So you’ve made the decision to create an eCommerce channel for your b2b business, you know which customers you’re aiming the service at, what the website will need to do, and the technology you’ll have to put in place. But what about your people? How will you prepare different teams across your business for change, and at the same time ensure that resources are deployed in the most efficient way?
Switching the focus of your business to online is a big move that will impact on day-to-day activities and individual roles and responsibilities. People will need to understand what the changes will mean for them and be reassured about the positive aspects of the eCommerce model. They will need to understand that this is a move designed to help increase sales, profitability and security for the entire business. Let’s take a closer look at some of the implications for key operational areas and how to deal with them.
The sales team will probably be the most concerned about the move to online trading. They’ll want to know that their jobs and bonuses are safe. You can tell them that eCommerce is likely to make their work easier and create opportunities for larger bonuses by freeing-up time to concentrate on higher value sales and finding more customers. However, you need to be prepared to address questions that may arise around areas such as job security and whether reps can keep their company cars, how bonuses will calculated, how the team should allocate their time during the week, and whether they still need to attend trade shows.
Next there’s the office-based customer service or contact centre team – the people who take calls, answer emails, deal with queries and process orders. They’ll be concerned about losing their jobs too. But as with the sales team, they’ll be plenty for them to do, albeit with a slightly different orientation – and they’ll be key to helping customers migrate to eCommerce. The customer services team needs to know that they’ll still be answering questions about products and deliveries, and that it’s likely there will be more new customer enquiries and contact through digital channels like email, as well as the Live Chat function on the site.
The marketing team could react in one of two ways. They might be excited about new opportunities to drive direct online sales, and the new strategies and tactics they can use to improve performance. Or they might be concerned by the changes and worried that they’re going to have to work twice as hard to get results. You need to be prepared for both reactions and ready to secure the team’s support for your launch activities.
Like marketing teams, IT teams are likely to be polarised in their opinions as well. On one hand, they may be eager to help and get involved in the challenges of systems integration. On the other, they may simply declare that it’s not an IT project – in which case you can think about outsourcing if necessary, and taking advice from your eCommerce service provider, who will usually be able to help. In fact, in a recent survey, 46% of B2B eCommerce firms said that engaging a knowledgeable systems integration / eCommerce consultant was one of the three most important factors in the successful implementation of a project.
Adding an eCommerce channel will also create new jobs within the business such as a website merchandiser. A site merchandiser is a very important role and responsible for ensuring that your website is current, accurate and up-to-date on a day-to-day basis. For example, they check that links are working, stock levels are correct, and any promotions you have running are operating as they should. You may also want to hire a full time eCommerce manager, or consider engaging the services of a consultant.
Starting the conversation
If your headcount is under 30, the best way to start preparing your teams for the move to eCommerce is with a ‘big picture’ meeting involving everyone. Then you can meet with each operational team, and even each person individually, to discuss any specific concerns and begin planning the best approach for the future.