B2B2C eCommerce is more than a mouthful, it’s also a business model that is growing in popularity, and for good reason.
There are many reasons to move to a business-to-business-to-consumer eCommerce model, including added convenience for your B2C and B2B customers alike. One of the best ways to add that convenience and really ramp up your B2B2C offering is by adding a self-service portal to your business.
So what is a self-service portal? As our platform partner Liferay puts it:
“Put simply, a self-service portal is a customer- or employee-facing website or app that helps users resolve issues or complete a task. The portal's main job is to address the users' needs without requiring external assistance.”
Don’t we all prefer the self-service checkout at the supermarket? And isn’t it much more convenient tapping your order into a giant touchscreen at McDonald’s? It’s obvious why self-service works in the FMCG sector, but what about broader B2B2C eCommerce? Read on to find out why self-service portals are must-haves, and how you can take advantage of them.
Just like McDonald’s eaters want convenience, so do B2B customers. As with many things, the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the changes that were already happening in the B2B buying world. In 2020 when in-person buying was out of the question, lots of B2B buyers became aware of how much easier it was to order the products their companies needed online. Research from McKinsey found that 70-80% of B2B decision makers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service. While the impacts of the pandemic aren’t being as strongly felt in 2022, the shift towards convenience and B2C-like buying is here to stay.
So how exactly does a self-service portal provide this convenience that your customers are looking for? Liferay explains that a self-service portal provides unique service features that empower your customers to access information when and where they need it most, which helps them to resolve simple issues on their own. This enables your sales reps to focus their energy on providing an outstanding experience for more complicated issues, as they will require less time solving issues the portal can help address.
“A self-service portal gives customers visibility into their account information. Customers can keep track of their historical interactions and receive automated updates on tickets they’ve logged. They can also retrieve past information about products or services they have purchased. With account visibility, they’re able to simply log in and check the status of an item at their convenience.”
They also “provide 24-hour customer service. Even when your business is technically offline, a self-service portal can be accessible at any moment. This allows customers to get the answers and resolutions in urgent situations at a time that’s most convenient for them.”
So your customers, both B2B and B2C alike, will find self-service more convenient, but what about you? Or more specifically, your employees?
Well, the short answer is it will make life easier for them. Every sale a customer makes themselves via your portal is one a salesperson didn’t have to. One time they didn’t have to get on the phone, chase a purchase order down via email, one time they didn’t have to log a sale manually.
This allows them to focus on providing stellar customer service and tackling the more complex interactions with customers while the portal handles routine and day-to-day business. Think of the portal and your sales staff as a team, each playing to their own unique strengths. We’ve heard firsthand from our customers here at SmartOSC that freeing up sales staff to put their talents to better use has had an immediate positive impact on their business.
A self-service portal will allow your sales staff to focus on high-value tasks.
As Liferay puts it: “When a self-service platform is available, sales and service representatives have the availability to tend to more complicated customer service issues that can’t be addressed easily with self-service.”
As eCommerce (and indeed commerce in general) moves towards the holy grail of the ecosystem model, getting your customers involved and invested in your business has never been more important.
A self-service portal makes them more engaged and can even help them feel a stronger connection to your business. With a self-service portal that’s optimised to the maximum, customers can shape their own shopping journey and enjoy a much more satisfying experience than they can typically get from clunkier eCommerce websites. They will discover new products, find new ways of taking the customer journey and maybe even give you some valuable insights into better ways to sell to them.
As well as empowering your customers through the product discovery journey, Liferay explains how you can take your self-service portal a step further and add a true community element to the experience.
“Self-service portals are a great way to address common needs of your customers and empower them to resolve issues on their own without requiring external help. Examples of resources include community forums, a FAQ section, or troubleshooting guides.”
Similarly to freeing up your staff, a self-service portal will also free up your budget. Simple problems and boring, monotonous tasks can be solved by the portal, so you won’t have to spend resources on them.
The proof is in the pudding here, and a report from the esteemed Forrester Research and Oracle found that self-service can reduce costs by as much as US$11 per call.
Liferay sums this benefit up succinctly: “A portal can reduce support costs by requiring fewer people to solve common, everyday issues in person or on the phone. Similarly, storing product and service information online allows users to download digital documents, reducing the cost to print and mail these pieces.”
Now you know why a self-service portal is ideal for a B2B2C eCommerce business, let’s have a quick look at how to maximise the value of your portal. Check out three top tips for making yours work.
If your portal isn’t easy to use, no one will want to use it! Keep the user experience front-of-mind when designing the portal and try to get in the minds of those who’ll use it; your customers. Avoid unnecessary bells and whistles and stick with a simple, clear and concise portal and you should see good results.
A good self-service portal will make your site easier to use for customers.
We’re living in an omnichannel world. Your sales should be omnichannel and so should your support. Whether that’s through an FAQ section, community forums, a chatbot, or any number of other options, make sure your customers can get the help they want, the way they want it.
We’re data-driven here at SmartOSC and you should be too! Make use of user feedback, user satisfaction surveys, web analytics or even focus groups to tweak your portal and make sure it’s performing at optimum levels.
Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about how a self-service portal can work for your B2B2C eCommerce business, and the best way to put one in place.
While you're here, check out the whitepaper we put together with Liferay on B2B2C eCommerce: