More Than a Channel: eCommerce as a Selling Tool

July 29, 2021 Brian Hirt

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The Digital Sales Rep That Never Sleeps 

In my last two blog posts, I’ve discussed how the B2B sales model has fundamentally changed, forcing sales professionals to react faster and adapt to more virtual settings. I also explained how and why sales teams must be equipped to pivot on a dime to keep up with customer needs and buying habits in an unpredictable supply/demand environment. 

We can’t put a bow on this topic without examining eCommerce’s role in the health and future growth of every B2B company. Chances are, if you’re reading this, your company has already made significant investments in eCommerce. You may also be painfully aware that the investment doesn’t always pay off as expected. 

We’re well past the days when simply introducing an eCommerce channel created a competitive advantage in and of itself. Digital commerce’s ubiquity means once-revolutionary features and capabilities have largely become templatized. 

Many companies now have mechanisms within their eCommerce channel to recommend products and generally personalize the shopping experience. But the next generation of B2B leaders need eCommerce to be more than a channel, or a convenient means of selling products online. It must be a selling tool itself - a digital sales rep that never sleeps. 

Waking Up the Digital Giant 

Bridging that gap between undifferentiated eCommerce to next-gen intelligent commerce requires a higher degree of customer understanding, hyper-focused opportunity identification and an automated means of executing your corporate strategy. It also requires a consistent customer experience between online and direct channels. Actions that sales reps are pursuing need to mimic the personalized experience you deliver to customers via eCommerce. Customers need to feel like they are dealing with a cohesive company that delivers them bespoke pricing and product offers at every touchpoint. 

These are the precise areas in which eCommerce sites fall short. Most limit B2B companies to simply serving up the same offerings to each customer that logs in to their online portal, regardless of whether those promotions make sense for a particular user. Or product/category managers may upload spreadsheets to serve up relevant products based on broad customer segments or promotions. Unfortunately, as we have explored, manual tools in the instantaneous, always-on digital environment cannot keep up with the pace and specificity that is necessary. 

In other words, the framework is there; but the smarts are not. Hence the common disconnect: if eCommerce is this potential behemoth of selling opportunity — one that is always on, can reach customers anywhere and can sell higher quantities with less friction than a human rep — why is it failing to deliver a strong return on investment?  

It’s because too often eCommerce is powered by just enough information to make it a functional mode of transaction, rather than an active selling tool. Only with deep insight into customer transaction history, market dynamics, online buying patterns and more can it be fueled to act as a digital sales rep. Even still, insights are only half the battle. Those identified opportunities must be translated to actions that digital commerce can exploit much in the same way human sales rep are expected to. 

This is where the combination of Zilliant Sales IQ® and Campaign Manager™ fill the gap and create a powerful intelligent eCommerce experience for your customers. Imagine if each customer that logs in to your eCommerce portal is met instantly with targeted offers that both meet their immediate need at a personalized price point and satisfy your latest sales strategy. 

Deep data science-driven insights culled from Sales IQ are turned into actionable guidance in Campaign Manager can be retrieved via API, allowing you to integrate actions into any end use system, eCommerce included. The same actions that are fed directly to your sales team’s CRM and your email marketing program will be presented to eCommerce customers in a closed-loop fashion, enabling accurate measurement of campaign effectiveness and a consistent experience across customer touchpoints. 

Now, if a sales rep closes an action in CRM, it automatically disappears from eCommerce and marketing automation workflows. Campaigns driven from a single, connected source create a cohesive and united sales front across all channels that is always learning and improving with each customer interaction.   

Let’s look at a quick example of how this process works in eCommerce. 

Translating Strategy into Action, Digitally 

As you’ll recall from our earlier example, Zilliant sales guidance software is equipped to respond to even the most dynamic business triggers. Many B2B companies have experienced demand spikes at the same time their inventory is dropping due to pandemic-induced supply chain disruption. 

  • Here’s how Sales IQ and Campaign Manager can help companies execute an eCommerce-led product substitution strategy that drives new sales rather than turning away business due to lack of inventory: 
  • Product managers identify the low-inventory and difficult-to-buy products along with their in-stock substitutes 
  • Upload the product mapping and call on Sales IQ to identify all customers that are currently buying the low stock items with sufficient frequency 
  • Once identified, sales operations teams can use Campaign Manager to create and refine a Campaign to get an action out to the eCommerce portal that affected accounts will be offered when logged in. For example, sales ops can create a parameter to only surface actions for eCommerce customers that have purchased the products in the past six months, have purchased the products a minimum of five times and at a volume of at least 2,000 units. The same actions are presented for sellers to see in CRM for the affected accounts
  • When logged into the online portal and attempting to place a low-inventory item into their cart, eCommerce users see an in-stock substitute offer at an attractive price 
  • Campaign Manager’s closed-loop feedback mechanism measures the effectiveness of the product substitution action and helps product managers determine if the campaign should be tweaked based on user behavior 

About the Author

Brian Hirt

Brian Hirt manages Zilliant’s suite of sales guidance solutions, giving him the opportunity to work closely with new and existing customers and bring their experiences back to the engineering teams to drive continued product innovation. Before joining the product management team, Brian spent seven years as an engagement manager on Zilliant’s professional services team. Prior to Zilliant, Brian spent five years leading marketing for an electrical distributor. Brian holds a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and an MA in Economics from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. Contact Brian at Brian.Hirt@Zilliant.com.

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