Launching a successful Digital Branch is not an easy task, it is an ongoing strategic initiative that not only takes financial investment, but a lot of collaboration across multiple layers of an organization.
Throughout the process of launching a Digital Branch, many companies get caught up in the overwhelming details, technicalities and resources and forget to ask the simplest questions. Perhaps the most important initial step in building a Digital Branch is to get to know the end-user: your customer.
As a starting point, we’ve come up with five simple but influential questions that provide a framework you can use to get to know your customers:
- What problem are you trying to solve for your customers?
- What core features and functionalities are needed to drive a seamless customer experience online?
- Who are your competitors?
- Why are your customers loyal to your brand/company?
- What content is important to your customers buying experience?
1. Solve A Customer Problem: What problem are you trying to solve for your customers?
Customers expect more – so know what they want. Customers want to come to your site for a purpose and its your responsibility make it easy for them to do their job. What are the core advantages of launching your Digital Branch? Ease of purchasing, 24/7 access to robust enriched catalog content and inventory availability may be the clear winners but do your homework with your customer before making assumptions. Understanding where you may fall short on customer needs and expectations is crucial.
A great starting point is sending your loyal customer base a survey to better understand Digital Branch business needs and prioritize the feedback accordingly. This voice of the customer feedback will become your framework to build your Digital Branch strategy.
2. Create A Positive Customer Experience: What core features and functionalities are needed to drive a seamless customer experience offline and online?
Buyers want comfort in their buying decisions. Determine what is important to your customers offline and make sure you deliver seamlessly online. Do your customers prefer to shop by searching for a manufacturer part number or browse by left hand navigation or maybe a little of both? A seamless customer experience makes buyers feel less risk, whether online or offline. Every customer has different expectations. Understanding their motivations and delivering on your promise is imperative for customer retention and loyalty.
Once you understand what is important to your customers’ organization personalize the relationship accordingly. Start by drawing customer insights through ‘Voice of the Customer’ surveys to better understand your customers’ experience and overall satisfaction. Your Sales team should also engage in these surveys. Quantify and measure results and take action! This customer data will provide deep insights and areas of improvement as well as celebrate successes in your organization.
3. Know Your Competitive Landscape: What are your competitors doing online?
Why do customers want to do business with you over a competitor? While its important to know your customer, it just as important to know your competitors. Evaluate your competitor’s site to ensure you have a competitive edge from a product, content, site feature and functionality standpoint. Assess their businesses by visiting their websites, evaluating the customer experience including customer service, and signing-up for their newsletter to understand marketing initiatives and how your competition is serving your market. For example, a mobile app that drives convenience and accessibility on the road is becoming more important in the B2B space. Know how you can retain and win new customers by knowing what customers want in a digital world.
4. Drive Customer Retention: Why are customers loyal to your company?
Make your customers feel special and don't serve up the same generic messaging. According to Bain and Co., "a 5 percent increase in customer retention can increase a company's profitability by 75 percent". To add to this important statistic, Gartner Group stated that "80 percent of your company's future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers and the cost to acquire a new customer is five times greater than to retain an existing one."
These statistics show first-hand why recognizing and segmenting your customers within your organization to better understand their lifetime value and loyalty with your business is imperative. Instead of discounting, look into a customer loyalty program. More purchases = greater the amount of points towards a reward. Review your top volume, long standing customer accounts and either send a customer survey or personally reach out to them for feedback. Your Digital Branch should possess a fantastic customer experience, as they do offline, and they should feel valuable and intrical part of your business.
5. Provide Robust Enriched Content: What content is most important to your customers buying experience?
Your online product data is your actual product. The online shopping experience should mirror the experience as if a customer were in a physical branch picking up, touching and evaluating a product. The material, color, size, weight are required to make a purchase. This is why it’s so important for products to have well-developed and consistent descriptions, attributes, datasheets, images, and videos to enable a customer to make an educated purchase. If there are intricate product details, those need to be clearly communicated to your customers.
Together, the above components will deliver an enhanced product page and customer experience that will help your customers make informed buying decisions without abandoning your site and visiting a competitor’s website. Understand additional feature enhancements that your customers may want, such as comparision charts, branch locations, inventory availability customizations. If you’re not sure how to start building your content catalog, AD’s eContent Services offers millions of categorized, normalized and standardized items in our comprehensive distributors catalog. From there, you can augment AD’s offerings with your own custom product lines.
Bryana Kennedy is AD Director of Account Management, eCommerce Solutions. This article originally appeared on AD's blog.