The way B2B buyers make purchases is changing, from a purchasing process based on “real world” interactions with salespeople to a hybrid method in which buyers research, compare and buy largely online.
Whether your B2B customers prefer to buy from you online or offline, creating an exceptional omnichannel experience ensures they enjoy the same great service and experience either way.
Here’s how to encourage consistency across all your sales channels and keep your customers satisfied.
While many B2B companies do well at multichannel marketing and sales, few have nailed the omnichannel customer experience.
What’s the difference? Multichannel means engaging with customers on multiple channels—mobile, social media, website, phone—without necessarily connecting all of those channels.
Omnichannel takes it one step further. Whether customers engage with your business online or off, on your website or your social feeds, by mobile device or on desktop, they enjoy the same great customer experience, same messaging and same ease of use.
Why Does Omnichannel Matter?
If you fail to provide a true omnichannel experience for your B2B customers, you risk losing them to competitors. If ordering products on a desktop is easy but doing so on mobile is clunky, it erodes customers’ perceptions of your business’s sophistication.
Inconsistent information across channels—for example, seeing one price on your website and hearing another from a salesperson—reduces the amount of trust your prospects and customers have in your business.
No doubt your B2B buyers purchase plenty of things on Amazon, which has mastered the omnichannel customer experience. Whether it seems fair or not, buyers now expect the same quality of customer experience from your business as they do when buying from Amazon. According to Walker’s Customers 2020: A Progress Report, by 2020 customer experience will surpass product or price as the key differentiator for B2B companies.
How to Create a Top-notch Omnichannel Customer Experience
To develop a great omnichannel B2B customer experience, follow these steps.
First, gather the relevant teams.
Get input from everyone involved in the buyer journey, including product development, marketing, sales, IT and customer support.
Next, map the buyer journey and identify touch points.
Once upon a time, the buyer’s journey started by asking for a catalog or getting a call from a salesperson. Now, it’s more likely to start online. Nearly two-thirds of B2B buyers say they research at least half of business purchases online, according to Forrester.
Think about every touch point the buyer is likely to have along the journey, including:
To meet the needs of buyers in the discovery phase, create and curate content that answers the questions B2B buyers are asking when they visit your website for the first time. These can include eBooks, white papers, blog posts, and videos.
You can use gated content and forms to gather data about website visitors and serve up relevant, personalized information on future visits or through other marketing and sales channels.
You can even gather data about anonymous website visitors: For example, based on IP addresses or mobile device IDs, you can learn what types of companies are visiting your site and what kinds of content they’re viewing. Savvy marketers can use the information to create more relevant content and improve website SEO.
As buyers continue along the sales funnel, offer tools to help them evaluate their options and make comparisons. These could include product reviews, spec or price sheets, FAQs and chatbots to answer questions. Since many B2B buying processes involve buying teams, give users the ability to easily share content with other decisionmakers.
Use technology such as location services to help you deliver the most relevant information, and make sure all of your channels are optimized for mobile use. Monitor which marketing campaigns get the best results with specific prospects and use that information to tailor your messaging.
Once a prospect becomes a lead, continue to collect data about every interaction, both online and offline. This can include in-person conversations, email exchanges, chats, and search or download history. Connect the interactions and be consistent—for example, follow up a phone call with an email suggesting next steps or providing requested information.
Provide your salespeople with access to all of this data so they can make informed suggestions and provide relevant information personalized to what the specific buyer cares about. By seeing which channels buyers use most and what content they keep coming back to, sales can interact in the way the buyer prefers and solve unanswered questions to get to closing.
By 2020, the number of business purchases made by B2B buyers online is expected to reach 55%, and in 2021, Forrester predicts B2B e-commerce transactions to hit $1.2 trillion annually.
Take advantage of today’s e-commerce trends and prepare for the future by streamlining your online purchasing process so it’s seamless across all devices. Make it easy for B2B buyers to buy online by providing options such as saved preferences, subscription delivery, and automated discounts.
Easy online payment and payment terms, such as Fundbox’s online payment option, can also help to enhance sales volume, transaction speed, and overall customer experience. With Fundbox, B2B businesses get paid right away, while approved buyers enjoy the traditional net-30, or more generous net-60 or net-90 terms.
Beyond the Sale
The customer experience doesn’t end with the closing. Once prospects become customers, nurture relationships to build lifetime customer value. Keep records including purchasing history and interactions in one repository so customers, customer support and sales can all access the data as needed.
Going forward, give buyers the option of online self-service (such as for simple re-orders) or hand-holding from a salesperson (for more complex purchases). Give salespeople access to the customer’s past buying habits so they can offer personalized advice and suggest value-adds, cross-sells and upsells.
Creating a great omnichannel customer experience for B2B takes time and effort, but the rewards—easier sales, happier customers, and a stronger bottom line—are well worth the work.
Looking for more ways to improve your customer experience? Get more tips on how to retain your B2B customers.