The importance of digital sales is growing for companies in any industry, yet there is no one-size-fits-all approach to selling online. Whether B2C or B2B, companies need to consider the buyer experience at every stage of the journey.
In 2020, the volume of online B2B sales will be twice that of digital retail sales. (Globenewswire.com)
Digital commerce’s share of global B2C sales is projected to grow at an increasing rate in the coming years. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the volume of digital B2B sales transactions is typically considered to be much higher than that of B2C.
It is not news that digital sales are growing. But what may still surprise sales & marketing leaders are the countless variations and combinations of different areas of digital sales, and the ways in which they can support traditional sales. The impact and opportunity of digital sales on different industries is not always known.
Different industries have different approaches and business cases for digital sales
In B2C goods industries, such as retail, digital sales is already very mature. For B2C sales & marketing practitioners, it is now all about keeping up with the pace of growth and improvement in digital sales while also staying on top of emerging omnichannel opportunities.
Meanwhile, digital sales practises are only now starting to evolve in the services business and for B2B transactions. In these areas, there is a lot of potential for forerunners to capture market share.
It is important to understand that growth in transactions is not the only motivation for sales going digital. Here are five examples of indirect drivers too:
- More efficient sales can be achieved by optimising the process of lead generation, AI-based lead rating, and contract/offer automation.
- Cost savings through directing purchasing to digital channels, as this reduces the number of salesperson hours per revenue euro. In industries where revenue is directly dependent on the number of salespeople, this can translate into incremental growth.
- Customer experience, efficiency, flexibility and loyalty can be increased (as can conversion rates and re-selling opportunities) by enabling customers to go through the buying journey in their own preferred way — both digitally and physically.
- More data can be retrieved, as almost everything digital can be measured. This in turn enables a greater capability and higher speed for optimising and leading sales activities.
- Rapid expansion to new markets by utilising existing digital sales capabilities. While some localisation efforts are usually required, they are less investment heavy than opening a new sales office or store.
More than just a webshop
There are numerous channels for traditional sales: brick-n-mortar, wholesale, sales reps, sales meetings, cold calling, contract negotiations, and more. The same goes for digital sales, where conversions may happen through various interfaces, including webshops, online portals, online forms, emails and mobile apps. Digital solutions can also catalyse traditional sales at various points in the sales process.
With digital sales, it’s not enough that an IT department just sets up an online service — it’s also important for companies to pay attention to customers through their entire purchase experience.
The right kind of customers should be identified, categorised, actively acquired, and encouraged to purchase, re-purchase, subscribe and become loyal promoters of the service. In this process, all contact points should be as personalised and targeted as possible, and for the customer the line between digital and physical should be seamless.
Fortunately, there is an endless choice of means and tools to achieve this.
Making a purchase is a psychologically complex process. And in traditional sales, being able to close deals is often seen as more of a gift than as something that can be attributed to a specific process. In a sense, the same applies to closing deals online. But a lot of fine tuning is required in order to optimise all the digital touchpoints to fit the customer’s psychological process.
It’s all about the customer experience
Acquiring new customers and driving them to the conversion point
In B2B, digital customer acquisition can mean semi-automated direct emails and contacting prospects through LinkedIn, for example. By forming a long list of potential customers (or of existing ones who may purchase new product categories), acquiring their contact details, and sending automated messages, a single digital salesperson can contact and initiate a personal dialogue with thousands of people or companies within a few days or weeks.
In both B2B and B2C, digital tools enable a very targeted and measurable multichannel customer acquisition approach for specific micro-segments. From an endless number of potential touchpoints, it’s crucial to identify exactly those where customers can be impacted. Optimising return on marketing investment is key.
Keeping those who consider in the loop
A general rule is to use retargeting ads for gaining the traction of lower-value products, and targeted content marketing for high-investment products and services where being the thought leader is the key. It is crucial to identify customers’ digital behaviour in physical touchpoints, especially when talking about face-to-face customer interactions. After identification and first contact, digital solutions can provide rich opportunities for lead scoring and customer profiling to define the optimal next action.
Converting customers in the most natural touchpoints
The touchpoints of digital sales can be so much more than a traditional webshop. Here are a couple of examples:
- The starting point is digital content that directs a buyer into an easily approachable form or configurator. There they fill in information about their need for a complex service. This request is sent by email to a salesperson, but before that an AI solution compares the request to a database of contracts and formulates a draft contract, which is sent to the salesperson. The salesperson reviews the contract, modifies it and sends it to the customer.
- The previous week a customer has received an offer from another store, after which she has been looking at other services online. Now she walks into a store where the sales person goes through the offer on a tablet. The salesperson can also see her earlier purchase pattern and buyer profile. Based on that information, the salesperson is able to do additional selling and adjusting the price to maximise the total customer lifetime value (for more on customer lifetime value, read X on pages X to X).
- In some businesses, the key transaction points are digital service portals where customers make rapid continuous orders based on their own contract and pricing terms, for example. In such cases, it is typically a whole different sales effort, and a question of service optimisation to change customers’ habits from phone-based ordering to online ordering. When successful, this can lead to a great increase in efficiency, additional selling opportunities, data orientation, and a better customer experience.
Onboarding new customers
Introducing customers incrementally and in a timely manner to a new service is critical for customer retention and future revenue. This is especially so with more complex services, subscription-based services, or something that requires a change in customers’ habits. In these cases, being able to optimise customer messaging and contacting based on data can significantly increase the total lifetime value of a customer.
Preventing churn by re-selling to current customers
Cost of sales for existing customers is much lower compared to the costs of acquiring new customers. In addition, customers who purchase items from several product categories are typically much more profitable than customers who buy products from one category only.
Digital purchasing leaves a much higher trail of data from a customer. This provides significantly richer opportunities for accurately timed, targeted, and personalised promoting and contact aimed at selling more and directing customers to a more profitable level. The same applies to churn prevention. Data enables companies to identify when they are about to lose a customer, so they can trigger preventive actions.
In the B2B context, account-based marketing is constantly becoming more efficient. AI is inevitably becoming a powerful tool for enhancing the impact of customer retention and churn prevention.
Finally, those customers who are happy with your product and service should be actively transformed into active advocates of the brand. Customer reviews, online forum comments, sharing and recommendations can all have a great impact on growth, while digital tools can be used to make advocacy as easy and inviting as possible.
Winning the digital sales game
The key to winning the digital sales transformation game is to have a clear vision about which areas of sales should be digitised, and where the key opportunities lie. Thereafter, it’s all about continuous optimisation through seamless collaboration between sales, marketing, software development and design.
Due to its complex and cross-functional nature, it has been challenging to form a holistic understanding of digital sales. Different segments look at it from their own perspectives, and different industries are bound to their traditional approaches. However, as digital is becoming a key component of a company’s revenue funnel, it makes sense for companies to take more active ownership of their whole digital sales process.
Originally published at https://www.columbiaroad.com.