Successful digital commerce requires great Customer Experience (CX), regardless of the type of customer. Business customers are increasingly expecting the same experiences that they enjoy as consumers online, and Businesses that offer outstanding B2B digital Customer Experiences consistently outdo and outperform their competitors
The last few years have seen an exponential growth in digital commerce and doing business online, driven initially by the B2C consumer market, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a huge up-tick in online commerce in the B2B world.
Defining B2B Customer Experience
We are all used to talking about Customer Service within the business model, and with the concept of Customer Relationship Management and the use of CRM systems to help manage, monitor, and improve the relationship between companies and customers; however, customer service represents only part of the entire experience of interacting with, and buying from businesses. Customer Experience (CX) is a far wider concept – ultimately embracing every interaction and touchpoint a potential buyer has with your business, your products, and your brand.
B2B CX starts from the first contact a prospective buyer via your website or online store, social media or search engine, and runs right through the product or service search experience, purchase process, delivery and fulfilment, and any after-market servicing or customer support.
In addition, B2B CX must accommodate multiple customers in one client account. B2B purchases are rarely the decision or action of a single individual, which means meeting the needs of a diverse group of users.
There are some key points in that journey where exceptional CX makes a solid difference to revenue generating opportunities.
- Personalized, relevant social media & marketing messages that speak directly to a buyer’s needs
- A professional well laid out website that drives traffic and represents both the value of the brand, and the buyer’s expectations of professional product and service delivery
- Direct access via the online store to the products or services the buyer needs via search, personalization & a well laid out product catalog & readable taxonomy
- Clear personalized pricing, including tax and shipping costs, with any offers and product bundling or discounting clearly visible
- Straightforward direct routes to relevant service and sales reps via chat or social channels, reducing or removing the need for in person calls or visits
- A clear understanding of the buyer’s persona and company purchasing model; for example, by recognising the buyer’s purchase approval process and allowing multiple users within the buyer’s organisation to log in and manage the account
- Omnichannel portability – the ability for a user to manage various aspects of the buying and ordering process across devices and channels
- Joined up after sales service experience, especially for products that require aftermarket support, servicing and warranties. Buyers should be able to go back online and view service history, warranty end dates, view and book annual servicing, and find and select spare parts if this is relevant to the products sold to them
- Integrated and visible fulfilment and delivery and follow through after purchase, so that buyers are clear about where their products are in the supply chain
- Customer experience measurement and customer satisfaction monitoring; in order to get better at CX, you need to know what works and what doesn’t
Let’s drill into some of these points and investigate what it takes to deliver outstanding CX across the buyer journey.
Providing a Personalized Experience
Personalization across any e-commerce platform is the holy grail of successful commerce online. Corporate customers are carrying their experiences of hyper-personalization in B2C across to their expectations of B2B interactions. According to McKinsey brands that successfully personalize their CX online achieve up to 40% more revenue than competitors that do not.
Delivering B2B Personalization can be a tough challenge, however. B2B procurement cycles are traditionally long and depend on interpersonal touchpoints that are difficult to replicate in an online, indirect environment. There may be multiple online customers all representing one organisation, with different roles and responsibilities within the buying process for their company.
The most significant key to B2B personalization surrounds pricing, with many B2B customers expecting personalized pricing , a significant challenge where customers are used to negotiating on price and receiving discounts and offers based on order sizes, existing relationships, and repeated business. Part of the answer can lie in correctly identifying and segmenting customers based on automated rules, as well as automatically adjusting prices based on inventory and order size.
Enterprise Commerce platforms can handle complex pricing rules, enabling B2B sites to create pricing that both benefits customers and supports organisational efficiency, for example by adjusting pricing for orders generated at specific times of day or within monthly/quarterly business cycles. The end goal is conversion from interest to purchase; faster decision making, faster order processing, and generating long-term customer loyalty.
Intuitive Product Search
It’s obvious that if you want customers to buy your products, they need to be able to find them. This is true for both B2C and B2B operators, and B2C platforms have been investing in more advanced and intuitive search solutions for decades. However, many companies in the B2B space are still playing catch up; continuing to rely on static, text-based search tools and fixed taxonomies that reflect how the business sees and categorises its products internally, rather than how customers view the relationships between products and categories.
Use of images in search and product listing is increasingly as powerful a sales tool for B2B as it is for B2C commerce stores, using personalization to identify customer interest and offering the ability to easily re-order based on previous purchases, and matching products to existing searches is a critical feature.
Adding AI-enabled search tools assist in predicting the right product match to customers here, but also critical is ensuring that your product catalog is accurate and up-to-date, and that data like keywords, SKUs, product descriptions and technical data is fully populated are complete.
Intuitive search experiences on your B2B platform show that you understand your customers’ needs and are providing features that make their job simpler. The less clicks a customer needs to make to find the products they want; the easier you have made their working day, and the easier you have made it for them to make the decision and place an order.
Products Customers want to Buy
Business customers are also humans! Although their buying rationale may be different, and sometimes more complex than consumer-based customers, they are nonetheless still more likely to purchase products that they can visually identify with and that appeals to them. Dull, boring information about your products won’t improve the customer experience.
