The 3 Omnichannel Capabilities Distributors Need for Long-Term Success

An improved customer experience will lead to happier buyers, more referrals, and higher long-term sales and profitability. But to achieve this success, distributors must invest in omnichannel capabilities to meet B2B buyers’ growing expectations.

Here are the key components of an effective omnichannel approach.

Customer Experience is Everything

“Customers are more willing than ever to switch suppliers,” note authors of McKinsey’s February 2022 B2B Pulse.

In fact, most buyers report they would look for new suppliers if their expectations were not met. These expectations may include the ability to shop seamlessly across multiple channels, having an ensured performance guarantee and personalization from sellers based on purchase stage or type.

What this means is that meeting and exceeding buyers’ expectations is crucial if you want to maintain their satisfaction and, most importantly, loyalty. The question now is: How can distributors improve customer experience to meet heightened baseline expectations and get a leg up on the competition?

Fortunately, B2B buyers are communicating what they want and expect, and it boils down to choice. Customers desire the ability to choose between traditional, remote, and digital self-serve methods of shopping and purchasing, depending on where they’re at in their buying journey.

This desire lends itself well to an omnichannel approach, in which buyers benefit from a seamless shopping and buying experience across 10 or more channels in some cases — twice as many as the norm in 2016. That means that no matter how they interact with you, everyone on your team has the same information about that buyer. The experience is linked, so that buyers don’t have to repeat themselves and sellers can make the most of that time.

Providing buyers with the opportunity to interact with you via email, phone, in-person, video conference, website, mobile app, and other channels not only provides buyers with the autonomy they desire. It also positions your business as a relevant player, one that can weather the ever-changing needs of your buyers in your industry.

3 Must-Haves for Distributor Omnichannel Success

Integrated Systems

Improving the customer journey simplifies shopping and makes it easier for customers to find the products they’re looking for, check the status of past orders, and continue sales conversations where they left off.

What sellers must keep in mind is that just providing multiple channels isn’t enough. Customers also want integration across these channels so they can jump from one to another and achieve the same caliber of shopping experience. A simple example: They want to be able to place an order through a sales rep and check the status of that order online. Or talk to a sales rep in the field, and then call up a customer service rep, who can easily pull up those details without repeating the past, and move that purchase forward.

A multichannel approach, where suppliers operate across multiple separated channels, whose data often remain siloed, won’t cut it anymore. Omnichannel connects all sales channels so systems can talk to each other; data is also updated in real time.

Omnichannel revolves around interconnectivity, and technology like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management and other Microsoft applications break down the walls between channels.

eCommerce Functionality

The average customer experience score of B2C businesses is between 65% and 85%. On the other hand, B2B businesses maintain an average score of around 50%, according to McKinsey. One reason for this discrepancy is the tendency of B2B organizations to have less advanced ecommerce capabilities.

McKinsey explains that roughly two-thirds of customers prefer remote (video and phone) and self-service (ecommerce) interactions above in-person sales visits. Additionally, nearly 75% of B2B decision-makers want online access to product availability data and the ability to purchase from any channel.

Keep in mind that even if a customer doesn’t buy through your company’s cart function, ecommerce is an important way to get buyers connected and enable them to do independent research — ultimately enhancing the customer experience. They should be able to easily search for and bring up the products they need, view pricing (unique to them if relevant), compare features, examine technical specs, view safety information, browse images and videos, and understand their applications in the industries they work in.

With an estimated global ecommerce compound annual growth rate of 18.7% (from 2021 to 2028), it’s clear that buying online is a favored means of shopping even in the B2B space.

Consistency Across Channels

With an integrated omnichannel approach and the right sales tools, including CRM, teams should be able to see everything about a buyer, such as:

  • What the customer was looking at on their website
  • What they’ve ordered in the past
  • Refund requests
  • Upcoming reorders
  • Current order status
  • Recent conversations with live reps

This visibility grants customers a consistent experience and reduces significant frustration as they move through their purchasing journeys. This approach also allows sellers to combine leads from various channels so that sales representatives are acknowledged no matter where the buyer makes their purchase.

Omnichannel: A Must-Have, Not a Nice-to-Have

Given the very real possibility today for buyers to jump ship if their expectations aren’t met, it’s more important than ever for distributors to provide a seamless, omnichannel experience that puts the customer at the forefront.

Omnichannel is a journey, but it is a worthwhile, necessary investment. To start your distributor omnichannel success journey, schedule a consultation with our distribution technology experts. Build a technology solution that works for your customers.

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