Research Indicates Your Buyers are Using More Channels Than Ever. Here’s How to Meet Them.
Terms like multichannel and omnichannel may sound like boardroom buzzwords, but they carry some serious meaning for sellers in the B2B wholesale industry.
Just ask the experts at McKinsey, who put it all on the line in their most recent analysis of the B2B industry:
Given the choice of traditional (for example, in-person), remote (for example, video conference or phone) and self-service (for example, e-commerce) interactions, buyers globally have shown they want them all—and in equal measure throughout the purchasing journey.1
Believe us when we say every word above applies to B2B wholesalers. In a world where professionals can order pizza without so much as leaving the comfort of their favorite Slack channel2 (an extreme example of the endless buying channels available to us, as Retail Dive notes), it is fair to say B2C businesses have vastly expanded the number of channels consumers like us can shop in. Some would even say they’ve spoiled us, at least as far as the number of buying options available to us goes. And as McKinsey’s numbers show, this can create expectations that buyers carry over to their B2B wholesale transactions.
The Number of Channels B2B Buyers Use Has Doubled (McKinsey)
You read it right—doubled. That’s the word from McKinsey’s report, linked above, and you probably won’t be surprised to hear most every channel they’ve come to use is digital or digitally enhanced. From video conferences and web chats to increasingly popular options such as mobile apps and B2B wholesale websites, buyers are more open and likely to engage in cross-channel, digital wholesale transactions than ever before.
Likewise, it isn’t surprising to see many of the “must-have” features they list—defined by McKinsey as “experiences required” to retain buyer loyalty, and to keep the same buyers from churning—come more-less directly from the B2C sphere:
- 74 percent of respondents said product availability must be shown online, per McKinsey’s study.
- 72 percent expect a “consistent experience across channels,” according to McKinsey.
- 64 percent of McKinsey respondents, meanwhile, said being able to “view products in person if needed” was a selling point that would gain loyalty.
All those numbers are great news for enterprising B2B wholesalers. They show that selling in multiple physical and digital spaces—as opposed to putting all your eggs in just online or offline selling—is just smart business for sellers in our industry.
Evolving Your Approach for an Evolving Buyer
While thorough, McKinsey’s data is far from the only expert commentary singing the praises of an omnichannel experience in B2B wholesale.
Take HubSpot’s finding that the average wholesale buyer spends just 17 percent of their time “working directly with salespeople”3 during their buying journey. As the researchers themselves say, that reflects a vanishingly small amount of time to make a connection and push the right talking points.
Meanwhile, they’re researching purchases online—getting information they’d formerly have to request from sales staff—on their own. And that calls back to McKinsey’s findings about the omnichannel expectations buyers carry.
- “93 percent of surveyed customers engaged in digital learning in both the early and middle stages of a typical B2B purchase,” per HubSpot; and
- 83 percent of customers continued engaging in digital learning into the late stages of the purchase journey, according to the same HubSpot insight.
Cross-channel Consistency and Why it Matters (A Lot!)
Putting all these points together, conquering digital channels is an important step—but still ultimately a step towards a larger goal, which is to create a consistent buying experience between all your selling channels.
And at high level, achieving that goal means giving buyers the exact same sort of experience everywhere they transact with you. By bringing the best elements of your road or showroom sales experience online (and vice-versa—think digital order writing tools such as RepZio by Juniper), you push a cohesive sales front that is far more appealing to modern buyers. For example, with RepZio by Juniper, you can lead buyers along a digital journey similar to one they’d experience online, but with the in-person support of your sales reps—a win-win that naturally leads to great sales conversations and higher-quality conversions.
You can view your efforts from two perspectives:
- Cross-channel marketing: As marketing and design firm Eisenberg notes on their blog, a consistent marketing approach is one that makes buyers feel fully connected to your brand, however they shop.4 And getting here doesn’t need to be difficult. As an example, simply having a JuniperWeb B2B wholesale website and JuniperMarket brand page with your unique branding and products can be a huge boost for cross-channel marketing efficiency.
- Cross-channel selling: Otherwise known as multichannel or omnichannel selling—the very thing you came here to learn about! Providing a consistent buying experience can mean a lot of things, but it mostly comes down to letting buyers have the same experience everywhere: letting them see the same relationship-dependent pricing on your wholesale website that a sales rep would offer them in the showroom, for instance. Moreover, being able to carry carts between web-based sales environments, the showroom, and sales rep-led sales is another request we hear from buyers.
