All too often, departments within an eCommerce organization fail to coordinate their efforts to achieve the same business goals. Consider the most obvious example of marketing and sales: How can your eCommerce sales platform possibly deliver the shopping experiences envisioned by marketing without a shared vision and coordinating efforts? In turn, how can marketers know what shopping experiences they can and should promise without knowing if their eCommerce platform can deliver.
According to SiriusDecisions, B2B companies where sales and marketing are in alignment perform much better than average:
- They outpace three-year growth in revenue by 24 percent and three-year growth in sales by 27 percent.
- Overall, companies with tight alignment between marketing and sales grow revenue almost 20 percent faster and are 15 percent more profitable.
Of course this kind of alignment won't occur by accident. It takes the hard work of setting goals, sharing information, management support and selecting the right eCommerce architecture to naturally support vision alignment. It also takes some realistic assessment of customer shopping expectations in a rapidly changing eCommerce environment.
It will take some work to develop a tight alignment between your eCommerce platform features, people and customers, but it will be well worth the effort.
Integrate Data for a Seamless Customer Experience
Marketers can promise a certain customer experience, and sales platforms can deliver that experience, but what happens when that experience isn’t what customers actually want?
The only way to ensure that your eCommerce platform and process appeals to customers in a way that will help improve loyalty and revenue may be to mine data and make it sharable between marketing, sales and tech departments. Your company needs to know who your customers are, what they want and how they intend to make purchases. Someshwar Chidurala, a data analyst for an American company that develops and refines business processes, says that organizations already have access to affordable tools to mine and analyze the information that can help them engage customers. This practice can help them compete in markets when they can't, or would rather not, compete on price.
While information about customer paths and what these customers are likely to buy is readily available, it may come from a variety of channels, including social networks, advertising platforms, the customer service department and eCommerce platform analytics. This means that all departments—including marketing, sales, customer service and tech—need to share information in combined and accessible business intelligence platforms. Once in a while, they may also need to speak with each other 🙂.
For instance, if customer service learns that customers are having trouble with payment options or other platform features, IT needs to know. When marketing research teams learn that some of their customers prefer eCommerce platform features that aren't available on the company's current website, they must be able to share this information easily with decision-makers.
Refine the Mobile Marketing and Sales Experience
In the last year or two, most mobile marketing advice dwelled on selecting a mobile-friendly eCommerce platform and investing in mobile marketing. According to Brian Walker, the author of the Forbes article "Why eCommerce Still Isn't Clicking With B2B Executives," retail companies have done a much better job improving their retail platforms than established B2B sellers have.
This might sound surprising, but it follows a pattern for mobile adoption in other markets. Consumers have always been the trendsetters, using mobile devices and other technology for personal use before companies began to invest heavily in mobile devices and apps for productivity. So, naturally, consumer-facing businesses would be the first to adopt technologies that would deliver the kind of buying experience that people had already learned to expect. But B2B sellers can’t afford to forget there’s a person—a consumer—at the end of their buying process, too.
Business procurement officers find the traditional shopping experience disappointing because they are used to a much better experience when they do their own personal, online shopping. These procurement officers aren't always willing to wait for their typical suppliers to catch up. B2B companies must realize that they aren't only competing against the same set of suppliers and those company's traditional business websites any longer. Today, sophisticated eCommerce retailers who offer a consumer-focused experience, like Alibaba, Amazon and eBay, may distribute the same goods from wholesalers or manufacturers who have simply moved to these channels for distribution.
Buyers are familiar with these popular platforms and won't be averse to using them at work.
Forrester found that 52 percent of B2B procurement professionals use mobile devices to research buying decisions. Both sales and marketing have to improve the mobile experience for their customers. They need to provide eCommerce platform features that are as good as, or better than, the ones commonly found on large eCommerce sites.
Individualized and Personalized Marketing
To keep up with direct competitors and new B2B channels, distributors, manufacturers and wholesalers are playing catch-up in their eCommerce investments. Traditional B2B ecommerce systems were never designed with geo-targeting, multiple channels and a personalized customer experience in mind. The race to modernize these old systems has been gaining steam, and Forrester predicts that B2B spending will outpace B2C spending by a factor of two in the next couple of years.
In order to deliver this experience, Gartner predicts that 40 percent of B2B eCommerce companies will begin to rely upon price optimization algorithms and automated CPQ tools to provide configuration, pricing and quoting for their customers. This means that new platforms must support negotiated price lists for big accounts and complex sets of product configurations. These features must be integrated within the platform in order to make ordering simpler and quicker for customers and make business processes more efficient for sellers.
Deliver the Seamless Experience That Your Customers Demand
The future belongs to data-driven companies that can share and integrate information across all departments. Sellers must be able to deliver the kind of online and mobile experience that their customers have already learned to expect when they make consumer purchases. Modern pricing tools can help automate the complex processes involved in tailoring users’ experience of a platform, making both buying and selling easier and more efficient. With this in mind, it's apparent that many B2B companies need to choose both selling and marketing architecture that supports the eCommerce platform features they will need to compete with both their traditional, direct competitors and the crop of new competitors who use different channels to market.