketer. This is not because of a lack of understanding of the importance of digital, but because many organizations are overwhelmed by more urgent matters: constantly changing customer expectations, legacy technology, and debt. On top of this, it’s overwhelming to consider where to begin making the changes and implement new technology considering all of the aforementioned factors.

While it may be tempting to find a quick digital fix in established public marketplaces like Amazon Business, that won’t serve you in the long term, and it will take away your ability to control your brand presence and price margins.

Implementing new technology becomes easier when you consider what tools and details are essential to B2B buyers in online purchasing; knowing what to prioritize will help determine what technologies you need to be successful. No matter what type of product or services you sell or who your buyers are, here are five ways you can win over B2B buyers in today’s digital era:

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1—Make buyers’ lives easier by giving them confidence with the data at their fingertips.

For B2B buyers, productivity is top of mind. A modern buying experience should surface relevant catalog and pricing data, accurate inventory, estimated manufacturing timelines, and personalized recommendations based on profile data—all with the goal to make purchasing as easy as possible.

Some examples of what will help your buyer do their job more effectively include:

  • Always think mobile-first;
  • Make it simple to order—and to reorder;
  • Ensure content is embedded directly into the commerce experience;
  • Leverage search and navigation to drive customers to the right products and content;
  • Personalize the experience with recommendations-based data from across the ecosystem such as transactional, profile, behavioral, or sensor-driven;
  • Offer multiple ways to check out, including via one-click purchasing and digital assistants;
  • Streamline cumbersome processes like purchase orders and approvals with such fixes as simple online workflows and the ability to accept instant payments;
  • Give partners and customers a single view into their online and offline order history.

2—Expand what you sell online, allowing customers to configure, price and get quotes on products on their own time.

Many B2B organizations offer only a fraction of their products or services online, as the nature of what they sell requires complex configurations and/or quoting processes. What if customers could configure products themselves for purchase? If a quote or more information is required, what if there was a seamless transition to sales? By connecting commerce and configure-price-quote, or CPQ, you can offer several powerful ways to put control in the customers’ hands for configuration, quoting, asset-based ordering, and more.

3—Create interactive experiences in order to show customers the most relevant content.

One reason B2B purchasing is so complex is because of the vast catalog sizes coupled with the thousands of variations under which products and services can be sold together. Visualization and guided-selling tools can direct buyers to both the correct product and bill of material based on assets they already own or are purchasing. Infusing these technologies into the buying experience will increase conversion rates and average order value, and decrease return rates.

4—Explore new ways to reach and engage buyers by testing new business models.

B2B buyers want multiple ways to purchase, and organizations need to be able to test new business models quickly in order to meet this specific customer desire. Some examples of how this can work include:

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  • Direct-to-consumer: With many retailers struggling to find their footing, brands are launching direct-to-consumer shopping experiences as a way to build relationships directly with their customer base.
  • Subscription-based selling: B2B organizations are looking beyond one-time purchases, expanding to subscriptions to capitalize on the massive economic shift in how buyers want to consume both digital and physical goods.
  • B2B marketplaces: Creating a marketplace offers your buyers more product options and more supplier choices. Organizations that have a low number of product SKUs, or currently offer only services, can leverage a marketplace to add products and services to their site experience without having to maintain additional inventory or incur logistics costs.

5—Desktop and mobile experiences are just the tip of the iceberg for digital commerce, so think beyond your site.

Experiences are what will set you apart. Once you’ve launched an online storefront, the potential for digital innovation is limitless. Commerce anywhere experiences will help you leapfrog your competition and add value to each of your buyers’ interactions. Organizations are currently experimenting with mobile applications for customers as well as for field reps, IoT-driven ordering, and voice-activated order-tracking and purchasing. To do this successfully, brands must leverage commerce technology that help them to stay agile, innovate quickly, and create a differentiated customer experience.

You don’t need to tackle everything out of the gate—consider what your customers need most, and what you are comfortable with. Implementing just a few of these digital strategies will set you toward a path of increased revenue, more consistent buying experiences, and more satisfied customers.

Jeri Kelley is director of product strategy for B2B commerce at Oracle Corp. and has over 15 years of experience in ecommerce, marketing, and digital strategy. As part of the Oracle CX group, she helps B2B brands build and enhance their digital commerce footprint. Follow her on LinkedIn.

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