How Can Your Brand Provide a More Consistent Cross-Channel Experience?
Three words: connect your approach. Going omnichannel means making sure the big aspects of your experience and all the finer points come through, wherever your buyers ultimately choose to shop.
As the people helping B2B wholesalers sell fluently in their current and future channels, we’ve picked up a number of best practices related to omnichannel consistency. Here are some of our favorites.
Say Goodbye to Paper Invoices
Digital order-writing is a great thing to have. Digital order-writing that connects to your inventory and allows wholesale-first features like offline order placement and badge scanning is even better. And because of that, connecting your buying experience by eliminating paper invoices should be a top point of order. Similarly, your company should also consider replacing legacy order-writing tools—particularly those that operate in a silo and don’t share or pull data from enough of your systems—as a primary point of improvement.
Create a Cross-channel Funnel
Calling back to HubSpot’s research, what do you do when a near-plural number of buyers conduct online research at every stage of the buying journey? Implement tools that encourage them to buy at every stop as well.
In our case, customers report a lot of success with this simple funnel:
- Generate new buyers (with the help of our multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns) via a brand page on JuniperMarket, our 24/7 B2B wholesale-only marketplace. Here, the fact that we only let thoroughly vetted buyers in means an exceptional signal-to-noise rational for your business.
- Move them along to your dedicated B2B wholesale website—provided via JuniperWeb—for subsequent purchases. Your website allows you to show different prices (and even entire pages) to different customers based on their category, creating an online buying experience that closely mirrors what buyers would get on the road or in the showroom.
- Encourage relevant buyers to visit your showrooms and other selling spaces. Because your sales reps have tools that make on-prem purchasing as smooth and functional as an online transaction—including the ability to see entire buyer purchase history and trends at a glance—you can strongly enhance your omnichannel approach with minimal effort.
Cross-promote Your Digital and Showroom/Road Sales
Something as simple as a wall banner encouraging in-person buyers to shop your brand online can leave an impression that sticks the next time they go to make an online purchase. The goals are to have the option freely available for those who would use it, and to encourage exclusively in-person buyers to utilize the comfort and convenience of your online experience to enhance your existing relationships.
Pay Attention to Points of Friction
You might call it friction, buyer pain, or simply an unpleasant experience. Whatever your term, your business should strive to make every stop of your experience—wherever the buyer transacts with you—as smooth, painless, and easy as it possibly can.
Let’s use a hypothetical example. A buyer familiar with your brand is idly browsing your products online when a product catches their eye. They add it and several other items to their cart for reference and call their dedicated sales rep for help answering a few questions before finalizing—only to have to repeat the entire order, because the rep’s ordering system is different from the one powering the company’s website.
In situations like these and numerous others, a little consistency can go a long way. If the same customer calls in and sees that their cart and order history carry over—with no need to repeat themselves or look things up all over again—they have that much more encouragement to buy from your company, because your cross-channel approach is that much stronger. And because your system actively built points of comfort and consideration into the buying process.
By finding and eliminating points like this you give your buyer the exact sort of experience they expect. Returning to McKinsey’s helpful findings, it can also go a long way towards enacting the sort of “experiences required to create buyer loyalty” and keep them hanging around, purchase after purchase. Remember: the difference between a memorably helpful experience and a memorably bad one is often the ease with which buyers can initiate and carry out core transactions.
Relatedly, your onboarding and support teams can go a long way towards smoothing pain points, provided you equip them with the tools they need to excel in their roles. In our case, we make it a point to back every product we offer with expert guidance at the onset, and make sure our world-class support team is as fluent in B2B wholesale as the clients they serve—they know what to do and have the tools to make sure we can always resolve your questions.
Come to a Wholesale Expert for Guidance
Our solutions are expressly designed to help B2B wholesalers conquer new digital channels and expand more confidently into existing ones. Now that we’ve helped illustrate the importance of a cohesive omnichannel approach, click the button below to schedule a demo and see what the platform can do for you.
1 The new B2B growth equation | McKinsey
2 Domino’s strong mobile sales prove millennials’ dependency on digital ordering | Retail Dive (Alex Samuely)
3 6 Critical Lessons on Multichannel Sales | HubSpot (Brent Adamson)
4 Three Reasons Your Brand Needs Cross-Channel Consistency | Sparks By Eisenberg