Providing clear and appealing images and media can tip customers into buying specific products; providing detailed and complete product information reduces the need to answer buyer’s questions, which otherwise halts the purchase flow. The product page is also the place where personalization can significantly impact buyer behaviour; recommendations based on previous order history, promotions, bundling offers and related products can all lead to increased revenue through cross- and up-selling. Providing product reviews and the opinions of previous buyers can be the final nudge that pushes a potential buyer into dropping that product into their shopping cart.
Providing a seamless B2B experience involves a deep understanding of your customers and their buying journey. The decision making and purchase process within your customers organisations can be complex, with multiple touch points and multiple channels; to handle this requires an omnichannel approach, where process workflows and information is accessible in real time, regardless of the channel.
This might create scenarios such as one user at your customer searching for and generating an order online, at their desktop in the office, which is then accessed at home by a manager on a smartphone to review and approve. Another manager may then call up or initiate an online chat on the site to amend the order; whilst someone in operations will want to be able to check the delivery information online to register the delivery dates.
Your CX needs to perform across all devices, and order details, order status and product information will need to be accessible, in real time, on any device or via any contact channels. Mobile apps have had a huge impact on B2C online platforms, with every major successful marketplace and brand offering dedicated mobile apps in addition to ensuring their websites are responsive; this trend is also feeding through to the B2B sector; there are numerous B2B organisations whose users in the field rely solely on mobile devices.
Whether you decide to deploy a single digital channel via a responsive website that adapts to the screen size and capability of the device of the user or build separate solutions for each device depends on what your customers use; and importantly what they may use in the future.
You’ll also need to understand the level of personalization needed for these different types of users; a corporate buyer in the head office may need different access and different data to the warehouse manager who needs to view delivery schedules and ordered products. Features like search and user input forms may need to be constructed very differently for each user device, whilst still providing all the functionality that the user needs. This is where CX meets UX/UI (User Experience and User Interface) at its most fundamental level.
Fulfilment and Follow Through
CX does not end once the user has placed an order. For B2B customers order fulfilment and delivery is frequently the most critical factor alongside price; indeed, purchasing decisions may place delivery ahead of price where urgent or guaranteed delivery is critical for operational needs.
Purchasing online is only 50% of the CX with your business; the remaining 50% is the experience of delivery, customer service and follow up. Typically, this workflow involves multiple back-office systems, independent of your digital storefront and requires complex, deep, integration of systems and departments.
Users should be able to track order statuses, view delivery schedules and times, and access invoices and paperwork. If your products include aftercare or aftermarket support, customers should be able to access product data, or if they contact you on- or offline, have the confidence that you know who they are, what they ordered, and what support they need. If you provide spare parts or replacement components, users should be able to view previous orders and the precise parts that they can order that match their products.
Measure, Measure and Measure again
Unless you can monitor and measure the impact of your digital experiences, you can never know whether what you have done is working or not. Delivering outstanding CX is a continual process of learning and improving and recognising how the outside market is changing (competitors and customers) and adapting to what is new.
Some measurements can be taken passively, for example by monitoring website traffic and the paths that users take to find information and purchase products from your online store. Some metrics you can only really gain by asking questions directly via surveys and feedback forms, typically presented to customers after ordering or after delivery.
There are some useful metrics that can be used to determine your success in transforming digitally, and whether your CX is successful, including:
Net Promoter Score
NPS, or Net Promoter Score, measures customer experience of your brand and provides the best metric to anchor your CX program; it measures the likelihood that your buyers would recommend your company or products to others, a key and early indicator of your business’s potential for growth and probably the strongest indicator of whether your CX is working.
Customer Satisfaction Score
Quite simply how happy has the experience been of contacting and interacting with you during the B2B business process, which you can monitor and measure either as a whole, or at various stages of the purchasing process. Customer Satisfaction is the fastest and most pinpoint method for tweaking and improving you CX and identifying gaps.
Customer Effort Score
Customer Effort Score can be a subtle measure of just how easy your customers perceive it is to do business with you. How easy it is to find information and get assistance, how easy it is to contact you with problems and issues, how easy the order and purchase process is. This measure can help you identify bottlenecks and frustrations with doing business with you; if it’s hard to do business with you, then frustrated customers will go elsewhere if they can.
Delivering successful B2B Customer Experience may require extensive change; for many organisations it requires a large-scale digital transformation to break down the operating silos of the organisation and join up internal workflows and processes so that digital customers can navigate the purchase process from end-to-end with minimal manual intervention.
Your CX goes beyond the marketing, sales and purchasing process; it also encompasses how long it takes for orders to arrive, the condition of the product when it is received, how well it performs, and the support provided after the sale; in a business which is truly customer-centric every operation should be focused on delivering the best experience possible.
The challenges may be significant, but the rewards are substantial; increased revenue, enhanced brand loyalty, and reduced operating costs.
If you are interested in finding out more or want to talk to us about how we can help you transform and achieve an outstanding digital B2B Customer Experience, get in touch.