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BizReport : Advertising archives : November 11, 2019

Expert: Personalization key to engaging shoppers

Real-time personalization remains a problem for many merchants and brands, despite studies showing the benefits of true personalization. The problem isn't just getting personalization right, though, it is which tools to use, how personalization will impact site speeds, and what touchpoint are most important for personalization. We asked a digital expert how merchants can improve their personalization.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: Over the past year, we've heard often that the B2B commerce customer experience needs to evolve, what does this mean?

Kris Goldhair, Strategic Account Director, KBMax: Overall, B2B for ecommerce is in its infancy for many manufacturing companies. You go to a B2B commerce website and it looks like you are paging through a paper catalog. It looks old and dated, and there aren't a lot of visuals. It doesn't feel like the modern experience that buyers desire, such as shopping on Amazon. 

In general, sellers want to make those B2B buying experiences and customer journeys feel more B2C. Customers want the ability to do research, shop around, and view images of a product all in one place online. Shoppers can really explore and get to know the product well without having to go through a typical B2B sales process. That's happening somewhat on a macro-level, but there are still miles to go for most B2B businesses.

Kristina: What is 4IR technology and how can it help B2B sellers?

Kris: 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) technology is an umbrella-term for all of the interconnected next-gen tools that are currently changing the way we live, as well as how businesses work and operate. These innovations can help B2B sellers by reducing internal silos, simplifying sales & manufacturing processes, and increasing differentiation from competitors.
4IR technologies enable businesses to offer greater personalization and connected buying experiences -- and, by delivering an exceptional experience, B2B sellers can increase customer loyalty.

If they don't evolve and transform digitally, B2B sellers are going to go out of business -- not because their teams don't know about AI, IoT and other Industry 4.0 buzzwords, but because they haven't discovered the right technologies to improve the customer journey and streamline internal processes.

Kristina: Which elements of 4IR are most important, right now, for B2B sellers?

Kris: User experience is extremely important and that should be the focus for improvement. The customer journey needs to be modernized and response times need to be shortened, especially when it comes to price quoting and information sharing. With 4IR technology, manufacturing times are also significantly reduced so products get to the buyers faster. Next-gen tools can tighten up processes and make them more efficient, which leads to an increase in customer satisfaction and business growth.

Kristina: When it comes to complex customized products, what are B2B sellers doing right? What are they getting wrong?

Kris: B2B sellers are starting to dip their toe into the water with ecommerce. They should understand that modern platforms like KBMax make it easy to add or tweak their product offerings inside the tool. Old-school technology and thinking meant that companies need to have the kitchen sink in a commerce tool. Because of this, it would take forever to release a tool and additions and updates were not agile. Platforms like KBMax make it easier to release gradually and be more agile.

Now, we can take an individual product line or business unit, put it into CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) software, test it out and prove what we are doing. 

On the other side, some B2B sellers want to make colossal changes for global companies without testing on a smaller scale first. It's going to take them 2-3 years to get something out the door. Those companies can struggle because, by the time they release a tool it might be outdated or too complicated. They aren't thinking in agile terms. It's ok to not have every product option in a CPQ tool when you start because if you have a certain number of options, then people will buy those options. Some manufacturers try too hard and want to have every option possible inside the tool. You want people to buy things that are easy to sell or manufacture and have high profitability. Because of that, it's better to add things over time; you don't need everything all at once.

Kristina: Where should B2B sellers focus their energy to improve the e-commerce experience in the complex customized products market? How can these companies begin improving their online presence and customer experience quickly?

Kris: They need to be focusing on the customer journey and customer experience. If you're a B2B company and someone goes to your website and is interested in your product, how can you get them from that initial look into your sales funnel -- and then on to actually buy something? Manufacturing companies go light on that kind of marketing customer approach. They think their products are good enough so people are just going to buy them, but it's a different world out there. A potential customer can go to a website, discover that it is hard to use and go somewhere else; that's critical to avoid. 

B2B products are typically expensive. People don't want to pay for an item without knowing a lot about it or knowing what it looks like and experiencing it. B2B sellers have to understand that customer experience is critical and ensure that their online storefront is perceived well.

Tags: advertising, advertising data, consumer data, ecommerce, ecommerce data, KBMax, targeted advertising

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