The B2B self-service landscape has shifted dramatically over the years. From the disruption of traditional brick-and-mortar retail, to the digital transformation ushered in by eCommerce, businesses have ridden wave after wave of change.
The introduction of innovative b2b eCommerce self-service capabilities impacts the kind of customer experience B2B brands are expected to deliver.
1. B2B Self-Service is No Longer an Option
Most significantly, self-service for B2B customers is no longer an option - it’s an expectation.
Over 60% of the B2B sales cycle happens before a potential customer even connects with a sales representative. And 70% of B2B buyers find buying from a website more convenient than buying from a sales representative. Customer groups now conduct a massive amount of independent research, all of it online, prior to reaching out to your business.
Applying B2B self-service best practices is a must. This means that customers need self-service access to information about your products, company, shipping processes, user guides, pricing, and other essential details that impact their decision-making.
Put simply, your brand must thoroughly build its case online. You must convince potential customers that you are the best solution to their problems without having the luxury of a 1:1 conversation with them.
2. The Definition of Self-Service has Evolved
In addition to customer relationships and expectations, what encompasses self-service is also changing.
Previously, self-service included very basic functions. But technology has advanced to the point where self-service features can be applied to almost anything that customers need to do.
If your brand can envision a feature that you know will enhance your user experience, platforms like Oracle Cloud CX can bring that vision to life.
Consequently, businesses must be forward-thinking and aware of the latest trends in user experience. They also must know their customer base in order to offer meaningful self-service features.
3. Supports are Streamlined
One specific area that has been completely transformed by B2B self-service is customer support.
Self-service supports have rapidly grown to include complex, enterprise functions. From the very first moment when a potential customer applies for a business account and line of credit, self-service is available.
Customers can complete an application, credit checks are automated, and the entire process is proactively communicated to them, starting a business relationship off smoothly.
Once a customer has an account, they can perform operations like financial management. Businesses can set their own credit limits, purchasing processes, and approval guidelines for each user that has access to their account. They can pay bills internally, sync that information to their own accounting system, and even manage their own client accounts.
When a customer can streamline their enterprise functions thanks to your eCommerce software self-service features, it fosters loyalty that is built on digital value-add.
Streamlined enterprise B2B eCommerce store functions are incredibly helpful for customers. Self-service features do this, building loyalty to your brand.
4. Personalization is the Differentiator
Since self-service is now an essential component of customer experience, many B2B brands are offering it.
Yet far fewer brands have personalized self-service for their buyers. Companies that are able to do so will differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Personalization capabilities are almost boundless. Some unique ways it’s being implemented include persona-based portal landing pages. B2B eCommerce admins have made it so when customers log in to their B2B accounts, they can select their appropriate role, such as finance or sales rep. Those roles will map to specific functionalities and reports most useful to them.
Another way to provide meaningful personalization is through customized SKUs. Typically, a B2B client has its own internal SKUs. They then have to match their own SKUs to your corresponding SKUs. This leaves room for error, is inefficient, and often frustrating. Through personalized SKUs, a client’s SKUs can be synced with your SKUs, eliminating that tedious matching step.
5. Self-Service Impacts Your Bottom Line
Ultimately, it’s all about the bottom line. Self-service results in empowered and satisfied customers, and happy customers spend more money.
Consequently, organizations that invest in user experience through their B2B eCommerce solution, they earn more money. B2B manufacturers and distributors in the U.S. earn 30% more on average when they offer self-service features.
Self-service might be changing the B2B eCommerce landscape, but it’s changing it for the better.
Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.