Making eCommerce is not simple (obvious), and before asking a thousand questions, we often neglect to consider the analysis of market trends.
Understanding and studying the industry market trends allows us to understand how the market is moving, what are the opportunities and what are the challenges in the medium and long term; and immediately to set up commercial strategies and the correct level of flexibility to best address the choices. In my experience this is even more true in the digital world because there are no well-defined standards, models and approaches, but it requires a lot of experience and data understanding and interpretation.
Market trends are the key elements to consider and deepen before embarking on a path on B2B
B2B clients are primarily B2C clients: they are accustomed to the immediacy of amazon and google, to the high level of facebook interaction, to the huge amount of instagram information, to the simplicity of apple. Usually there are two kinds of expectations: experiential (services that are replacing the need for yours, when people are using Lego, XBOX, Apple, etc.) and perceptual (which are services that are really changing customer expectations, when -people are using Uber or Spotify, they think, “Why cannot you do this for me?”). These expectations, now acquired by the most advanced B2C, are not yet considered and interpreted in B2B.
Sales force extension
The sales force continues to be an important channel for B2B business because the trust, the flexibility and the need for a human relationship between a company representative and the knowledge-based retailer can never be replaced. For this reason, the sales agent needs support to extend his sales session from a qualitative point of view. The old concept of SFA (sales force automation) is then interpreted by eCommerce B2B as providing sales agents with increased ability to tell stories about the product/the new collections and be able to show videos and have access to technical details, understand real time availability and adhoc requirements for the customer. This is a wide range of digital information and services that they did not have access to before.
I won’t spend too much time on this point as it is a well debated subject. However, I will say that whatever you do must be done with the customer in mind, this is fundamental for B2B as well as B2C. The tools to analyze and track the behaviour of our customers are there – they must be used.
e.g. a famous swimware company has demonstrated a significant loss of sales due to the inability to understand the change in expectations of its customers. Instead, at a high level, they should have considered e.g.: if my customer has always bought swimsuits for himself, when he has children he will want to buy swimwear for them – both for the beach and for swimming pools. Why not tell him that for his children we can offer the same quality he has always enjoyed? And maybe, why not tell him that our company invests so much for the needs of his children? If we can intercept the expectation we can translate it into a sale. A slamdunk!
Here the best customer experience I never seen before, love it. Here!
B2B and B2C convergence
Simple things do not exist (some might disagree, I know), but if you are not able to explain complicated things in simple terms then probably it means that you have not understood them. I always distrust those who aren’t able to make me understand things: it may be that I have drunk too many beers or that they haven’t the slightest idea what they’re saying 😊
So, I will try to explain this to you simply. Let’s say your company sells nutcrackers in Europe and wants to start selling them in Russia too. You realize that you do not have stores and you do not know the market. Therefore you create a partnership with companies that know that market and have been there for a long time, ideally with physical stores as well as online stores (marketplace). In this way the company has managed to penetrate that market without major investments. The same concept is also developing for the B2B market. In practice, the B2C and B2B partnership models are converging, becoming, in fact, the same.
The strategy of relying, at least initially, on the marketplace for the B2B market has advantages and disadvantages that require brainstorming to understand. If you are interested we can talk about that over a coffee and a brioche 😊
Customer service retraining
This is one of my favorite trends because it aims to improve people’s work. Creating a successful B2B eCommerce operation means making self-service information and services available to your customers (I browse eCommerce sites and look for the documentation I need, I open a complaint, a replacement or warranty ticket, etc.), this mode is especially appreciated by the younger generations, while the older prefer to call on the phone and talk to a customer service operator.
Improving the self-service approach in B2B means reducing the customer service representatives efforts, as they should receive fewer phone calls. The opportunity then, is to retrain them so their work becomes proactive, e.g. outbound commercial with the aim of acquiring new customers, or to measure the satisfaction of existing customers, or to study and follow beneficial initiatives.
Obviously, I would be happy to discuss these issues with you all, about specific industry trends and how to help the eCommerce slide freely, where they are of interest to you, and I would appreciate any comments and your points of view.