The sales landscape is shifting – customer service is becoming the most important factor for buyers, expected to surpass both product and price within three years, according to the Customers 2020 report. Further, the landscape is expanding – 81 percent of potential buyers conduct online research prior to purchase, and 30 percent of all ecommerce purchases are from mobile devices. These factors converge to present an opportunity – and challenge – for B2B merchants: adopt an omni-channel sales approach or miss out on significant revenue. In this article, we’ll examine what a comprehensive omni-channel means, the key aspects of an omni-channel approach, and how to support implementation.
What Is Omni-Channel?
In order to effectively establish an omni-channel approach, it’s vital to understand what that entails. At its core, omni-channel is a connected sales environment that spans desktop, mobile, social media, brick and mortar, and any other customer touchpoint. But simply having a presence in multiple channels isn’t enough – a true omni-channel experience is a seamless buying experience for the customer. The buyer should be able to view a product in store, look up pricing and stock information on their smartphone, and submit an order on their laptop. When issues surface, they should be able to interact with support via phone, email, or Twitter – with the support representative able to access the purchase information and buying history.
This comprehensive experience is becoming more important: nearly 50 percent of buyers make business-purchases via the same apps and websites used for consumer shopping. Despite this, nearly two-thirds of consumers believe their B2B experience is inferior to their consumer experience. So how can an organization ensure that their omni-channel approach meets buyer expectations?
There are two key aspects to a successful omni-channel implementation: transparency and consistency. Sales is no longer conducted exclusively by salespeople. Instead, as customers interact with your website, social media presence, and customer or technical support they’re evaluating your brand. It’s crucial that these silos communicate and operate from the same information – if your salesperson assures a prospect that their request is in stock, the website needs to reflect that. Buyers lose faith when they receive conflicting information.
Beyond matching information, it’s important to match brand. A customer shouldn’t notice a difference in quality, tone, or approach when interacting with different channels within your pipeline. In an effective omni-channel approach, different silos are parts of a whole – not individual fragments.
Powering an Omni-Channel Approach
To ensure transparency and consistency, you need an end-to-end data management solution. This should include real-time inventory management, customer information, the sales pipeline, and pricing information. Using this as a single source of truth enables all levels of your organization to provide the latest information to a customer – technical support can see which products are malfunctioning, sales reps can accurately project inventory availability, etc.
In 2015, Google reported that mobile searches eclipsed desktop searches for the first time. This underlies the broader trend that customers seek a connected environment encompassing in-person, online, and mobile channels. In order to keep up with the shifting sales landscape, organizations must adopt an omni-channel approach focused on transparency and consistency and powered by a comprehensive data management solution. In the digital world, customer experience is king – and providing a consistent, versatile, seamless process enables B2B sales success.
Chanan Greenberg is senior vice president and general manager, high tech, at Model N, a leading cloud-based revenue management solutions for high tech and life sciences industries.