Don’t go dark on your business buyers this new year period.
Is your B2B business planning on shutting up shop over the upcoming Christmas and New Year period? Taking the opportunity to give the team a two-week break used to be unremarkable behaviour for many Australian enterprises operating in this space.
But that’s changing – and fast.
For B2B businesses that have taken to selling online, in particular, telling the team to take leave and nailing up a ‘Closed until 10 January’ sign on Christmas Eve can prove a damaging move.
Research suggests the global B2B e-commerce market size will reach an extraordinary $US13630 million by 2027, up from ‘just’ $US7659.4 million in 2020. Operating with business customers digitally in a market potential of this size brings with it a very different set of expectations.
Unlike B2C e-commerce, B2B online selling is driven by relationships, not transactions. Both online and off, customers overwhelmingly prefer to deal with other businesses they know and trust, and a big part of that trust arises from your reputation for reliability and responsiveness.
Like it or lump it, customers that have become accustomed to interacting with your organisation online – making enquiries, placing orders, seeking post-sales support and the like – whenever and however suits them best will expect you to revert promptly all year round, Christmas and New Year included.
Keeping the lights on
Changing buyer attitudes means being absent can seriously damage the customer experience.
For that reason, we see more B2B businesses stay open with a skeleton crew over Christmas. This is also useful for customers who might use the time of year to review their business operations and cost base and seek to negotiate better contracts with their suppliers. Being open, accessible and responsive at this time could well pay a dividend for the 12 months ahead.
At the same time, by using technology to streamline and automate processes, they’re able to maintain a proactive sales channel which provides customers with access to crucial purchase information such as updated inventory and product stock information.
Yes, not operating at full capacity may mean their staff are a little slower to respond and deliveries take a little longer to arrive, but if they’re transparent about this and manage expectations carefully, the effort is generally much appreciated by business customers that have also opted to stay open over the break.
And, if the trade is slow, it can be an opportunity to catch up on administration, including all those tasks that end up parked on the back burner for months when business is brisk and more urgent matters take precedence.
We’ve also observed some organisations turn a quick profit during the lull by running promotions on superseded or surplus stock. Selling it off for a song can be a great way to clear the shelves and start the new year afresh.
Preparing for closure
If you intend to close down entirely for a spell over the festive season, ensuring your customers are informed, and onside well in advance is critical.
It pays to start with a plan that identifies your cut-off time for pre-Christmas projects and orders and how quickly you will be able to ramp up your operations again in the new year.
Communicate these deadlines to your customers early and often – via telephone, email and clear messaging on your eCommerce site – and you’ll ensure no one is taken by surprise when the phone reverts to voice mail and your digital channels to an auto-reply message.
Fail to do so, and you may find customers repaying the ‘compliment’ by going dark on your business once the doors re-open.
Harnessing technology to deliver high-quality service all year round
Providing outstanding customer service, online and off, is challenging without the right tools. An ERP-integrated eCommerce solution will help you deliver high quality customer experiences to your business buyers whenever they interact with you digitally. More Australian businesses embracing online procurement can help your business meet and exceed their expectations over the festive season and all year round.