E-Commerce and the Evolving Customer Experience
Although it might not seem obvious at first, one of the most overlooked, yet essential, marketing tools in your arsenal is an effective e-commerce portal. Think about it: many other marketing and branding opportunities rely on your organization’s representatives to put their best foot forward. An email can be fantastically written, an advertisement can (and should) be engaging, and every salesperson in the company should be delivering clear value to customers and prospects.
But an e-commerce portal? It stands alone. Its job, after all, is to allow customers to search and finalize their purchases on their own schedules. Does this mean that it should be left on an island? After all, a prospect browsing your e-commerce site can always be logged into your database and followed up with.
No way! An e-commerce portal is not — and should not — be an independent entity; it's a front door. If we want to really drag out this metaphor, the inside of the house represents the long-term relationship you’re building with each and every customer. Needless to say, this makes e-commerce a powerful and prominent part of your entire sales and marketing strategy. E-commerce can be a fantastic, repeatable customer experience. Thankfully, this hasn't gone unnoticed, and there are now numerous ways that e-commerce portals have evolved to ensure that working with your organization is an easy decision.
Backing e-commerce up with data is the first step. Data is the functional equivalent of a salesperson knowing their customer base inside and out. Recent developments in machine learning allow e-commerce portals to do amazing things. Sure, they can provide comparable purchases from other customers, but let’s go deeper. E-commerce platforms can also bundle together, automatically, the most common purchases. They can adjust pricing (and discounts) accordingly, build user profiles for returning customers and model their future purchases based on contextual behavior. These capabilities aren’t just something out of the Amazon.com playbook, confined to B-to-C companies. They apply even more urgently to B-to-B operations, where most transactions are large scale and efficiency is prized above all else.
These processes demonstrate to your prospects that you have a firm grasp on their needs and how their own business operates. They’re an instant indicator that you’ve made the commitment to, right from the start, help them advance their own cause and pick up the slack where they might not even know themselves what their next purchase should be. It’s a personal touch that goes beyond branding the site properly — it’s about saving people time, money and positioning your organization as a valuable partner that’s worth returning to again and again.
Updating your e-commerce portal, or even building one from scratch, is no longer just an extension of your sales tool and a new channel to work with, although it also checks those boxes quite capably. A modern e-commerce experience is now a progressive, brand-building necessity that creates substantial long-term value for you and, more importantly, your customers.
Maria Pergolino is the senior vice president of global marketing at Apttus, a provider of quote-to-cash software delivering CPQ, contract management, e-commerce and revenue management.