COVID-19 & The Impact On Online B2B Trading & Customer Engagement

By Paul Doherty B2B Ecommerce No Comments on COVID-19 & The Impact On Online B2B Trading & Customer Engagement

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At the time of writing this, it’s been 457 days. That’s how long it’s been since the UK was plunged into restrictions that have had a profound effect on almost every aspect of our lives. But it’s not just our everyday lifestyles that have undergone dramatic changes.

As you’ve most likely experienced, the way that businesses work has had to alter significantly. Many who hadn’t delved into going digital prior to the pandemic had to adapt in order to continue serving their customers. This wasn’t just for specific sectors either – almost every industry needed to evolve. B2B trading was no exception.

How B2B has changed for a digitally focused future

It’s no secret that as a collective global population, we’ve become incredibly reliant on digital services. Almost everything we do now involves some degree of digital engagement, both as consumers and businesses. We shop, we sell, we subscribe, we read, we learn, we communicate – and we do it all electronically. This isn’t a new thing either. The world as a whole had already transformed towards a digital focus long before COVID-19. However, the rate at which our digital dependencies have accelerated over the past year (and a bit) has been astounding.

B2B in particular has undergone an immense shift. Maintaining relationships and taking care of customers has remained a high priority for every B2B organisation in existence, but the way that this was carried out was developed into a digital-first process extremely quickly. This wasn’t purely to ensure that they could operate effectively either – businesses had to adapt to keep up with the drastic changes in customer habits, particularly with regards to the large-scale adoption of digital-first commerce in almost every industry in existence.

Despite the rapid requirement to move towards less traditional sales and service methods, be it through remote video conferences and phone calls or online storefronts, the B2B sector has adapted well. Many B2B organisations have explicitly stated that the new way of managing their business operations is equally (and in some cases more) effective in comparison to previous sales models prior to the pandemic.

How can B2B organisations improve their digital operations and future-proof their business?

Making the move to digital and online operations is the first major milestone in meeting the present-day needs of customers and clients. But, when it comes to maximising your efforts to empower your operations and to create meaningful, engaging relationships with your customers and clients, there’s a powerful way to go about it…

Maximising your potential with integrated portals

A single online storefront is a simple and effective way to continue B2B trading following the COVID-19 pandemic. You’re able to continue serving your customers efficiently whether lockdown restrictions are in place or not. However, as a B2B organisation, this approach may not be able to deliver the same capabilities based on how your business operates.

Depending on your sales model, you might have different pricing for different accounts, maybe separate stocklists, and you want to be able to serve your customer accounts efficiently and effectively without having to compromise or solve issues from having an improper platform to do so. This is where a B2B trading portal comes in. With a portal, you can deliver the high quality of service that your customers have come to expect (and easily exceed those expectations) without having to resort to the traditional time-consuming sales process that you may have had to rely on in the past.

Essentially, a portal enables you to take the old process and adapt it entirely through intelligent self-service features that not only free up your own time, but also help to enhance customer satisfaction and strengthen business relationships. Let’s take a look at how a B2B trading portal could benefit your business:

Intuitive and convenient for both you and your customers

Customers in every industry, be it at a consumer or business level, require a positive experience when interacting with an organisation. This has always been a priority for any business, and an expectation from customers. It’s no different in the digital world.

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With a trading portal, B2B operations can be accessed and carried out smoothly from both sides. Particularly when it comes to bespoke portal solutions, they’re tailored to a business’ specific needs, meaning everything that needs to be done can be accessed quickly and easily from one place. This fully integrated nature can provide an efficient workflow for everyone involved within the organisation, eliminating human error (especially in the case of working within documents and carrying out repetitive tasks), and reduces the time spent doing previously arduous activities. That time can now be spent in more important areas to grow your business and to focus on nurturing customer relationships.

An automated 24/7 sales service without limitations

This ties in with the last point. Your sales process will be available to your customers and clients at all times, because portals provide a self-serving platform that customers can access whenever they need to without having to wait for some form of contact to confirm/complete orders. Instead, the process and accessibility is instant, and isn’t affected by time zones which is ideal for international operations. Plus, if there are ever any issues or changes that need to be made to an order, they can normally be corrected with just a few clicks.

Real-time analysis and insights to maximise your sales, services, and personalised marketing

Part of growing and succeeding is knowing how certain aspects of your business are performing. Portals give you access to a huge amount of data and insights that can have a dramatic influence on your operations. This is crucial for having effective marketing that’s delivered to the right people at the right time.

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Your communications can be personalised to specific accounts and customers, as well as narrowing down your customer segmentation for more targeted campaigns overall. You can also generate in-depth reports at consistent intervals in order to inform your team about key areas. You could choose to receive the reports automatically via email, or simply view them on your portal dashboard. The best part about it is that it can all be tailored to you and your business.

Integration with the rest of your business systems

You want your business working like a well-oiled machine. Well, complete integration of your business systems is the perfect solution for that, and a portal is a central hub for your integrated systems. With everything integrated, both you and your customers can access and make use of key operational features seamlessly. For example, stock levels and pricing may be handled separately prior to making use of a portal, but these two systems (as well as many others) can all be married together with ease to streamline every aspect of your business operations. You gain a significant improvement in data and information flow – it’s the perfect way to provide complete end-to-end interaction for your customers and staff members that dramatically enhances customer engagement (particularly in a post-COVID world).

A portal is a lot more straightforward to setup and launch than you might think

Here at PureNet, we specialise in creating powerful bespoke integrated portals for our clients. We work closely with businesses to build solutions that meet their every need, ensuring that they can provide improved experiences for their customers and members of the business.

If you’re interested in seeing just how beneficial a B2B trading portal could be for your business, get in touch with us today.

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