In the consumer world, eCommerce surrounds us and it’s raising our expectations of service to unprecedented levels. Every time we want to make a purchase, we venture online safe in the knowledge that the products and/or services we want are easily accessible with limited time constraints.

Yet in the realm of B2B, adoption of eCommerce has remained slow, especially amongst SMEs.

While selling strategies can be far more complex, it should be remembered that B2B customers are also consumers. They too are used to a certain standard of service in their everyday lives, and they will quickly grow tired of service that isn’t easily and often accessible as a result.

Whether to integrate eCommerce and CRM systems as part of a sales strategy should therefore be a crucial consideration for any business to stay competitive.

An Empowered Sales Team

eCommerce hasn’t killed the high street; it’s simply encouraged retailers to redesign services in line with a changing world. The notion that an eCommerce system will be the ‘death of the sales team’ is equally unfounded.

Equipping staff with tools that will help them to better do their jobs is empowering. Successful eCommerce not only complements the sales strategy, but the CRM can be integrated to ensure visibility of all customer actions. The most successful brands deliver consistent, joined-up customer experiences across all their channels, and sustain loyalty in the process.

Exactly like the high street, if a purchasing decision requires advice or consultation, traditional ‘people’ channels are still available. And, even then, dialogue with field representatives or telesales can be strengthened by eCommerce, notably the visibility of previous online engagement that’s held within the system.

Furthermore, once a purchase is made, it forms the basis for future orders and repeat business that can be quickly actioned via eCommerce mechanisms until a new consultation is required. This provides a better customer experience without sacrificing the personal service.

Integrating with CRM

When eCommerce is integrated with CRM, it can add even more value to your services.

As customer expectation evolves, so too must business processes, but it’s important that they are not developed in silos – the integration of eCommerce and CRM saves time and money for yourself and your customers.

For example, many SMEs are currently forcing their customers to go through unwieldy and inefficient purchasing processes that rob them of valuable time. From the telesales call that gets lost in translation and results in an incorrect order or the unnecessary one-hour rep visit that only culminates in the same order as last time, it can be a frustrating process for both parties.

What’s more, integrated eCommerce goes beyond improving customer experience. It can fuel productivity and efficiency gains for businesses too. With the online channel taking care of online purchases, companies can deploy their sales resources more effectively.

Telesales executives can be trained to provide more consultative sales support while field-based personnel can focus on business development rather than technical consultancy.

The administration burden of order processing is also lessened, which helps to further optimise resources. In turn, this reduces the cost of service – driving profitability or enabling greater pricing flexibility.

An effective eCommerce platform can also highlight a clear point of differentiation against competitors; the ability to respond quickly and accelerate delivery can be a valuable weapon against the overseas distributor who’s beating you on price.

Business Strategy

The strategic addition of eCommerce functionality can transform B2B operations. The most effective solutions fully integrate with your CRM and ERP/accounting systems. This is essential to ensure that client records – detailing engagement across all channels –integrate with stock control, accounting and supply chain operations to guarantee seamless service.

CRM and accounting systems in silos often lead to gaps in information that can disrupt order processes, blight communications and compromise the customer journey. Accounts-integrated CRM and eCommerce solutions on the other hand can bridge these gaps to ensure continuity and consistency of customer service – and deliver a unified omnichannel experience.

Moreover, by connecting CRM, ERP and eCommerce systems, companies can go beyond a standard ‘web shop’ that presents fixed prices, to an offering that provides differential pricing based on customer history, value or preference, as well as credit terms and other account services. It’s another significant value-add.

So, in a world immersed in eCommerce, online purchasing should no longer be seen as a ‘nice to have’ by B2B businesses. The integration of systems is fast becoming essential to keeping up with customer expectations, and creates vital efficiencies for businesses and their frontline staff alike.

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