Business buyers are increasingly expecting to receive the same user-friendly, personalized omnichannel experiences from B2B organizations that they would get from consumers brands, and the JanSan industry is having to adapt to this change.
A high expectation among today’s buyers is online self-service capabilities. Customers are increasingly taking more control of their buyer journey. In fact, 66 per cent of B2B consumers use desktop and mobile devices to research product information before engaging with a sales representative, and many are avoiding the human element completely.
Online marketplaces like Amazon have been a major catalyst of this change by reshaping customer expectations for user experience, price and delivery speed, and offering one-stop-shop solutions for both business and consumer goods. Adding fuel to the fire, other major players have invested significant resources in building their online presence, further bolstering seamless, omnichannel experiences as industry standard in JanSan business products.
Here, Michael Hauck, vice-president of marketing and digital at Essendant, a U.S.-based wholesale distributor of office, technology, janitorial, sanitation, breakroom and industrial products, examines how JanSan business can better meet evolving buyer demands and identify growth opportunities.
What are three ways businesses can meet buyer demands for a more B2C experience?
Meeting buyer demands requires JanSan businesses to build an e-commerce strategy that can service customers wherever and whenever they want. A user-friendly website is critical for driving sales and fostering a loyal customer base, but unfortunately many B2B websites are lacking in quality compared to consumer retail sites. Some businesses are lacking an online presence altogether. With a strategic e-commerce presence, JanSan businesses can cater to the modern on-the-go customers who prefer to quickly browse online rather than meet with a sales representative. Additionally, an e-commerce strategy provides businesses with the capabilities necessary to target customers outside of their local network, helping attract new customers and tap into new geographies.
Along those same lines, JanSan businesses must then create a quality online customer experience by offering optimized digital product content, such as images, product descriptions and customer reviews. With buyers increasingly expecting self-service capabilities, this is critical for helping them find products easily and have all the necessary information to make an informed purchase on their own. However, many businesses are struggling with incomplete or inaccurate product images and product descriptions, resulting in consumers losing confidence in the products or brand, and leaving the site without making a purchase. To overcome this challenge, businesses should implement strategies and services to update product content, improve search terms and increase the number of customer ratings and reviews on their sites.
Finally, JanSan businesses must develop processes for delivering superior customer service. While making the digital transition, it’s important to maintain the personalized, familiar relationships built in face-to-face sales interactions. However, instead of shying away from technology, businesses can strike a balance by embracing it as a helpful counterpart to better service customers. By leveraging analytics technology, they can collect, measure and interpret customer data to determine how they’re engaging with the e-commerce site. Armed with these user insights, businesses can see how to improve the shopping experience at every point in the buyer journey from browsing to delivery. This will effectively increase order values and conversions, as well as optimize customer service and boost overall customer satisfaction.
Ideally, in order to achieve all of these objectives, JanSan businesses would hire a marketing and/or e-commerce coordinator. Regardless, it’s critical to have somebody within the organization who is taking responsibility for marketing and digital programs to keep the business accountable for their e-commerce goals.
What is the value of a more B2C-type relationship for JanSan providers?
The gap between B2B and B2C experiences is closing at a rapid pace. Customers expect fast, intuitive and personalized experiences, regardless of the item they’re purchasing. The JanSan providers who offer these experiences will be able to cultivate more personal relationships with their customers, boosting loyalty and, ultimately, sales. With the global B2B e-commerce market expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020, JanSan providers can capitalize on future growth by ensuring their e-commerce strategy is at pace with competition and meets the demands of today’s consumers.
How can JanSan businesses identify growth opportunities amidst such change?
The JanSan industry has been ripe for digital disruption for a while now, and it’s the perfect time to make the transition. JanSan business can take evolving buyer demands as a prime opportunity to update their e-commerce strategies and invest in the right tools to not only be successful today, but innovative tomorrow.
Navigating this transition can be tricky, but they don’t have to do it alone. JanSan businesses should also look for a partner that offers the expertise to help them better engage with their customers, has a breadth of services to manage their various needs and will help build their business to remain competitive in the changing market.
Michael Hauck is the vice-president of marketing and digital at Essendant, a national wholesale distributor of office, technology, janitorial, sanitation, breakroom and industrial products.