If you read my last post introducing you to your new buyer, you’re either still considering B2B eCommerce or have decided to take the plunge and embrace the future of wholesale wholeheartedly.
Your business model is about to get slightly more complex, but complex doesn’t have to mean complicated. I’m not encouraging you to keep track of hundreds of spreadsheets. When adding a digital sales channel - or any sales channel for that matter (a new channel can include hiring a new salesperson!) - to your business there are a number of things to consider to ensure you deliver that same level of customer focus which made your team successful in the first place. So, we’re going to go back to the basics of customer service and discuss how a multi-channel business can be supported and enhanced with the help of technology.
In any sales relationship, an organization must find ways to keep their customers happy, ensuring a few key unspoken promises are kept to keep them coming back for more. The goal is to increase your organization’s “stickiness” and increase that customer’s total lifetime value by building a relationship where they feel valued and understood. It’s important to acknowledge that these same factors listed below carry as much weight in personal sales interactions as they do with digital interactions (potentially more so now thanks to millennial buying standards - thanks again, right?).
Everything ties back to customer experience. This is all common sense and I’m glad you agree! So what do we need to think about differently when adding one or more new sales channels such as a B2B eCommerce store?
A B2B eCommerce platform is not something that you can build once, leave alone and then watch the sales pour in. If you set it and forget it, you’re new sales channel is doomed to fail in the long run. You wouldn’t train an employee for one week when they join your company, never train them again, and expect that they’ll always be optimally effective, would you?
When setting up your B2B eCommerce stores, you’ll want do everything that you would normally do when starting a new customer relationship:
Within a B2B eCommerce portal, you can leverage the information gained from these initial touchpoints to design and build a password protected, customer specific eCommerce store; one that takes into account unique pricing agreements and a product mix that is relevant to a particular customer (or customer group if you’d prefer to manage tiered pricing and assortments). What’s more, because these stores are hosted in the cloud, they’re collecting tons of data about your customers’ buying behaviors and preferences beyond what they could ever tell you over the phone or via email.
Tackle the ins and outs of B2B eCommerce with our ultimate guide;
The Merchant’s Guide to Winning in B2B eCommerce
The best B2B eCommerce platforms will present this information to you so that you can make informed business decisions on promotional offers, what items to stock and when, and which customers you should think about following up with personally due to a high order price or inactivity.
Data doesn’t have to be scary and this is where the beauty of digital channels comes into play. Moreover, data presented well can improve communications and understandings on both sides of the vendor-customer relationship.
For wholesalers, first class B2B eCommerce platforms will collect and aggregate data not only about how your customers interact on the custom B2B store that you designed for them, they will also aggregate information across your supply chain, consolidate it into helpful reports and allow you to play with the data as you see fit. This information can be leveraged to:
If they don’t provide them as a default, these first class B2B eCommerce platforms will also integrate with accounting platforms, 3PLs, shipping providers, CRM systems, inventory & order management systems and more, to make ensure that you’re not spending your valuable time on repetitive, error prone data entry tasks.
For your customers, the value is in providing them with information when, where and how they want to consume it. They’ll have the benefit of being able to track the status of their orders, review past order history and easily re-order their preferred products using these platforms. Additionally, they’ll have access to a comprehensive listing of products available to them with rich product descriptions to help inform their buying decisions.
Frictionless sales relationships are made possible by quick responses and access to rich information. We covered the information side of the equation, now let’s focus on where we can reduce customer friction points by addressing time to value.
Process automation is the easiest, least resource intensive way to make your business more nimble. If the B2B eCommerce platform that you’re evaluating doesn’t eliminate process bottlenecks and allow you to route orders based on order location, proximity to warehouse, email status updates to customers or trigger alerts to sales people about high value orders among other things, you’re just creating more work for yourself and your team.
By automating even a portion of the monotonous day-to-day tasks that plague any wholesale business, you’re going to be making yourself and your employees happier and more efficient. This in turn will enable your organization to be customer obsessed and help improve the quality of your customer relationships.
Automation is a game-changer in supply chain management.
B2B eCommerce stores are designed to augment, enhance and extend the sales arm of your wholesale business. They are an “always on” channel through which your customers can research and buy from your company when they don’t want or have time to talk to a sales representative. Not only that, they show that you are going the extra mile to understand their buying preferences by offering a unique buying experience, presenting preferred pricing and offers that are catered specifically to them. The best platforms can eliminate the day-to-day busy work that plagues your team, allowing them to focus on being customer obsessed (and a whole lot more pleasant!).
It’s time to delight your customers and give them the white keyboard treatment. After all, they deserve it, don’t they?
Invite your wholesale customers to an online store tailored to them with TradeGecko today!