Despite the benefits of B2C businesses making themselves available to customers 24/7 via multiple platforms, a surprising number of B2B companies are keeping their doors firmly closed outside usual office hours. But if you aren’t open when customers are poised to make a purchase, those customers might just find somewhere else to take their business. Customer expectations are being redefined, and if B2B businesses can’t find ways to keep up, it’s likely they’ll fall behind.

Fortunately, the solution exists; it’s called eCommerce. Incorporated with a cloud-based, accounts-integrated CRM system, it can inform – and be informed by – sales operations, stock control, accounting and the supply chain, for a level of B2B service otherwise reserved for B2C customers.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Incorporated with a cloud-based, accounts CRM system, it can inform and be informed by sales operations” hashtags=”cloud, ecommerce, tech”]

Evolving habits

eCommerce is everywhere in the B2C world and it has pushed expectations of service to unprecedented levels. Success lies in delivering consistent, joined-up customer experiences across all channels and maintaining customer loyalty in the process. Online shopping has allowed customers to shop any time, with availability and speed of delivery influencing purchase decisions almost as much as price. But until now, this omnichannel approach has largely been considered the domain of B2C.

For B2B, the application of eCommerce has been a slow burner. Some companies have questioned its relevance to their sector, while others have tried it with mixed results – largely due to flawed methodology. Early adopters are triumphing, but for many, the natural default is to stick with what they know. Yet change is inevitable. And it’s not just consumer habits that are shifting. Flexible working is becoming an increasing consideration for employees; something that businesses should take seriously when it comes to attracting and retaining the best workers. What with the legal requirement that employers must reasonably review all employee requests, flexible working capabilities are a necessity, not to mention invaluable when it comes to fulfilling customer facing roles.

Progressive solutions

The addition of eCommerce functionality can truly transform B2B operations, with the most effective solutions fully integrating with your CRM and ERP accounting systems. Typically, CRM and accounting operate in silos, which can often lead to gaps in information capable of disrupting order processes, blighting communications and undermining the customer experience. Accounts-integrated CRM and eCommerce solutions fill that gap. By connecting CRM, ERP and eCommerce systems, companies can go beyond a standard ‘web shop’ to a more tailored offering that’s based on the customer’s history with all available company touchpoints.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Flexible working is becoming an increasing consideration for employees” hashtags=”tech, cloud, “]

Of course, eCommerce is especially well placed for selling goods, but businesses that sell a hybrid of goods and services should also consider how eCommerce, in combination with accounts-integrated CRM, could strengthen the customer experience. If a purchasing decision requires advice, consultation via traditional channels is still available, but the dialogue can be bolstered by eCommerce, thanks to the visibility of previous online engagement that’s held within the CRM system. And once a purchase is made, it forms the basis for future orders that can be quickly actioned via eCommerce mechanisms until a new consultation is required. This improves the customer experience without surrendering the personal service.

The future is in the Cloud

Take accounts-integrated CRM and eCommerce one step further and you’ll find it in the Cloud. Sales data and customer records – detailing engagement across all channels – integrated with stock control, accounting and supply chain operations can be pulled up from anywhere, at any time, completing that all important, ‘always on’, seamless service. Flexible and remote working requirements are met intrinsically, and a more streamlined process ensures greater efficiency, productivity and capacity management that’s especially important for expanding SMEs. The ability to easily scale the solution as appropriate, devolve technical responsibility and drive down the cost of service results in greater business efficiency, freeing up staff to spend more time on customer service and business development.

Conclusion

[easy-tweet tweet=”Everyone is a consumer, even those in professional uniforms.” hashtags=”cloud, tech, consumerism”]

Everyone is a consumer, even those in professional uniforms. So why do our B2B experiences not replicate those we enjoy elsewhere? If B2B companies are to thrive and survive, they must apply B2C logic. And fast. By establishing an omnichannel offering via accounts-integrated CRM and eCommerce, businesses can streamline processes throughout – from stock control, supply chain and eMarketing – so that each is geared to enhancing the customer experience. Look to the Cloud, and only then does the omnichannel experience truly become an ‘always on’ experience.