Pass the Controls: Improving Your B2B eCommerce and Omnichannel Customer Experience

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In a McKinsey survey about the Covid-19 crisis, 90% of global B2B decision makers said the remote and digital sales model is here “for the long run.” Three out of four of them believe the new sales model is as effective or even more effective than the traditional one, for both existing customers and prospects. Is your eCommerce site ready?

As the world has been adapting to socially distanced online shopping, the B2B buying experience has been inching closer to B2C. B2B buyers are looking for a more personalized, end-to-end omnichannel experience that anticipates their needs. Gone are the days of slowly leading buyers toward the sale, with incremental bits of information to pull them down the metaphorical funnel. Today’s buyers want more control than ever before over how they search, how they gather information and how they buy. They want a similar purchasing experience to what they have on popular B2C sites. This shift shouldn’t surprise us, since the lines are now very much blurred between home and office, with many buyers working at their kitchen tables. One minute they may be ordering groceries online and the next, shopping for laptops to upgrade their sales force. Today’s B2B buyers often feel more like consumers than businesspeople, and their expectations are changing. Providing an omnichannel experience that appeals to them on a personal level will help set your company apart.

Multi or Omni?

Many companies mistake multichannel for omnichannel. A multichannel experience may include all the touchpoints of omnichannel – from in shop, to online, to sales rep touches to customer service calls and more – but not provide a seamlessly integrated and unified buying experience. If messages are misaligned, or design is inconsistent or the journey ‘feels’ different across different touchpoints, then you’re providing a multichannel experience, not an omnichannel one. An omnichannel experience is cohesive.

Don’t get complicated

Gartner reports that 77% of B2B buyers say their last transaction was difficult. That can happen when the buying experience is overcomplicated. The B2B buying journey is already complex. It doesn’t happen on a predictable, linear path carried out by a single person. It often requires multiple stakeholders at different levels all gathering their own data, and then coming to some sort of shortlist for the final decision maker(s). A seamless omnichannel experience that nurtures buyers and anticipates their needs should eliminate the pain points that those 77% are experiencing. And providing the right information at the right time will also help. Gartner found that B2B buyers who received knowledge to assist them in advancing along the journey were 3X more likely to strike a high-value deal with low regret afterward.

Get personal

The future of B2B is deeply personalized, and so perhaps we need to shift our mindset from “B2B to B2Me,” as Caroline Tien-Spalding discusses in Forbes. This includes leveraging technology and AI to gain knowledge to assist the buying journey, without any effort from the buyer, and understanding and predicting their needs, possibly even before they know them. 

Give up control

Tien-Spalding notes, “B2B days of gated content, weeks-out appointments for drawn-out discovery calls and multiple meetings to get basic information on what is offered are well on their way to extinction.” Buyers want more autonomy – pass them the controls. When they need that human touch, your salesforce can be there to provide white glove service, virtually or in-person. But when buyers would rather self-serve, then your eCommerce site should provide that ability, powered by intuitive search, personalized product recommendations and reorder suggestions. Your reps can certainly provide first-hand knowledge and guidance, but your website should also use AI and machine learning to provide the right content and information at the right time to bring the sale home.

Additionally, a good omnichannel experience enables buyers to see your real-time inventory by location/warehouse, to help in their planning and decision making. Such transparency is also useful when it comes to fulfillment, so they can opt for pickup at a nearby location or have their order shipped by regular or expedited delivery.

While social distancing is stretching into its second year, giving buyers more control over the where, when and how of purchasing is working. In fact, a recent global McKinsey study showed that up to 80% of B2B decision makers prefer the new normal of remote human interactions and digital self-service. If you provide an omnichannel experience that is personalized for each and every buying stakeholder, guiding them on their journeys toward a common close, you should definitely reap the rewards.

Want to dive a little deeper into this topic? In this recent GroupBy webinar, we find out how Motion Industries upgraded their eCommerce site, levelling up their omnichannel experience and generating double-digit sales growth. Watch the on-demand webinar now.