Changing business in a changing world

How eCommerce and tech solutions can help you pivot

29 May 2020

Retail, hospitality, and tourism aren’t the only sectors affected by COVID-19 – although they tend to be the focus of most news stories. Manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers are also dealing with restrictions, shortages, and reduced sales during the crisis. Before and during New Zealand’s lockdown, panic buying and retail closures affected demand for certain products, while restrictions forced factories and warehouses to close.

Now that the lockdown is over, the sector needs to find new ways to do business – direct-to-consumer sales, changing the distribution and sales process, or reaching out to new audiences. It’s not about switching to an entirely new product or service, it’s about casting a wider net and finding new income streams. 

That’s where eCommerce and other online solutions come in. Real-time inventory data, streamlined ordering and delivery, better customer communication, online marketing – it all adds up to more options for customers and potential growth for your business. 

From business to consumer 

With traditional supply chains and sales channels closed or restricted, B2B businesses are being forced to pivot. One obvious path is the direct-to-consumer space. Even though retail stores are reopening, many customers will be reluctant to return to physical shops. Level two restrictions will also limit the number of people allowed in stores, which may make the shopping experience less convenient or enjoyable. Retailers may be reluctant to order as much stock as they did pre-COVID. 

Selling direct to the customer through a dedicated eCommerce website cuts through those issues, avoiding store closures and customer limits. But not all eCommerce is created equal. Today’s online shoppers have high expectations around UI, order fulfilment and customer service. That means offering a streamlined site that makes ordering simple, fulfilling orders as quickly as possible and being transparent throughout the process. 

Real-time order updates and inventory data, online order history and tracking – whether you’re dealing with business customers or the public, the more information you can offer, the more your customers will trust your business. Because couriers may be delayed, it’s also essential to offer a range of pick-up and delivery options – like click and collect, drive-through collection, or contactless pick-up lockers. 

Taking sales online 

B2B has traditionally relied on sales reps building relationships with clients through personalised service and in-person meetings. In the age of COVID-19, that model needs to change. Even if your staff are returning to the office, in-person meetings and site visits are likely to be limited. New rules mean that staff will need to stay home at the slightest sign of sickness – and could see some staff working from home even when the office is open. 

To stop lockdown orders or sickness from disrupting sales, give your sales reps the technology and access they need to work effectively from home. With digital channels like video calling and live chat, they can offer the same personalised service to customers without the risk of physical contact. When things return to normal, having remote access already in place will let you offer flexibility to your employees – and better service to your customers. 

Business from a distance 

With large gatherings banned for the foreseeable future, traditional B2B marketing and sales events will not be an option. But promotional events, trade shows and conferences won’t disappear – they’ll just move online for now. 

Offer online webinars instead of sales events, launch new products online, and take part in virtual trade shows and industry conferences. Look for ways to reach new audiences, including content marketing, social media, or online advertising. If your business is comfortable with technology and ready to connect in new ways, potential clients will notice. If you’re struggling to manage the technology or stuck on old ways of doing things, they’ll probably look elsewhere. 

Adapt and thrive 

In a post-COVID world, change is inevitable. But that’s not a bad thing. Adversity can be an opportunity for innovation, creativity, and growth. Some businesses that were lagging behind in terms of technology and online services will be forced to catch up, which will be a positive in the long-term.

Like everyone else, B2B businesses will need to find ways to change their business model and increase sales – whether that means direct-to-consumer sales, working from home, moving marketing and promotion online, or all of the above. It might sound like a huge shift, but with the right tech and support in place, change could be simpler than you think.

Looking for ways to innovate post-COVID? Talk to the Solutionists team now. 

 

author:

Solutionists

date published:

29 May 2020