By Emily Liu, Liferay
While B2B customer experiences differ from those of B2C, customers have begun to expect the same personalized and intuitive experiences they’ve grown accustomed to from B2B companies. Meeting these needs will require changes in strategy and technology, specifically B2B portals.
A traditional B2B portal is seen as a necessary cost center, a way just to cut down on costs. However, a paradigm shift needs to happen in order to transform these B2B portals into revenue-generating competitive advantages. Many companies instead are finding benefits from treating their portal as a product, gaining revenue growth and meeting these new customer expectations. This same shift is possible for your business as well.
Building Your Competitive Advantage
The key to establishing your portal as a competitive advantage lies in improving customer experience. A Walker Info study predicts that by the end of 2020, customer experience will have overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator. Already, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.
How can a B2B portal enhance the overall customer experience to the point that it becomes a unique selling point for your business? Here are three starting points in order to accomplish that goal:
1) Establish a Self-Service Foundation
B2B buyers want efficiency, transparency and effective service on their own terms. These self-service features are no longer brand differentiators but a necessity for every business. Without these basic features, no matter how many unique capabilities you include, customers will leave looking for a self-service provider elsewhere. However, these features will serve as the foundation for you to build differentiation upon.
How do you create an exceptional self-service foundation? Focus on removing barriers to purchasing. If anything on your site requires customers to take one more step or use one more click to make their purchases or check on their orders, see what you can do to simplify it. A strong self-service experience simplifies not only the buying process but also ordering and shipping, pricing, reordering, restocking and so on. Buyers expect to have the freedom to do all of these things on their own time, without speaking to a representative.
2) Empower Your Customers to Make the Right Purchases
Once you have a self-service foundation in place, you can begin to build differentiation through buyer empowerment. Your buyers want to easily access your site, quickly find what they need to look for and feel confident and assured that they’re making the right decisions. This streamlined purchasing process proves even more important specifically for B2B buyers because their jobs depend on purchasing the correct products and finding the best solutions for their business.
Ensure that your customers are making the right purchases with a B2B portal that includes powerful search functionality, personalized product recommendations, product reviews and other product-focused content such as rich product information, videos, guides or manuals. Buyer empowerment is providing tools and content that give buyers control of their purchasing. Doing so successfully involves self-service features and showing customers the right content at the right time. In order to do this, your marketing site and B2B portal must be unified.
When content and commerce are joined together, you can bring rich content features such as video, interactive catalogs and recommended content into your portal — so your buyers will have all the product information they need on the same site where they’ll make their final purchase, facilitating a better buying experience altogether.
3) Find Unexpected Ways to Serve Your Customers
The first two steps mentioned are primarily to ensure that your B2B portal is modernized and equipped with the correct foundation in order to truly make your B2B commerce experience a competitive advantage. In order to find new ways that have a meaningful impact on your buyers’ business, you first need to know them well. Do you know their mission? Their goals? The challenges in the way of those goals? Seek to gain a deeper understanding of your buyer. This can be accomplished by fostering deeper customer relationships, communicating directly with buyers to better grasp their needs.
Additionally, by aggregating customer data, you can begin to draw insights about your buyers. Analyze their search history, previously downloaded assets, recurring purchases to begin to build a complete picture of your buyer.
With this information, you want to see what your portal, as a product, can offer to customers that would be so helpful, they’d want to become a customer simply for access to the customer portal. For example, US Foods was able to offer a unique solution to a common problem that plagued their customers with a Menu Profitability feature. For more details, watch this on-demand webinar.
Not Just a Cost Center
There’s potential for your portal solution to become something more than just a cost center. Capitalize on it with a change of perspective. Once you view your B2B portal as a product that can offer unique benefits to your buyer, you’ll be on the path towards distinguishing your business as a trusted expert and a valued partner for success.