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How Manufacturers Cash in on Long-Tail B2B Customers With Self-Service Commerce

Let your sales team cater to the big fish while your eCommerce site reels in the rest

February 01st, 2022 / Tags: , ,

A robust B2B Commerce site brings a lot of advantages when it comes to operational efficiency, revenue, and an improved customer experience. It also frees up your sales team’s time to nurture and grow your largest, most profitable accounts. But it also provides a stellar opportunity to accelerate your long-tail transactions.

Leveraging your Commerce site to capture the long tail turns Pareto’s 80/20 rule on its head. Your online shopping platform and shipping to direct customers allow demand to be consolidated across your entire market, increasing both the length and size of the tail. Your customers can buy products that better meet their needs and find even more products to buy by searching your site.

The cost of servicing long-tail accounts with salespeople and human customer service agents isn’t economically feasible. There’s no scalability – you could not possibly use people in an effective way to grow long-tail customers. However, through the use of chatbots, self-service portals, and other digital tools, you can capture much more long-tail revenue economically.

Capturing long-tail customers without breaking the bank

As we pointed out, your manufacturing company can’t possibly capture long-tail business with its existing sales force and client services team. Beyond that, scaling is impossible – you couldn’t possibly hire enough people to service these accounts. However, there are ways to capture that transactional value.

You already probably have scalable processes for order, delivery, and invoicing. Add in self-service options with personalization where available, and you are ready to service this smaller revenue stream with automation instead of people power. These customers could even include your current clients who buy big-ticket items but need to be able to order spare parts or accessories quickly without having to sit on the phone with a salesperson.

Long-tail items are seeing increasing demand, and markets previously seen as niche are realizing large growth. But to service these customers without breaking the bank means your eCommerce platform has to offer plenty of self-service options.

6 essential elements to provide digital self-service

Almost all – 70% – of your customers want self-service tools on a Commerce site, but it is extremely important to keep long-tail customers from out of your expensive human assistance queues. To do this, you have to provide the Commerce tools they need and the personalized experience they want. Offer them:

1.  A knowledge base: This enables self-service support that can prevent calls to customer service and sales. Your knowledge base is a customer service library filled with resources such as tutorials, guides, whitepapers, and anything else that fits your unique business and gives customers a way to easily access information.

2.  A product catalog: You can start with something basic that shows your entire product line, but to be truly effective for the long-tail buyer, they will need personalized catalogs that are based on their specific requirements. You can use the data gleaned from your integrated B2B eCommerce site to make this happen.

3.  Community forums: These forums give customers a place to ask questions and help each other find answers. This has another business bonus as well: By observing what customers are talking about, their shared experiences, and their expectations, you can improve customer service while collecting information to accelerate and improve product development.

4.  Frequently asked questions (FAQ): Use your community forums to gather intelligence to populate your FAQ, and keep it regularly updated, so it truly adds value for your long-tail and other customers.

5.  Chatbots: Chatbots are essential to meeting customer expectations and facilitating self-service. In B2C Commerce, they are ubiquitous, and your B2B customers expect to see that little box at the bottom of their screen. On your Commerce site, automated chatbots provide the expected immediate service simply and easily, 24 hours a day, every day, without the aid of humans. Through the use of artificial intelligence technology, chatbots can learn to better recognize customer needs and provide a custom reply. Some can even provide answers to complex questions.

6.  Video: Videos can provide self-service support, but they are also useful for trust and relationship building. They also serve as a marketing tool. A survey found that 70% of B2B buyers are watching videos as part of their purchasing journey, a 52% jump in just two years. Your long-tail buyers want to see videos about product features and how-tos, along with professional product reviews.

Additional tools you can offer include an online form for sample ordering and a pricing calculator, which is helpful if it will work for your business.

There’s no self-service without integration

An essential part of a self-service portal for your B2B Commerce site is the right ERP and CRM systems, integrated for scalability, combined with the right Commerce platform. You can’t get the data you need in the front end unless you integrate it with the back end. The back end is where all of your complex business rules and pricing reside, and your Commerce platform needs that real-time information to power your self-service portal.

Most integration solutions use error-prone middleware and a process that takes many months. Look for a solution that offers pre-built components that can have you up and running with the data you need in days.

Choose a Commerce platform that drives revenue growth

Selecting a Commerce platform that can do what you need is essential to providing the desired, required, and expected B2B customer experience today. Custom sites can take almost two years to build, and many more than that to realize an ROI. You can also go to market with a bare-bones site that lacks the features you really need to scale and grow.

Look for a templated approach that offers best-in-class B2B Commerce from a vendor that understands your business and can get you up and running in a few months with the features you need, and for much, much less than a custom build.

Capturing the elusive long-tail customer is easier than you think with today’s modern integration and Commerce solutions.

Commerce for the long-tail and the long haul

Long-tail or long-standing customer, your success is dependent on the customer experience.

You can’t give them the experience they want and expect without integrating your ERP business logic, which contains your custom pricing, configurations, and other essential information, into your front end. If you happen to run SAP ERP, the enosix solution can do this within days to provide the critical data you need to provide the experience your customers want.

It’s all about speed to value, and Shift7 Rocket Commerce can have your B2B Commerce site up and running in just three months.



TL;DR – Key Takeaways:

–  Take advantage of the technology inside your B2B Commerce platform to engage and convert long-tail buyers
–  The same self-service options that all buyers want are essential for bringing in long-tail customers economically at scale
–  It’s impossible to capture all of these long-tail customers with a human sales team — there simply aren’t enough salespeople to go around, which makes it an unscalable proposition
–  Self-service options that can bring in this business at a low cost include chatbots, a knowledge base, videos, personalized product catalogs, and a robust FAQ that keeps evolving
–  None of this is possible, however, without integration of your front- and back-end systems and data and a robust Commerce platform

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