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You’ve surely heard it before, but it bears repeating – customer expectations are evolving. With emerging technologies and the generational shift, we’re seeing massive changes in how buyers are making decisions. The buying cycle involves more self-service and discovery than it ever has in the past and that trend seems to be continuing.

More and more, customers prefer digital channels when interacting with brands. For complex industries like manufacturing and wholesale distribution, whose foundations were built on personal relationships, meeting expectations for digital solutions can disrupt  the very way they conduct business.

Manufacturers and distributors have to avoid threatening their existing customer relationships, while seeking to improve them at the same time.  The answer lies in using the benefits of new technology to deliver the experiences their customers expect. To stay ahead of their competition and allow customers to buy the way they want to buy, manufacturers and distributors must invest in modern sales channels and prepare their businesses for digital transformation.

Insite, along with WBR Insights (B2B Online), set out to examine how well manufacturers and distributors believe they are actually doing at meeting their customers’ expectations.  The results of the study show that most B2B companies are less than confident when it comes to meeting their customers’ expectations.

Are customers getting the experience they desire? The answer is…maybe.

Managing Customer Expectations to Buy How they Want

As you can see from the above chart, less than half the companies surveyed felt they were delivering an exceptional or successful customer experience. Although the numbers may not seem positive for manufacturers and distributors, it actually opens up a competitive opportunity. The fact that over half of the companies surveyed are provided a customer experience that is only “adequate” or worse leaves plenty of room for forward-looking companies to jump ahead of the competition.

But how do you know which B2B commerce platform will deliver the experience customers demand? The answer lies in finding a solution that can truly demonstrate built-in, native B2B functionality. Checking the “boxes” for features isn’t the way to prove this capability. Make sure you have proof that a B2B commerce platform can actually work the way you need them to, without massive customization.

The buyers’s desire for a self-service experience isn’t going away. eCommerce systems have to understand the complexity of the B2B buying cycle, and the need for customers to have their own access to transactional information.

Unfortunately, most B2B companies are barely confident that they are managing customer expectations to be able to independently access information that is relevant to them. In fact, only 37% of manufacturers and distributors surveyed believe they are successfully managing these expectations.

Managing Customer Expectations

The news is looking up though, and the majority of B2B companies are attacking this problem head-on. 64% of B2B companies have either integrated or are planning to integrate customer self-service with core technologies with the goal of creating a consistent, robust customer experience across every channel.

Integrating Customer Touchpoints

When the powerful B2B sales teams are joined by a  commerce platform that is truly designed for B2B, companies will meet and often exceed customer expectations. This includes providing traditional and digital touchpoints that won’t compete with or threaten the longstanding, personal relationships these businesses were founded on.

“In our business scenario, we have institutional customers with whom we have developed personal relationships over the years. We have worked hard to maintain these relationships. The existence or introduction of digitization has not hampered these relationships but has helped us strengthen them by helping them develop, too, on the digital platform,” said Jim Pettit, Vice President of Sales at Brady Corporation.

See the full Onboarding to Digital report to uncover how companies are empowering their sales teams through digital channels , and prioritizing digital transformation in search of accelerated growth over the next year, and beyond.

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