Connecting with End Users in B2B Commerce

The digital landscape continues to evolve rapidly, putting pressure on businesses to continue to meet and exceed the elevated expectations of consumers.
This has been especially relevant for B2B organizations such as manufacturers and distributors, which have traditionally had very little interaction with their customers further down the supply chain. Businesses that have historically sold to other businesses are now shifting to optimize support for self-service. As a result, many manufacturers and distributors have made moves to engage directly with their end customers rather than focusing only on their traditional distribution channels.

Why the Shift?

Today’s consumers are extremely digitally savvy and comfortable using technology throughout the purchasing lifecycle. Regardless of the channel your customers are using to make purchases, they’ve come to expect extensive product data and a positive buying experience. To provide this kind of end-to-end experience, B2B companies need to be more involved in the customer experience and managing the relationship throughout the purchasing journey.

How Do You Deliver on This Trend?

Market and Sell Directly to the Final Customer
By focusing on the final customer, you can cut down your distribution channels and increase revenue while providing an end-to-end customer experience. For many B2B entities, this means adopting a direct selling model. Having inventory and product knowledge that is superior to your distribution channels’ provides an advantage for B2B sellers when going this route, but it’s the knowledge of customer expectations that proves invaluable. By using eCommerce technology and integrating other digital channels, you can better respond to customer demands and purchase expectations.
In turn, multinational distributors and resellers are expanding their digital offerings to better serve and strengthen relationships with suppliers. By using their IT capabilities to build expansive eCommerce sites and participate in marketplaces, distributors can provide value to their clients and increase market penetration while supporting smaller businesses so they continue to thrive in this ever-changing digital landscape.
Continue the Relationship After the Sale
Engagement doesn’t end once customers click “Place Order.” As customer expectations have evolved to demand both affordable and quick delivery, companies have had to re-think their supply chains. Intelligent order fulfillment solutions can help ensure you’re making shipping decisions that are smart, profitable, and aligned with customer expectations.
Once the order is received by the final customer, there are opportunities for further post-purchase engagement. Regardless of whether a customer ordered through a third-party channel or directly from you, they still have certain brand expectations. Consumers expect you to have support features on their site, such as rich product data, user manuals, or video demonstrations. Providing resources to customers that continue to serve them after their purchase journey is complete will improve the customer experience and build loyalty.

Where Should You Start?

When working to better connect with your customer, the first step is to understand your customer. Spend time learning about their wants, needs, and frustrations. B2B buyers expect certain capabilities from the sites they buy from, like the ability to place repeat orders, view order history, or review their contract with you. Know what your customers expect so you can better serve them digitally.
After you’ve gathered customer insights and competitor data, you can begin to build a roadmap founded on your research and make creative and strategic technological investments going forward. Focus on the biggest weaknesses in your customer experience, and make those a priority moving forward. You don’t have to tackle this alone. Although every business is unique, there are plenty of best practices to adopt, whether you’re a retailer, manufacturer, or distributor.
Interested in learning more about what trends are impacting commerce in 2019? Download our free guide, Make Meaningful Connections in Commerce: Four Trends for 2019.

About the Author

Mike Rabbior is Perficient's Chief Strategist of Commerce. With 10 years at Perficient, Mike possesses deep expertise in nearly every business vertical and technical domain.

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