Fluid Experiences Guide B2B Customers on Their Buying Journey
How Technology Facilitates Personalization & Engagement
When the maintenance manager for a major metropolitan school district needs supplies for the floor cleaning equipment in use system-wide, he logs in to the manufacturer’s website and quickly places a new order from an online dashboard that facilitates purchasing and procurement across multiple channels.
This ordering ability is indicative of the way B2B companies in the technology and manufacturing industries are treating information — shaping and molding it, like a malleable material, to create personalized customer solutions. B2B enterprises are moving beyond basic online interactions, and creating e-commerce solutions designed to deliver fluid customer experiences that transcend a single screen or platform.
“Digital disruption has fundamentally changed how buyers make purchasing decisions in every business vertical,” says Jason Goldberg, senior vice president of content and commerce at SapientRazorfish. “B2B buyers now expect personalized, contextually-relevant commerce experiences at every touchpoint.”
Tennant, the manufacturer of the floor cleaning equipment, understands the need for streamlining, and has simplified online workflows and optimized the ability for customer self-service.
When a school district maintenance manager wants to place an order, rather than searching online for dozens of products, he simply imports a template of what he needs into Tennant’s web interface and, voila, 120 items appear in his shopping cart. Before he is ready to checkout, he can access a pre-populated list of schools in his district to which he can direct shipments . He also has the option of setting a customized re-order schedule to automatically ship supplies in the future, which helps Tennant lock in future sales. The entire process optimizes efficiency for both the customer and the supplier by creating a guided transaction process that can easily be handled without the direct involvement of a sales rep.
“Creating a high-fidelity experience at every step in the B2B customer’s journey is the essence of fluidity,” says Errol Denger, director of commerce at Adobe. “B2B companies need to deliver fluid experiences that adapt to the context of the user interaction. This requires delivering highly curated and consistent information across platforms and devices.”
Implementing Omni-Channel Solutions.
The challenge is to break down traditional silos by engineering engaging, omni-channel experiences that exceed customer expectations. Differentiation in the B2B marketplace is not just about product. It requires leveraging data, knowledge, and technology in order to create a virtual crystal ball that presents customers with the right information at the right moment.
The implementation of fluidity can be as simple as ensuring the continuity of messaging on two different social media platforms, or as complex as integrating IoT technology into a device that lets technicians order replacement parts with a single click on the touchscreen of the machine they are servicing.
“Delivering fluid experiences requires a real-time understanding of what the customer’s problem is, and then offering a curated solution that makes it easy to solve that problem,” says Denger. “B2B companies can outmaneuver e-commerce portals by delivering across every touchpoint, which is a weakness of one-size-fits-all marketplaces.”
What’s more, a fully integrated B2B platform — one that goes beyond e-commerce to include customer data, marketing assets, content management, campaign orchestration, and analytics — provides a roadmap for customer engagement by providing real-time context about the person interacting with specific company content. That context then becomes a powerful tool for enabling highly targeted content delivery that offers customized solutions and product options.
Today’s B2B companies need a marketing platform that provides users with a rich digital buying experience that facilitates engagement and makes it easy to use. That means providing customers, sales reps, distributors, and service technicians with desktop and mobile apps that offer real-time access to marketing collateral, automated sales processes, and key sales systems that streamline purchasing and fulfillment.
While B2B legacy systems lack the functionality to deliver personalized, responsive content, new technology offers tools that can track and analyze user engagement and interaction. That integration — and the knowledge it yields — gives companies a deeper understanding of each customer, and facilitates the ability to personalize a fluid experience for every user.
Fluidity Extends Beyond Customers
Developing fluid experiences does not stop with optimization for customers, it also includes improving the flow of information within a company’s operational environment. One example of a fluid experience in action is an HVAC technician dispatched to repair an air conditioning unit. The tech starts the service call by scanning a 2D bar code that connects to an automated remote diagnostics tool. Once the problem is identified, the tech can access a video that provides an overview of the repair process on his or her phone. While the video is playing, a parts list is generated for the repair that the tech can later download or forward to the supplier.
A B2B company implementing fluid experiences benefits by improving its efficiency in the field. In the HVAC example, that means a faster repair process, which enables the tech to handle more jobs on any given day.
The key elements of fluid experiences include a single view of the customer — or internal end user — that allows for seamless content delivery across all devices, intelligent content that adapts to its context, and deep personalization in every digital interaction.
Single Customer View: B2B companies need a holistic, comprehensive, profile of each uniquely identifiable customer. This includes everything that the company knows about the customer, such as when and how they were last contacted, how much they spend on an average order, what they purchase, and the length and history of their relationship with the company. By extension, all of this information can be used to forecast that customer’s potential lifetime value to the company.
Intelligent Content: Intelligent content adapts to the context in which it is being consumed. For example, suppliers will have negotiated different pricing contracts with different customers. When different customers log in to your commerce site, they can automatically receive pricing quotes consistent with their contract. Similarly, they will receive product descriptions and specifications localized to the areas where they are doing business.
Deep Personalization: Personal experience delivers on the promise that every single interaction that a customer has with a company will demonstrate that the company knows, understands, and values the customer.
A platform that integrates digital asset management and content management is a cornerstone for delivering a personalized omni-channel customer experience. “You have to ensure that you have an asset management solution that provides uniform information about your products across all channels,” says Tristan Saw, senior director of strategy and consulting at SapientRazorfish. “That means consistency in how your product and your brand is represented — no matter where the buyer touches it.”
While integrating your DAM and CMS is a must, the real magic comes from utilizing all of the information you have about a user in order to connect the dots between what a customer needs and how you can meet those needs in the most expeditious and cost-effective way for everyone involved. Water takes the form of any container you pour it into, and your information and data needs to be just as versatile in order to deliver personalized solutions for your customers.