Most people don’t want to think about the negative consequences of business success. Instead, they focus on the positive and how we can make it more profitable. We rarely dwell on the negatives like floods or fires. Maybe we should, at least a bit.
A business continuity program is one the greatest risks your company can face. research shows that 20% of businesses are subject to a disaster within a given year and that 80 percent will fail within a year. These events can cause disruptions that could keep your call center representatives and salespeople, who are often the lifeline of your customers, out of work. You can also be affected by less severe circumstances like strikes, holidays or an emergency in another business unit.
An eCommerce website is a must-have for your business continuity plan. This website can be used to help customers search products, purchase, receive support and locate account information at any hour of the day or night. It might even be able to help you beat out competitors who are less prepared.
This blog post discusses four ways digital commerce can support business continuity in uncertain and difficult times.
Self-service account management
A few key accounts could represent 30-50 percent of your revenues and margin if you sell mostly to business. Failure to service these accounts can lead to serious consequences. It’s no surprise that disruptions in account management can have serious consequences for your business. Self-service account management is an important addition to the strong interpersonal relationships that are essential to customer success.
* View your order status*A complete view of all company expenditures – across all buyers and departments
*Monitor their credit balance
*Download and access invoices
*Manage your returns
*Pay your bills
*Take control of warranties
*Provide updates to company buyers about what they can do on this site
A great self-service portal can improve customer experience throughout the year, not just in times of crisis. Customers who are comfortable doing multiple tasks themselves will make it easier for service teams to deal with serious issues, and sales teams to focus on account strategy.
Offer product configuration and research on demand
A growing number business buyers prefer to search for products online. According to Forrester, 60% of business buyers say they prefer not to rely on sales representatives as their primary source of information. 83 percent also access digital channels, even at the end of their purchasing process. It is crucial to ensure customers have access to your products online in order for both business continuity as well as growth.
Your customers can access a variety of product information on your eCommerce website, even if you are not there. Your customers should be able find and navigate the website quickly.
*Detailled product descriptions
*Multiple product images
*Diagrams and CAD drawings
*Instructions for use
Product research is only the beginning. Your customers can even do more online with product configuration. You can help your customers with step-by-step configurations or automate tasks that are normally done by sales. This process should be as painless and quick as possible.
Customers can complete the online configuration and a sales representative may be able close out final details and confirm the order via email or phone call. Your customers and sales teams both save time, no matter if they are in a crisis or otherwise busy.
Customers should be able to order and place orders online.
Forrester Research predicts that digital commerce will reach $1.8 trillion by 2023. This figure will account for about 17 percent of all B2B transactions and is expected to rise as more digital natives become buyers. Already 73 per cent of 20-to-35-year-olds assist in deciding what products to purchase at their businesses.
Experts agree that customers should be able to shop online easily for their future growth and business continuity. Your eCommerce website should allow customers to buy online with minimal or no assistance from sales. You should look out for the following features:
* Fast orderingCustomers should have the ability to upload SKUs and reorder items from past orders. Many businesses allow customers to set up subscriptions or recurring orders.
*Get custom quotesCustomers should be able request custom quotes for more complicated products from within your commerce system. These request for quotes should be immediately routed to the sales team, regardless of where they are located. Sales reps will then be able to log in and view the quote requests, negotiate directly with customers, as well as finalize deals without having to travel.
* Flexible fulfillmentCustomers should have the ability to select from many fulfillment options in order to get what they want, even during disruptions. You could, for example, ship products from your fulfillment center, distribution center, or local retail location, or offer curbside fulfillment (BOPIS) with curbside fulfillment.
* Amazon marketplacesIt is important to purchase through difficult timesAmazon frequently surges. This is what we’ve seen with the current pandemic. This allows you to manage your sales easily.A powerful channelThis allows you to meet customers at their location and generate incremental revenue.
Even in a crisis, you can use data to manage customer relationships and supply chains.
Unpredictable effects and sudden changes can occur in the aftermath of disasters or upheavals. Using data from your online shop is one of the best ways for business continuity in times of rapid change. You can get real-time insight into your customers’ health and business performance with powerful business intelligence tools and commerce data.
You can, for example, look out for large drops in spending to help identify customers who are in financial distress and may need more flexibility with their credit or payment terms. Helping customers in crisis can help build a stronger long-term relationship. It’s also a good investment for your bottom line, as it is less expensive to retain an existing customer rather than to sell to one.
You can also use business intelligence reports to analyze your digital commerce data to understand how product demand changes during unusual times. It is possible that your most popular products are not being seen as much, and others become very popular. This information will allow you to quickly identify the best products and build them accordingly. This information will help you to advise your customers about market trends.
Although it is not something that anyone likes to think about, it is better to be prepared. Your business continuity plan should include ensuring you are able to provide a high-quality online commerce experience.
Congratulations if you have an excellent B2B eCommerce website. You are already ahead of the curve. You might still want to consider complementary technologies such as marketing or engagement automation, which can nurture customers even if sales and marketing staff are exhausted.