As soon as internet shopping hit the mainstream, the writing was on the wall, or more appropriately, the web. The shift marked a transformation in how a large percentage of B2B customers would prefer to perform business in the future, and how B2B companies would have to adapt. This process is still evolving in the midst of global issues, consumer trends, and forward-thinking, new business models. For the B2B business model, omnichannel represents any type of commerce possible, whether in person or on a variety of different online platforms, with a growing list of options proving to be infinite.
“B2B sales are now resolutely omnichannel, with eCommerce, face-to-face, and remote videoconference sales all a necessary part of the buyers’ experience,'' states McKinsey. “The buyers’ move to omnichannel hasn’t been a matter of simply shifting more transactions online. What B2B customers want is nuanced, and so are their views about the most effective way to reach them.”
The consumer landscape continues to become both different and more sophisticated, as Mckinsey reminds us; in fact, this landscape continues to grow beyond the convenience and simplicity of the Amazon paradigm, whether retailers invested in that category like it or not:
“Omnichannel fulfillment alternatives to in-store shopping–such as home delivery (from a local store), ship to home (from a distribution center), and click and collect–continue to see accelerated demand from consumers.”
Digital avenues continue to expand for online transactions, and investing in the future of commerce is critical to success. Omnichannel as a new B2B normal represents the logical evolution of online deals and purchases, moving from eCommerce to digital commerce to quite simply: commerce.
Omnichannel Connects Branding, Products, and Messaging Across All Platforms
Omnichannel retail is ultimately centered around complete acceptance of the B2B customer, meeting them where they are in terms of preferred channels, marketing exactly what they want, and making it easy for them to buy products and receive them as they wish. In creating a strong omnichannel marketing strategy, B2B companies must also figure out which facets of their campaign are working, as well as where the gaps while customers continue moving from one touchpoint to another.
Expanding beyond the initial multi-channel experience, omnichannel offers more choices, but also eliminates the limitations of the linear process involving both purchases and accompanying communications. B2B omnichannel customers may be moving from one platform to another depending on convenience, where they are at the time, or what other influences and suggested links they saw online. This is not a problem as long as marketers are promoting brand awareness and products across all relevant channels with a connected campaign for messaging, graphics, and offers.
Creating B2B Omnichannel Customer Experiences
Moving from an emphasis on customer engagement to a new level of excellence in the customer experience, early adapters are pulling ahead as they realize customers are now the ones making up the ‘rules,’ mapping out their paths in the commerce journey and designating their needs regarding the omnichannel route whether they ordering online and expecting products to be delivered–or ordering over the phone, online, and routinely picking up items easily at physical locations.
“Disruptive buyer dynamics are rewriting the rulebook for B2B sales, demanding digital-first engagement with customers,” states Garner.
Optimizing omnichannel offerings means studying today’s customers. They are undeniably tech-savvy, and research-oriented too–usually taking time to learn about all the features and services available for a product, as well as enjoying access to (and leaving their own) detailed customer reviews. B2B customers are used to a high level of sophistication, personalization, and speed on other sites–and are not particularly inclined to step back in time and make orders or peruse platforms lacking in the type of experience companies like Amazon offer.
B2B retailers must create a positive onboarding experience right away while also paying attention to their omnichannel-oriented customers to find out what they really want. This begins with collecting quality first-party data in every engagement, studying and analyzing B2B customer behavior, and compiling critical general information too. Information is key, along with analysis; however, this also allows the sales department to intuitively offer better guidance for customers still involved in the decision-making process:
“Sales leaders must deliver significant value through digital and omnichannel sales models, aided by sales professionals who can steer self-learning customers toward more confident decisions,” states Gartner.
The direction they are steering customers in, and the direction B2B companies are being steered in, is not going to be as straightforward as before; however, omnichannel represents the future of business interactions, and it is a powerful way to attract shoppers engaged with so many different venues, devices, links, and sites. Sales leaders will have to shift some of their focus to pulling customers in the right direction and according to McKinsey, even becoming ‘journey orchestrators,’ as they propel everyone to various channels.
Omnichannel is a Win for Everyone
For today’s successful B2B retailer, the omnichannel strategy is to provide all the options, whether their customers want to work online or go to a store, and enhance the journey with an outstanding customer experience regarding every touchpoint. The omnichannel model represents a mutual win for both B2B customers and companies that are eager to present their brand across a wide variety of different advertising mediums, whether on a website or billboard. Channels should work together easily, with customers toggling back and forth as they wish.