Although it may seem odd to start our distribution disruptor blog series by talking about the transactions that occur at the end of the buying cycle, managing post-purchase expectations within B2B commerce environments represents one of the largest areas of change, and opportunity, for distributors in 2018.
Where B2B buyers are concerned, the customer experience post-purchase is perhaps even more complex than pre-purchase. Personal, B2C online experiences continue to drive professional buyer expectations, making the implications of poor support even more serious. In fact, a recent study from Pew Research revealed that more than 70% of customers stop doing business with a brand due to a poor support experience. Losing a longstanding customer due to a glitch in an online experience is surely a distributor’s worst nightmare.
The good news is that supporting customers post-purchase is easier with the right mindset. Once that mindset has been achieved, a whole world of opportunity emerges. Here are some of the components of digital commerce to consider to strengthen this aspect of the buying cycle:
The Concept of B2B Omnichannel
To really understand how post-purchase activity impacts the commerce cycle, it’s important to acknowledge that customers are engaged in an omnichannel experience. That means information has to be shared, not siloed. Too often distributors’ eCommerce solutions are not connected to legacy backend systems. If information isn’t shared, efficiency, or even an important customer, may be lost as orders are manually (and often poorly) tracked across disparate systems. To deliver a fully unified commerce experience, the eCommerce platform must be viewed as what commerce experts have deemed the “single source of truth” across every aspect of the buying cycle, from the order, to fulfillment, to returns.
The B2B buyer’s journey may be multi-touch, but it still needs to be smooth whether a task is occurring online or offline. Nowhere is this more important than after the purchase has been made. The good news is that if a problem is resolved quickly, research shows that most customers will return to buy again. A strong B2B omnichannel experience, where information is shared across all roles and channels, can help ensure that even if there is a problem, it can be handled promptly and efficiently.
Increasing Efficiency and Improving the Bottom line
Once the organization has embraced an omnichannel philosophy, distributors must recognize that relationships within B2B commerce are built across multiple channels as well. That translates to one of the largest opportunities to increase efficiency and improve the bottom line during post-purchase activity. As we mentioned earlier, the omnichannel experience requires consistency no matter where or how the customer is engaging with your organization. Once critical components like fulfillment and other logistics are brought into the unified commerce ecosystem, it’s possible to add even more efficiency and value at this stage. Where can mobile, for example, add value by providing a photo confirmation of delivery? Can 2-hour or same day delivery be achieved by sharing data between systems? As distributors race to provide more value, mapping the B2B buyer’s personal expectations to their professional ones can be the key to unlocking a great deal more value.
Growing Share of Wallet
Although the primary goal of a distributor’s eCommerce solution should be to increase efficiency and drive down cost, post-purchase experiences present real opportunities for growing revenue. Analytics and other behavioral information can provide the foundation for easier reordering systems and other digitally-prompted, revenue-generating transactions. Automatic promotions based on key customer data can help cross-sell and upsell after an initial transaction is made. Personas and profiles can also help determine which high value customers should receive personal attention, while others are focused on building trust primarily from a digital perspective. Using analytics to prescribe unique post-purchase activity based on the potential value of the customer represents a huge opportunity for organizations as they once again embrace a multi-touch buying journey.
Building Trust and Loyalty
Solid B2B omnichannel execution transforms to stronger customer loyalty, because his or her life is simply made easier by the system. While recent surveys by Bain & Company show that on average 68% of B2B customers are less loyal than they used to be, we feel that’s because loyalty has been redefined as distributors experience digital transformation. In a unified commerce environment, trust must be built digitally – it doesn’t happen over lunch. A reliable buying experience is one less headache for the customer. Ease of execution is the avenue toward loyalty and trust, and a large portion of that happens post-purchase.
Along with just making the process easier, there comes the need to personalize post-purchase experience as well. The analysts at Forrester said it best when they encouraged B2B marketers to develop post-purchase plan that features rewards that incentivize and reinforce desired behavior. Here is where transactional and behavioral analytics can provide the keys to delivering incentives and benefits that return the customer to the beginning of the buying cycle over and over again. While increasing the value of that cycle each time it reiterates.
We’ve mentioned examples where mobile applications can drive more value. In the next blog in this series, we’ll dive deeper into the aspects of high functioning native apps, and the critical components of the mobile experience that are a must for distributors in 2018.