Should B2B companies adopt eCommerce?
In the consumer world, eCommerce is all around us; if we want to buy something, we can simply venture online and do so, anytime, anywhere. As a service, it’s now completely immersed in our culture, embedded in our behaviours and driving our future expectations – but for the most part, it hasn’t yet extended to the realm of B2B. At a time when consumer expectations are being continuously redefined, it stands to reason that now is the time for that to change.
B2B customers may wear professional uniforms, but we’re all consumers underneath, and across the board we want quick, snappy purchases that fit in with our schedule – not a company’s opening hours. B2B customer decisions are just as much influenced by the ease of purchase, speed of delivery, and 24/7 availability of a multichannel offering; of course, the nature of your business is a key determinant as to whether eCommerce is the way to achieve this. If you’re an agency that sells a service, your clients are unlikely to close a deal via an online transaction; but if you’re a distributor of widgets, customers can base their purchasing decision on the constituents of price, availability and delivery – and eCommerce easily meets their needs.
Likewise, for businesses that don’t just sell widgets, but a hybrid of ‘goods’, combined with ‘explicit’ and ‘implicit services’, the need for a consultative sales and after-sales service shouldn’t close the door on the eCommerce opportunity. Exactly like the High Street, if a purchasing decision requires advice, consultation via traditional ‘people’ channels is still available. Even then, that dialogue can be strengthened by eCommerce, notably the visibility of previous online engagement that’s held within the system. And once a purchase is made, it forms the basis for future orders (such as repeat orders, spare parts and consumables) that can be quickly actioned via eCommerce mechanisms until a new consultation is required. This provides a better customer experience without sacrificing the personal service.
What’s more, this integrated eCommerce approach to B2B service goes beyond improving the customer experience – it can fuel business productivity and efficiency gains. For example, with the online channel taking care of product purchases, sales resources can be more effectively deployed; telesales executives can be trained to provide more consultative sales support, and field-based personnel can focus on business development rather than technical consultancy. The most effective solutions fully integrate with your CRM and ERP/accounting systems, essential for ensuring client records – detailing engagement across all channels – integrate with stock control, accounting and supply chain operations to guarantee seamless service.
So should your B2B organisation adopt eCommerce? One thing’s for sure: time is a precious commodity for all customers, regardless of whether they are purchasing within the realm of B2B or B2C. There’s a diminishing role for the traditional corner shop with the old-fashioned cash register and the ‘closed for lunch’ sign in the window. Businesses really do need to be open all hours.
Andrew Ardron is founder and managing director of ProspectSoft, a specialist developer and provider of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and eCommerce Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Integrated into all major accounting software packages, such as Exchequer, Sage, Pegasus, Access, SAP and Greentree, ProspectSoft currently enables more than 5,000 SME users across the UK to extract their valuable customer information and make it accessible to the rest of the business for CRM or eCommerce purposes. Since its establishment in 2000, Andrew has grown ProspectSoft into one of the UK's leading software companies, and the winner of numerous national employer awards.
COMPANY NAME: ProspectSoft Ltd
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