Today’s B2B buyers have high standards when it comes to customer service, and they expect sellers to provide them with a purchasing experience that’s fine-tuned to their personal preferences. In our experience however, companies still face many challenges in delivering a consistently high quality of service across multiple sales channels. Frequently we see how sellers fail to provide the convenient and efficient omnichannel experience that buyers demand. And more often than not, this is down to the inadequate provisioning of technology.
Our own observations are backed up by a 2017 study conducted by Forrester. It found that while B2B buying practices are continually evolving, sellers often struggle to keep up with the latest developments because they’re not making the most of the latest omnichannel B2B eCommerce technology. What’s more, the report said that to remain competitive, B2B sellers must get ahead of the curve so that they are able to capitalise on the benefits of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
Forrester reports that 98% of B2B sellers struggle with delivering a first-class buying experience – but the underlying problems are wide-ranging. For example, more than a third of companies say they face challenges with securing executive buy-in to improvement strategies, and around the same number have to overcome issues with channel conflict. On top of this, 38% have problems with the ability of their B2B sales technology to deliver a seamless and consistent buying experience across all customer touch-points.
It’s clear that investment in the right technology has a pivotal role to play in securing B2B sales success – but to be effective, it’s critical that this technology works seamlessly across all the other parts of a company’s selling process, from a digitally-enabled sales force to a self-service eCommerce platform. With B2B ‘omnichannel commerce’ in place, organisations can focus on leveraging technologies such as AI and machine learning to further enhance the customer experience and optimise engagements at every touch-point.
AI, for example, can enable the processing of huge amounts of data, which in turn guides customer interactions in real-time, while machine learning can help in areas such as identifying common buying behaviours and pinpointing cross or upsell opportunities. To these ends, clean data – and lots of it – is now a very valuable commodity. Companies wanting to leverage AI should start by concentrating on high-quality data, like products sold, prices paid, and customers sold to. Avoiding intangibles such as individual interactions means firms can focus on developing algorithms around tangible outcomes.
To gain advantage, business-to-business sellers must invest in providing the best possible omnichannel experience, where customer preferences are the priority, each multi-channel customer interaction is tracked, and sales teams dovetail with technology to deliver an integrated, streamlined service that moves seamlessly from self-service to personal engagement, as required. Ecommerce integration with business and accounting software like Sage and Pegasus, is key. Such an approach requires an agile, scalable commerce infrastructure where data around account specific information, including products, inventory, customer pricing, and promotions is united, personalised and accessible to all customer touch-points.