There's an old saying in business that “a happy customer tells a friend, but an unhappy customer tells the world”.
An exceptional customer experience should be a top priority for every business. If you can achieve that, then customer loyalty, word of mouth, and increased sales will naturally follow. But screw it up, and watch your customers flock to your competitors as your revenue flatlines.
Cost per acquisition is another reason customer experience (CX) is so critical. Customer retention is generally more cost-efficient than new customer acquisition, so it makes sense to think about and invest in your retention strategies. And when it comes to retention, CX is key.
What does CX mean for B2B ecommerce?
In broad terms, CX is the sum total of all the interactions a customer has with your business and your brand. In the context of ecommerce, the focus shifts more to your online platform.
More than just the process of adding products to a cart and checking out, CX includes your online personalisation efforts, your order fulfilment, and your value-add approach. For example:
- Personalisation – offer your customer product and content recommendations based on their account, role, location, or prior purchases.
- Helpful, educational content – become an expert resource for someone doing research or a buyer who's new to procurement in that category. Leverage your industry knowledge to deliver content of value, enhancing your customer’s experience.
- 24/7 support – let customers reprint invoices, pay accounts, track orders, and initiate returns. Make it easy to contact customer service when needed. Ensure errors are rectified quickly.
Your CX strategy - Where to begin?
Of course, the overarching goal is to provide every customer with a great experience when dealing with your brand. But in terms of CX strategy, it pays to know who your BEST customers are, and go above and beyond for them in particular. In B2B, you might have 20% of your customer base responsible for 80% of your revenue. These 20% are the customers you really need to delight.
One example of this CX alignment strategy can be found at US clothing retailer GAP, who last year designed a fulfilment system to prioritise their best (i.e. most valuable) customers. Their system ensures GAP’s loyal ‘lifetime’ customers will enjoy gold class service and much faster delivery speeds than their silver and bronze counterparts. The business gets to offer their best customers special treatment, without sending overall cost-to-serve skyrocketing. While they operate in the B2C retail world, this alignment premise is just as applicable to B2B ecommerce.
Not all customers are created equal
As Arkade co-founder & director Danny Phillips explains, “CX... is the discipline of bringing back good old-fashioned customer service”. But it’s important to reiterate here that you don’t necessarily have to treat every customer the same. Instead, ecommerce can be used to go that extra mile for your VIPs.
In an episode of The eCommerce Experience podcast, Danny illustrates how this might be achieved in an online returns scenario:
“…ecommerce teams start seeing Dennis just bought three shirts of the same style in different sizes. He will be returning something, obviously. So, let's make sure we put a return bag in there, rather than make him request it and then go through the process.
We’ll give that to Danny because his annual spend with us is over $1500, whereas we're not going to give it to Andrew - even though he spent the same amount as Danny did today - because we've never seen him before. So, maybe we don't give that experience to him just yet.
So, aligning your best experiences to your best customers, because often brands will say, ‘Well, I can't afford to give a return bag to every customer.’ And we're saying, ‘You don't have to give it to every customer.’ Give everything you've got to your best customers. Don't let them down.”
Wrapping it up for B2B
Whether focusing on your VIP customers or looking to improve CX across the board, there are myriad ways to leverage your B2B ecommerce platform in the pursuit of excellence.
Just as in retail and B2C, personalising the B2B ecommerce experience can go a long way toward making your customer feel recognised and valued. For example, after logging into your website, a large government or mining customer sees their organisation’s logo featured alongside yours. Their contract items are featured prominently in the product feed, and a customised re-order template is ready to go with all their favorite products. By using your platform to provide a personalised portal, you've made your customer feel at home, and made their job easier to boot.
No matter how you choose to approach CX, it pays to remember that your B2B ecommerce platform is a powerful channel, an extension of your people, and ultimately an ambassador for your brand.
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