YOUR NEXT INITIATIVE: CREATE AN OMNICHANNEL BUSINESS
It’s an easy concept: in order to retain customers, businesses must give them the opportunity to buy how they want, when they want. That could mean making an online purchase from a mobile device, speaking to a representative to discuss product options, or even faxing in a product order. The tricky part is creating an omnichannel business that can manage the data and maintain a consistent experience across every sales channel, all while keeping pace with the customer.
Those B2B organizations that have migrated from a single- or multi-channel business to an omnichannel one have seen great results from their efforts. According to IDC Retail Insights, retailers employing omnichannel marketing strategies see a 15 to 35% increase in average transaction size and a 30% higher lifetime value than those buyers who shop using only one channel.
In this white paper, Unilog shares the three key service options to meet different buyer needs, and discusses the necessary tools and resources to maintain a successful omnichannel business. This piece provides insight that will help serve all your customers and turn offline-only buyers into omnichannel, repeat customers.
MEETING EVERY BUYER’S NEEDS
Used more commonly in the consumer retail world, an omnichannel strategy is steadily building adoption in the B2B marketplace. It’s the concept of using technology, processes, and people to ensure a businesses’ brand is accessible across all channels, and that the experience is fluid for every buyer, regardless of the channel they use. According to Forrester, a successful omnichannel business offers three types of buying options:
- Self-service – For those buyers who order the same products on a regular basis, or who purchase relatively inexpensive products, an online self-service option is most desirable. Online shopping gives people the ability to shop any time of day and from any place using their smartphone or tablet. A customer portal gives buyers access to their account information like purchase history and contracted pricing so they can quickly and easily find and reorder items. Must-Have for Self-Service: A fully functional eCommerce platform that has a responsive design, sophisticated search features, and a streamlined checkout with payment options and punchout capabilities.
- Full-service – When more complex or higher price-point orders are involved, a full-service option gives buyers the confidence and satisfaction they’re ordering the right products for their particular application. Full-service purchases usually involve the expertise and assistance of salespeople or customer service representatives. Customers may prefer interacting with them face-to-face, over the phone, or via fax to get the help they need so they can place an order. Must-Have for Full-Service: A knowledgeable staff that utilizes your website and software tools to help provide product recommendations, develop custom proposals quickly and correctly, and even order items for customers, saving them time and providing added value.
- Hybrid service – If a business offers both self- and full-service options for buyers, then they must be prepared to include a combined offering for those people looking to make an independent purchase, but who want the opportunity to speak with someone in case a question arises. This hybrid approach gives people the ability to communicate with a salesperson or CSR through different tools such as online chat, e-mail, messaging, and click-to-call. Combining on-demand customer service assistance with self-service ordering gives customers the freedom they want with the assurance they need to make a sound purchase. Must-Have for Hybrid Service: A powerful website with advanced capabilities that give buyers the ability to learn about a company’s products, ask questions, and make trouble-free transactions.
By providing different service options for shopping and transacting, B2B retailers have the opportunity to broaden their customer base and increase their chances to convert full-service, offline-only customers to online or omnichannel buyers. Research conducted by Forrester shows that shifting off-line buyers to online users can produce more revenue, with 51% of B2B businesses saying their omnichannel customers increased spending with them. In the wholesale industry, offline buyers are still abundant. But as more companies offer omnichannel selling, they can expose these traditional B2B buyers to the benefits online shopping can offer. According to Forrester, these “migrated” customers are more likely to try new brands, spend more money as they interact with more channels, and become loyal, repeat customers.
BECOMING OMNICHANNEL – FROM TECHNOLOGY TO PEOPLE
In order to create a fully omnichannel business – where information and resources are provided consistently across an organization’s selling channels – core investments are necessary; not just in technology, but also in resources. Begin by investing in the following:
- A cloud-based platform – In order to meet buyer expectations, cloud-based eCommerce platforms are the best at supporting an omnichannel business in that they are scalable, flexible, efficient, and able to support multiple users. CIMM2, a SaaS, born-in-the-cloud eCommerce platform from Unilog, gives B2Bs a customizable and cost-effective way to offer customers a great e-store experience. CIMM2’s in-built API tool set integrates with ERPs and other backend systems to communicate and manage data across platforms. Other CIMM2 benefits include a responsive design to let customers shop a site from any device, as well as various transactional and payment options, including punchout capabilities and a log-in portal for customers to access account information, order history, and more.
- One central system for data – Many companies suffer from having multiple data silos that don’t communicate and share information. The result is inconsistent, outdated data across the business. A product information management (PIM) solution is the only way to maintain up-to-date, reliable data that can be used across the organization. CIMM2 features a dedicated PIM that houses all the components of product information, which can then be managed and delivered to internal and external systems. The CIMM2 PIM has all the tools, functions, and standardization capabilities needed for omnichannel commerce, plus it acts as the central source for product data.
- Tools for complex configurations – Keeping up with growing customer demands and expectations, B2B organizations must incorporate the necessary tools to help manage complex proposals and orders. Applications like configure-price-quote (CPQ) allow sales reps to provide detailed quotes quickly and accurately, and feature workflows for internal reviews and approvals. With CPQ, companies can better develop and customize products to the individual needs of their customers by allowing multiple configurations and customer-specific pricing.
An omnichannel-aligned and empowered staff – For omnichannel to work, everyone in an organization must embrace and adopt an omnichannel culture. Adoption will come easier with the help of additional training for sales and customer service staff. Once employees realize the efficiencies new tools can offer, and how valuable of a resource an eCommerce site can be, they’ll encounter better engagement with their customers and increased buyer loyalty.
Distributors and wholesalers are facing increasing pressure to meet the changing needs of their customers, and creating an omnichannel experience is the most effective way to remain customer-centric and competitive in the marketplace. Whether a customer wants to call in an order or make a purchase from his or her mobile device, a business needs to make each interaction consistent, efficient and, most importantly, positive.
Make this the year your organization expands to become omnichannel. For help in creating a great customer experience with omnichannel selling, look to the experts at Unilog. From their battle-tested eCommerce solution, CIMM2, to their product enrichment services, Unilog can give your company the competitive edge. Contact them today to see their platform in action.
Unilog is a global technology company that delivers powerful, affordable eCommerce solutions for the B2B marketplace. Our cloud-based eCommerce platform and product data enrichment services help distributors, manufacturers, and wholesalers increase online sales, reduce cost to serve, and enhance their digital channel. Unilog is an ISO 9001:2008- and ISO 8000-certified company with North American headquarters outside of Philadelphia, PA and international headquarters in Bangalore, India. For more information, visit www.unilogcorp.com.