What is meant by omnichannel in B2B?

The concept is increasingly relevant, not only for companies that target end consumers, but also for those that work with other organizations.

McKinsey research from 2021 highlights how the integrated use of different sales channels in the B2B market is not simply a trend of the moment: two-thirds of buyers prefer remote interactions and digital purchasing options.

On the flip side, 83% of surveyed business decision makers see concrete benefits to their business strategies in the approach.

More in detail, an omnichannel strategy in B2B entail the capacity to offer a complete and satisfying customer experience through a synergy between online and offline channels.

A year like 2020 has accelerated trends that were already underway, contributing to the consolidation of the phenomenon.

Why do we talk about a trend already in progress?

Because we must not forget that organizations are made up of the same people that in the B2C market we call consumers. Just as the latter are now used to relating to brands through different touchpoints, in the same way they will expect to develop professional relationships through both physical and digital channels.

More personalization of offerings and greater flexibility in the buying process will thus be key determinants of success for those operating in B2B.

However, this world has so far been slower to embrace the benefits of omnichannel, especially when looking at the SME landscape.

Still, the data highlight a phenomenon that is destined to endure. In this in-depth look at its benefits, the tools to leverage, and the challenges a business faces in developing an omnichannel strategy.

Why to develop an omnichannel B2B strategy

The reasons for developing an omnichannel approach to your business strategies are many.

Now more than ever, the combination of face-to-face and digital interactions has demonstrated efficiency and high returns on investment.

Data show that B2B companies that invested in multiple channels in the 2020-2021 period have in fact grown faster than their competitors.

E-commerce in particular is the most widely used digital tool, as it points out: 32% of B2B decision makers rate them as the most effective means of selling.

But this is just one piece in a larger puzzle: multiple channels are the prerequisite for a winning strategy.

Again, according to McKinsey, the greater their number, the greater the market share gained. By 2021, according to the study, the average number of channels used by B2B customers has increased to 10, and these include e-commerce, chat, Google searches, e-mail and e-procurement platforms.

However, there is one thing to be clear: the quantity of channels used should not be at the expense of the quality aspect. What do we mean?

That the tools must be used consistently with each other, generating real synergy.

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Developing an omnichannel strategy: how to do it effectively

In fact, an excess of channels risks creating more problems than real benefits: using them entails costs, but above all requires time and expertise.

Let us clarify with an example from an SME.

A small company specializing in PVC pipes for agriculture and construction decides to develop its own e-commerce.

The benefits are clear:

  • Easier to reach new customers.
  • An increase in the satisfaction of existing ones due to the convenience of the purchasing process.
  • An improvement in monthly turnover.

The company’s management also decides to integrate an online chat service on the site, entrusting it to the person in the administration office who already handles orders.

However, the workload prevents the best use of web chat.

The result? Delays in replying to potential customers accumulate, causing many buyers to turn to other companies.

‘More channels’ therefore does not mean ‘more success’: a truly effective B2B omnichannel strategy always starts with an internal company analysis to determine which ones are really useful (and adoptable).

The challenge, therefore, lies not only in the combined use of the channels, but also in their selection in the light of the goals, the means available and the skills and knowledge of the staff.

Another example is social media.

The same company of the previous example decides to manage the recently opened LinkedIn and Instagram accounts internally. The lack of time, but above all of people specialized in content marketing, ends up having negative consequences such as:

  • Profiles not regularly updated.
  • Absent interactions.
  • Unprofessional content appearance.

In this case, a better choice would be to outsource the communication to a digital agency.

Having verified the necessary conditions and identified the channels to be used, the goals to be pursued must be clarified.

Omnichannel, in fact, does not mean ‘selling through different channels’, but creating connections between them, optimizing results by constantly monitoring them.

Let us see how, returning once again to the case of the PVC pipes company.

Un esempio di omnicanalità nel mondo B2B | Immagine di un meeting tra manager in un palazzo

 

An example of B2B omnichannel strategy

In the light of the picture we have described, the company decides to review its strategy.

The first step consists of eliminating channels causing problems and redefining the social media strategy: after giving up on the idea of the caht and deciding to rely on a digital agency to take care of the LinkedIn profile, the company focuses on a hybrid strategy.

Here are its steps:

  • Google Ads campaign are implemented for inbound lead generation.
  • A newsletter is introduced to communicate periodically about new products.
  • For outbound lead generation, the management opts for a platform with which to identify new prospects quickly.
  • The investment in business trips is reduced, focusing only on companies with which an online relationship has already been established.
  • Finally, spending on trade fairs is scaled down, and it is decided to attend only the most important ones abroad.

Digital solutions therefore play a major role, but physical ones do not disappear. On the contrary: the former are used to maximize the return on investment of the latter.

This is exactly what we mean when we talk about creating connections between the physical and digital dimensions.

Matchplat’s Explore platform of choice makes this easy. Let’s see how, with an example related to trade fairs.

The company’s next scheduled event is to be held in France, and before departure the company’s sales department uses the platform to get in touch with potential French customers.

In fact, Explore’s AI algorithms make it possible to map the market in real time, identifying only companies with specific features.

Once found, these are invited to the fair for networking meetings. In this way, participation in the event is optimized, thanks to contact with companies that would otherwise not have been present.

Conclusions

We have seen what is meant by B2B omnichannel and how this concept is increasingly central to companies’ strategies.

The data speak of a phenomenon that is destined to last, in light of the changing purchasing habits of managers and decision makers.

The multiplicity of channels is the prerequisite for strategy, but what is equally important is the synergy between the channels themselves.

This means using them consistently, but only after having decided which ones are really useful for the company according to its goals and the skills of its staff.

An excess of channels can in fact prove counterproductive in the absence of time and skills to manage them. We explored this aspect with the example of a manufacturing company, seeing in concrete terms the development of an omnichannel strategy.

The result of the plan is an optimization of business processes by combining the physical and digital dimensions.

Indeed, we live in the age of new technologies, but we must not forget that these are a facilitator of relationships between people. A principle that today more than ever also applies to professional ones.