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Guest Blogger

In all industries across both B2B and the consumer market, customer experience (CX) is now considered the gateway to brand loyalty and business growth. Organisations that master a fully connected customer journey that tells the same story from start to finish will have the competitive edge. With this in mind it is surprising to see that B2B purchasing experiences can differ so much in comparison to the customer journeys we expect as a consumer.

Omnichannel is no longer just a nice to have, it has fast become a necessity; but while many B2B organisations have focused on providing multichannel sales, only the most forward thinking are successfully delivering a joined up, truly omnichannel experience.

There’s no denying the journey to omnichannel bliss can be complicated, but this is no reason for SMEs to shy away from the challenge. B2B organisations first need to cut through the industry jargon and begin to take steps to applying familiar cloud technology to transform customer experience and script the perfect ending to their omnichannel woes.

Breaking down the jargon

Let’s start with definitions of two key terms:

Omnichannel is the combination of a multichannel sales approach and an integrated shopping experience. It provides a seamless customer journey, irrespective of channel or device. Omnichannel commerce means customers get a consistent experience regardless of whether they’re shopping online, in store or on a mobile device, browsing through a brochure or talking to a call centre.

Multichannel is at the heart of the omnichannel approach – the two things are not the same. A company that provides purchasing options across multiple channels is multichannel. Integrating all those channels so that each customer interaction picks up seamlessly where the previous one left off is the differentiator when it comes to multichannel and omnichannel. It’s important to note that all omnichannel experiences use multiple channels – but not all multichannel experiences are omnichannel.

The restrictions of multichannel

On paper a multichannel approach looks great and most B2B organisations have established multiple sales channels, which they have augmented with the addition of eCommerce capabilities. Unfortunately, most have missed the mark when it comes to making the leap from multichannel to omnichannel. Instead they’ve created independent channels that work in silo. This narrow, multichannel approach generates valuable data but provides no means of turning it into invaluable information.

The scenarios created by poorly integrated multichannel sales are familiar. Primarily, face-to-face customer engagement suffers. Whilst conventional CRM systems allow field representatives to access a customer’s sales history via traditional channels, a lack of integration with eCommerce platforms means that they’re blind to online orders.

The effects of multichannel inconsistency

When eCommerce systems are not linked to the front-office CRM, account details are normally restricted to online history; the system does not know a customer’s historic ordering habits, their preferences, their product requirements or their payment terms. Some eCommerce platforms do not enable payment on credit, forcing customers with pre-existing credit terms to pay online at the time of order. With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that those same customers often abort their purchase.

Ultimately what you’re seeing is a lack of personalisation as a direct result of a lack of integration. This can mean that companies often provide different offerings depending on the channel; different prices, different delivery options/charges and even different products. It’s a far cry from a seamless, omnichannel experience – and it can motivate customers to shop around for better deals elsewhere.

Introducing Cloud Technology

In order to stay competitive organisations have to exploit  Cloud technology. It’s impossible to provide a completely integrated experience without moving your CRM data and processes into the Cloud. When companies think of omnichannel they also need to think of the Cloud; one doesn’t work without the other. Omnichannel won’t work without the Cloud, but, without the mobility of an omnichannel experience, the Cloud itself is worthless.

Now is the time for SMEs to take steps to deploy integrated eCommerce and CRM solutions in order to provide a truly effective and positive omnichannel customer experience. No matter how bumpy the road to success proves to be, B2B organisations that make this commitment will stay ahead of their competitors and will no longer have customers that feel disheartened by a disconnected customer journey.

– Andrew Ardron, Managing Director, ProspectSoft

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