Increase Productivity and Effectiveness Via New Technology
As an industry, we’ve had to weather difficult market conditions before. Whether you want to call it a recession or not, there’s no doubt that times are tough. B-to-B customers are “cautious.” Not dead, but cautious. During such times, B-to-B marketers need to recognize the mind-set of their customers and come up with relevant products, offers and pitches. They also need to keep a close eye on costs. Often, this leads to new, less expensive ways to operate.
Over the course of history, one trend I’ve seen time and time again is B-to-B marketers’ willingness to embrace new technology to increase marketing effectiveness and/or reduce costs. Last week, I talked about the exploding use of online video. This is a prime example of employing a new technology to deliver a more impactful message. Now video, in and of itself, isn’t new. But the acceptance of low-cost amateur video, the rise of YouTube for B-to-B, and vast and immediate distribution of online video clips are.
All of these have come together to change customers’ expectations. Who reads a product manual anymore? You know, the ones that come in 12 languages in every China-made product nowadays. Why would you, when you can view an installation or assembly video online? (IKEA, are you listening?)
So, how can we provide more value to our customers while reducing costs? The answer, in my view, lies in applying new technologies.
Consider some of the following technology breakthroughs.
* Web sites that recognize the difference between prospects and returning customers; or recognize where the visitor lives.
* Shipping manifest software that’s intelligent enough to divide an order into multiple shipments to save on shipping costs.
* Intelligent content databases that can drive your online (Web) and offline (call center, catalog production) data from a common, easily updated source.
* “Call Me” and “Notify Me” functionality that’s triggered by any customer-requested event.
* Intelligent systems that anticipate customer needs based on profiles, past purchases and past behaviors.
* Technology that supports viral communication online and dynamic customer content on your site.
* Variable data printing technology that moves your catalog or other mail pieces toward true one-to-one print communication.
* Podcasts, blogs, RSS feeds, social networking sites and myriad other online communication technologies.
One trend seems to remain constant over the years: Each year B-to-B multichannel merchants must produce more output with relatively lower inputs. We often refer to it as, “Do more with less.” The only way to accomplish this is to change the way you do things, and most often that requires learning and embracing new technologies.
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Terence Jukes is president of Ability Commerce, a 140-person firm that designs, builds and runs e-commerce and related marketing programs for catalog companies. He can be reached at TerryJ@AbilityCommerce.com.