By John Barcus, Vice President, Industry Solutions Group
Traditionally, B2B manufacturers have sold through a limited number of channels and had control over which channels their customers used. Today, these same customers can choose from multiple sales channels—including direct sales, distributors, channel partners, resellers, and ecommerce—and they expect each one to provide a consumer-like experience.
Manufacturers can differentiate themselves from their competition by making it easier for their customers to buy from them. To do this, they need a technology platform that gives users a consistent, consumer-friendly interface, while at the same time behind the scenes powering multiple channels and integrating functions such as presales activity, orders, fulfillment, and supply chain logistics.
Many B2B sellers are playing catch-up when it comes to matching both B2C front-end consumer experience and back-end technology. In fact, some B2B sellers have not even implemented e-commerce. But B2B sales are moving online—and fast: Forrester estimates that B2B ecommerce will reach $1.2 trillion and account for 13.1% of all US B2B sales by 2021.
Let’s look at how a manufacturer can lay the groundwork to meet customer expectations for a frictionless, multi-channel purchasing experience, as well as a company that has successfully done this.
Evaluate current IT systems’ sales channel capabilities
Successfully providing buyers with a B2C-like experience depends on having integrated systems and a consistent, optimized customer experience across all channels. To determine where improvements need to be made, the first step is to fully understand the sales capabilities of current technology—what is working and what isn’t—and document each sales channel with as-is process maps and system architecture diagrams.
For many manufacturers, IT systems have evolved piecemeal. Sales channels added over time often use different technologies and processes—resulting in disparate systems that are costly and time-consuming to manage and update. Multiple databases may contain the same product and sales information, requiring duplication of efforts to maintain and increasing the risk of inaccuracies. Poorly integrated systems also limit visibility into sales data and buyer behavior—insights that can drive decisions that affect sales growth and profitability.
From the customers’ perspective, different technologies and sales processes across sales channels can translate into inconsistent and inefficient experiences on the front end. Having different user interfaces, for example, can frustrate and confuse users, especially given how rare such fractured experiences now are in B2C buying experiences.
Determine priorities for new multi-channel sales solutions
Before adding or revamping sales systems, it’s also important to identify and understand what customers want from different channels. Manufacturers can use this information to evaluate new solutions that will give their B2B customers a B2C-like shopping experience that is frictionless and consistent across all sales channels.
Lists of desired IT improvements and key functions that customers want can help guide the development of future process maps, system architecture designs, and prioritized criteria for new systems. If multiple databases are a major problem, for example, a cloud-based system can serve as a centralized hub that feeds every sales channel with the same accurate, current data. Cloud-based systems can also help solve other problems caused by disparate systems—for instance, by making upgrades easy to execute and cost-effective, and by integrating functions, such as pre-sales activity, orders, ecommerce, fulfillment, invoicing, and supply chain logistics.
By tightly integrating apps in a unified, cloud-based system, you can provide customers with a B2B buying experience that rivals what they’re used to in B2C online shopping world—allowing them to enjoy a consistent experience in every sales channel, from pre-sales to post-sales.
How Trimble Navigation improved the multichannel sales experience for B2B customers
Trimble Navigation, Ltd. provides technology for applications that require position or location, such as surveying, construction, agriculture, and fleet and asset management. Its heavy construction division was expanding into new markets and experiencing massive channel partner growth. As a result, the company needed a system to simplify the sales process for configuring, pricing, and quoting (CPQ) that would work across all of its expanding sales channels.
Trimble implemented Oracle CPQ Cloud and Oracle E-Business Suite, and integrated it with its existing third-party CRM system. Oracle CPQ Cloud guides users to optimal product options and configurations from simple to complex. It also automatically applies discounts and relevant upsell and cross-sell opportunities, driving 10% to 15% incremental revenue for Trimble.
“Oracle Configure, Price, and Quote Cloud streamline the entire opportunity-to-quote-to-order process, including product selection, configuration, pricing, quoting, ordering, and approval workflows,” said Angela Driver, director of Business Systems and Services, at Trimble. “This ultimately enables us to deliver a superior customer experience through all channels. Oracle CPQ Cloud also supports integration with our existing Salesforce.com and Oracle E-Business Suite environments, as well as future integration to multiple e-commerce options.”
Oracle sales solutions in the cloud provide buyers with a consumer-friendly experience
B2B customers expect to be able to buy from manufacturers through multiple sales channels, and they want a consumer-like experience every time. Manufacturers also need technology that powers multiple channels and integrates functions such as pre-sales activity, orders, fulfillment, and supply chain logistics. Oracle CPQ Cloud and E-Business Suite are able to address both needs, providing a seamless, end-to-end experience across all sales channels.
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