The landscape of retail and eCommerce is shifting, as many of the major headlines of 2017 have shown. Amazon’s latest foray into brick and mortar with the acquisition of Whole Foods is just one example of the disruption that is taking place. Customer expectations are shifting and commerce business models will also need to shift to satisfy them and remain competitive.
B2B retailers may be inclined to think that this disruption applies more within the B2C realm, but that just isn’t the case. B2B customers interact with your brand through a variety of channels (e.g. your website, social media, visits to your physical location), and they expect the same level of consistency and convenience in their work-related transactions as they find in their personal shopping experiences. The CX you provide must not only set you apart from your competitors, but also bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds to create a seamless omnichannel experience.
While companies like Amazon show us that brick and mortar is far from becoming obsolete, it’s clear that purchases coming through digital channels will continue to grow steadily. In fact, Forrester predicts (as shown in the figure below) that online retail sales will make up more than 11% of total retail sales in the US by 2021, with more than $60 billion coming from mobile alone.
3 Ways to Improve Your Omnichannel Efforts
Start by working to connect your in-store and online technology to create a more seamless customer experience. Leverage the information you already have about your customers, such as their past purchases and account information, to improve their next interactions with you.
For example, use information on customers’ past purchases to send relevant promotions and coupons to their emails. You can also provide your in-store and online customer service teams with customers’ purchase histories and information on any past issues. This will enable them to approach new questions and issues with the context of the customer’s overall relationship with your brand, which will help them provide effective, personalized solutions for that customer.
Another opportunity for an improved B2B omnichannel experience, if you’re not doing it already, is to make your inventory visible to your customers. No one likes to receive the notification that the product they just finished ordering is actually out of stock. By adding inventory information to your product pages, you can not only help customers avoid that possible irritation, but also lend a sense of urgency that can help nudge customers toward the “Checkout” button. For customers who like to browse online and then shop in-store, this added inventory information can also help them make sure beforehand that the store they visit will have their desired products in-stock.
On the fulfillment side, customers expect you to deliver the product or service in the fastest, most convenient way possible. Coordinating the back end of your fulfillment channels is essential. Be ready to deliver your products, regardless of how or where the purchase originated, with options like buy-online-pick-up-in-store and ship-from-store. Anticipating these types of needs and omnichannel expectations from your customers will help you create a seamless, pleasant experience that will keep them coming back.
Omnichannel in Action
A global leader in the HVAC industry since 1902, Carrier Enterprise (CE) chose to incorporate an improved digital experience into its omnichannel efforts by launching a brand new B2B commerce website. CE had been successfully managing more than 200 brick-and-mortar locations, but recognized that it needed to reinvent its digital presence to better serve customers and streamline back-end processes.
The new CE commerce site featured a robust database of information on more than 300,000 individual products and seamless integration with fulfillment systems, all in a completely mobile-responsive platform. This new and improved experience enabled contractors to easily find accurate product information, make purchases, and choose from flexible shipping and pick-up-in-store options, regardless of the device they were using.
Only nine months after CE’s new B2B commerce website had launched, the company’s daily online sales had increased by 2.5 times and the number of online transactions had tripled.
About Steve Gatto and Perficient Digital
Steve Gatto (@stevegatto) is a Partner Specialist with 25 years of digital experience and is responsible for strengthening Perficient Digital’s Commerce practice in North America as well as establishing a presence in key European markets. He imparts a wealth of knowledge to help clients merge customer experience, technology, media, and intelligence to drive business transformation. Perficient Digital blends the strategic imagination of an agency with the deep technical acumen of Perficient’s established consultancy background to deliver exceptional customer experiences for the world’s biggest brands. Visit us online or on Twitter @PRFTDigital.