B2B sellers have become better at putting the customer at the heart of business in recent years. With a newfound focus on customer experience, manufacturers and service providers have pursued their customers online, especially over the past two years as the global pandemic disrupted business-as-usual.

Author Radiana Pit | Copperberg

Photo: Freepik

In the new norm, digital transformation enabled manufacturers to serve their customers remotely and ensure business continuity in times of crisis. It also created new opportunities for them to engage with their customers in the digital space as more and more B2B customers opted for self-service options and became more willing to place large orders online since 2020. 

This resulted in the increased adoption of digital marketplaces, which offer a quick, user-friendly, and secure way for customers to compare prices, research product information, and buy multiple products. The growing need for e-commerce platforms and self-service portals compelled manufacturers to invest in such solutions in the past two years more than ever before. 

And according to our latest research, manufacturers continue to prioritize investments in e-commerce solutions for the coming year as well. However, as manufacturers are swept up by the hybrid paradigm shift, constant supply chain disruptions and inflation concerns are turning their focus away from delivering an outstanding customer experience (CX).

Now more than ever, it is of utmost importance to not lose focus and ensure that consumer trust does not waver. And a customer-centric e-commerce strategy is the solution manufacturers need to maintain and even enhance their relationships with their customers.

What is customer-centric e-commerce?

A sustainable and profitable e-commerce strategy focuses on delivering excellent customer experiences on digital platforms. From providing superior customer service to personalized pricing and interactions at every touchpoint in the buyer’s journey, customer-centric e-commerce takes time and practice—so, the sooner you start the likelier you are to get ahead of the curve.

To create such a strategy, organizational alignment must be achieved first. Shifting the mindset and creating a customer-centric company culture will establish a solid foundation for the e-commerce strategy and its execution. Since e-commerce relies heavily upon customer data, different departments, from sales and marketing to product development, need to cooperate and communicate to derive useful insights from the data collected. 

Doing so can enable them to deepen their understanding of buyer behavior and develop a positively memorable customer experience that fosters loyalty and drives profit and expands the business. The direct impact of CX on business growth has become more apparent over the past two years and it will continue to affect the bottom line in the future. 

The importance of CX in e-commerce

The post-pandemic customer has digital-first expectations, and if their expectations are not met, they will churn—regardless of how long and loyal their relationships may have been in the past. The industry has already witnessed a significant amount of loyal customers churning the moment their experience was disrupted either by lack of support, lack of direction toward the next touchpoint, lack of product information, or other inconsistencies throughout their journey. 

To prevent a downturn in customer loyalty, manufacturers need to focus their e-commerce strategy on creating frictionless omnichannel experiences across all touchpoints. And although it may require some resources to achieve that, the cost of providing superior CX to existing customers is much lower than the cost of compromising longstanding relationships and struggling to form new ones. 

So, it is not surprising that 55% of organizations investing in CX are driven mainly by an intent to maximize the revenue streams from existing customers through value-added services—far surpassing the nearly 16% of organizations that are focusing their CX efforts on acquiring new clients. 

E-commerce provides a unique opportunity for manufacturers to expand their offerings and, with CX in mind, they can create digital services that augment their products through software platforms, connected sensors, digitally mature capabilities, online access, remote service, top-quality support, and more.

Additionally, 50.98% of manufacturers are currently focusing on improving customer retention and minimizing churn. They also understand that beyond delivering superior customer experiences online, failing to keep a promised delivery can undo all that they have achieved in terms of CX enhancement and e-commerce development. 

And so, the organizational alignment and cross-functional collaboration an e-commerce strategy demands go beyond developing memorable online shopping experiences or increasing sales and aims to build supply chain resilience and improve production planning.

Customer data for e-commerce success

Meeting customer expectations and keeping promises in a digital-first world means equipping the right people with the right tools and data. Without the proper tracking and use of data, customer-centricity is nothing more than guesswork, and e-commerce success is a gamble. 

While collecting data from website visitors or buyers is relatively easy nowadays, analyzing and deriving actionable insights from that data can be challenging. The multiple data sources and the apparent discrepancies between them make decision-making processes difficult. So, having the right software solutions that can provide a single source of truth for all departments within the organization can help streamline the execution of a customer-centric e-commerce strategy.

Accurate data also streamlines customer segmentation. It is important to be able to rely on correct information when breaking down the customer base into groups based on different criteria. Using this data-driven approach, manufacturers can scale their online business by creating personalized experiences and even offerings based on customer segments that share the same demographics, behavioral patterns, willingness to pay, and more.

Undoubtedly, being customer-centric today also means being data-driven. Data is the key to understanding customers better and even predicting how they may respond to price changes, new product launches, value-added services, and market trends.

The benefits of customer-centric e-commerce speak for themselves. But how can manufacturers put the customer at the heart of their e-commerce strategy and experience those benefits for themselves in times of change? 

All that and more will be explored at E-Connect 2023 with Copperberg and its distinguished guests. So, stay tuned to learn more about an educational and interactive event dedicated to helping manufacturers optimize their e-commerce strategies and become more customer-centric.

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