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On Thursday March 15, 2018 Insite’s VP of Marketing and Customer Experience, Karie Daudt hosted a webinar with guest John Bruno, Senior Forrester Analyst entitled, The Future of B2B eCommerce is Omnichannel.

The webinar discussed evolving B2B buyer expectations, the benefits of embracing digital, and tips for delivering an omnichannel commerce experience. In this recap, we’ll illustrate some of the major highlights Bruno delivered.

B2B sales is all about relationships. Many sales people have been in their roles for decades. They’ve fostered loyal relationships with their customers and developed tried and true methods of success. Once you’ve established a well-oiled machine, your sales team can be resistant to change and it can be very difficult to introduce new technologies.

The problem with many traditional sales systems is often that the methods are not tailored to the customer, instead these models are hyper-focused on making only the sales team more efficient. It’s important to be able to meet the buyer where they are and give them the buying experience they prefer. That’s where omnichannel commerce comes in. An omnichannel approach can help enable efficiencies for all the people in the buying cycle – from your sales team to your customer.

B2B buyers and their preferences continue to change, but many companies have not made changes to the way they sell. This mindset has got to go. B2B buyers used to be diligent, thoughtful and fiercely loyal to the companies they were purchasing from. This is largely because they valued relationships over anything else. These traditional buyers were unlikely to let bad customer experiences shake them. However, as digital technologies emerged and rose to popularity we started seeing a shift in buyers’ decision making. The buying process became more about self-service and discovery. Nowadays, a bad experience can make buyers shop your competition. We must provide an omnichannel commerce experience to buyers who are demanding it. We can no longer rely on traditional sales channels alone.

As customers begin to embrace self-service experiences more and more, their buying journey is becoming more complex. They are often further down the buying process before they choose to engage with a sales person. For many companies, because of the disconnect between traditional and digital sales channels, an experience gap occurs. Buyers are coming in with more knowledge and sellers are not exactly sure where the buyers are at along the buying cycle.

In the B2B world, eCommerce and self-service has revolutionized the way that organizations sell, but that doesn’t mean the sales person role has disappeared, it just means it is changing.

Self-service is not online-centric, it’s digital first. Sales people are not a separate offline channel, they need to be empowered with insights. They need tools and an equally compelling commerce experience for them to deliver for customers.

Buyers are omnichannel creatures. When a customer needs to move from one touch point to another, they need to be presented with consistent information. When they move in and out of self- and full-service it is essential the sales people know exactly what they’ve been up to.

The B2B buying cycle is only going to increase in complexity and research from Forrester confirms that in the beginning stages of the buying cycle, self-service is overwhelmingly preferred. In a 2017 survey of B2B buyers, 68% of buyers said gathering information online was superior to working with a sales representative. And many of these buyers are learning about the products on their own time.

Bruno delivered four major reasons why embracing digital is beneficial for businesses:

  1. Digital reduces the cost to serve for the long tail and allows your sales people to have a presence even when they aren’t there.
  2. Digital brings your business into focus. The ability to capture data isn’t limited to what your sales people have recorded, you have access to analytics about browsing history, promotional engagements, and more.
  3. Customers that engage with businesses with multiple channels generate more revenue than those with single channel sales methods.
  4. Effective eCommerce strategies unshackle sales people, allowing them to focus on fostering relationships and driving value while generating exposure to parts of your brand existing customers aren’t even tapping into.

Bruno also shared four tips for delivering an omnichannel commerce experience. Watch the webinar to hear what they were.

As more transactional purchases move toward self-service, the dynamic of the sales person changes and omnichannel methods are necessary to survive.

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