Farrukh Shad is Senior Vice President for Global eCommerce and Retail Go to market at Schneider Electric.
With COVID-19 serving as an unprecedented accelerator, the world is going digital. Shopping and buying journeys have moved online, and the shift has transformed the B2C and B2B landscapes.
At the onset of the pandemic, with store closures mounting, we all learned to purchase items online like never before; remember the great toilet paper crisis of 2020? We also began working remotely, and the demand for better B2B shopping experiences grew, almost instantly.
A recent McKinsey survey confirms that up to 80% of B2B decision-makers recognize the importance that remote or digital self-service plays in improving the customer experience. Shoppers expect price transparency, custom pricing, product availability, better content, store pick-up, and scheduled deliveries. With a growing number of employees buying online, 83% of executives see e-procurement as a priority to better manage spend. And B2B leaders on average rate digital channels as approximately twice as important now as they were before COVID.
Business strategy for a digital world
At Schneider Electric, digitalization is a core element of our company strategy. More than eight years ago, we recognized the evolving digital reality and began to transform globally to meet customer needs in a rapidly changing world.
We didn’t need a digital strategy per se; we needed a business strategy for a digital world. Our vision was to build an end-to-end customer experience integrating all online and offline (O2O) touchpoints and allowing us to evolve from a multichannel strategy to one that is omnichannel.
We spoke with our partners and listened to hundreds of their customers. What we learned is that the B2B journey is rarely a straight line. It may start at a store, develop on a mobile device on location, be confirmed via an online text or phone call, get approved with an emailed document, and conclude on a desktop. In addition, the customer shopping online may not be the same as the person placing the order. What’s more, the experience can range from a complex omnichannel journey that lasts weeks or even months and involves multiple decision-makers, to an emergency maintenance, repair, or operations request that takes only minutes to resolve. Regardless of the channel, customers said they expected the same seamless shopping or service experience.
Positive effects of omnichannel on the bottom line
In 2017, 56% of B2B customers were willing to pay more for a better shopping experience. By 2020, that number had grown to 86%.3 B2B customers are not loyal to a store; they are loyal to a partner who understands their business and helps them meet their challenges.
In their search for a better shopping experience online, B2B customers are demanding:
- Fast and convenient search capabilities so they can quickly source the product or service they need
- Engaging, transparent product or service information that facilitates a frictionless selection and purchase process
- Reliable, trackable delivery options
At Schneider Electric, we are always focused on meeting our customers’ needs. In today’s world, that means helping our partners become digital leaders and empowering them to take a data-driven, collaborative approach to conduct business.
Providing a clear pathway to digital leadership
Business as usual is no longer an option, for a variety of reasons:
- Customer behaviors post-COVID have changed and will largely remain that way; our industry is not immune from these changes
- Channel partners and manufacturers must evolve to deliver digital-led experiences that meet customer expectations and build loyalty
- Thriving in the “new normal” requires connecting with customers as individuals and providing them with a seamless end-to-end experience
- For partners, success depends on overcoming legacy habits, embracing new business models, and investing in new and shared capabilities
Schneider Electric is committed to helping our channel partners leave behind old-school online tactics and embrace customer-centricity, data-driven analytics, and collaborative partnerships.
Customer-centricity allows partners to transform their business from a siloed channel experience to a hyper-personalized omnichannel operation, dedicated to solutions and products that inspire and engage.
- In the UK, Schneider Electric teamed with a partner in the residential market to create an online “shop-in-shop” for electricians that led to 309% growth year-over-year
Data-driven analytics is an evolution from unstructured soft data to structured predictive analytics.
- In Australia, we have built a data-sharing platform with our top six distributors – via a third party to ensure data-sharing rules are met – and increased ROI through targeted activation campaigns
Collaborative partnerships transition independent, one-time, single-line tactics to robust, digital strategies based on shared and informed insights, and best practices.
- In the United States, our activation of a Partner Brand Advocate resulted in a deep collaborative planning process, with experimentation and tactical executions that created better customer experiences and great ROIs.
Team with Schneider for your digital transformation
Schneider Electric provides and supports partners with a clear pathway to attaining digital leadership in their marketplace. Whether you consider yourself a novice, adopter, or seasoned digital pro, we are ready to support your growth with solutions, resources and financial support.
One last note: I’m curious to hear if you are aligned with our direction and what your top priorities are for an omnichannel future?
Interested in learning more? Register to Schneider Electric’s Innovation Summit World Tour. See you soon!