20 December 2016

B2B Sales Superpowers

Forrester analyst Andy Hoar wrote an excellent report—“Death of a (B2B) Salesman”—about how B2B buyer preferences have quickly and fundamentally shifted. The name of the report refers to the trend that B2B buyers increasingly prefer to self-educate versus talk to sales representatives to learn about products and services. They also think that buying online is more convenient than buying from a salesperson. As Andy Hoar concludes, the B2B buyer behavior has changed significantly in the past few years, but B2B corporate sales activity has not.

When more than 70% of customers do not want to interact with sales representatives, the appearance of the sales funnel changes in a dramatic way. Instead of looking in a printed catalog and calling the sales rep, B2B buyers are now starting their buying journey—and their entry into the funnel—by searching Google, Amazon Business, or other B2B eCommerce sites, increasingly using a mobile device while being on the go. You need to quickly help them find you, guide them to the right solution, and gain their trust without any human interaction. This is not easy to do, but a lot of business and revenue will be lost if you fail. In contrast, a lot of business will be won if you succeed.
So how can you turn this dramatic shift to your advantage and gain B2B sales superpowers?

Step 1: Get found.
To be found you need to be great at SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and provide Google and Amazon with the right high-quality content. SEO is constantly changing as Google and others optimize and modify their search algorithms, and many people make a good living out of consulting on the subject. However, without that high-quality content, these consultants cannot help you, because the foundation for successful SEO is high-quality, keyword-rich content. You need to provide this content to all your attracting channels, and to do so, you need to produce large amounts of it. It is much more efficient if it is created and stored granularly—instead of as large chunks of text—and is professionally localized.

Step 2: Guide the customer.
If you succeed with step 1, congratulations! The buyer has found you. You now need to guide them, as they most likely landed on a product page and not on a Home or category page. Your goal now is to provide the buyer with a guided navigation that quickly presents relevant products and the associated ecosystem of up-sells and cross-sells. Since the buyer may be using a mobile device, time is of the essence, and your on-site search and navigation will determine if they will find what you have to sell.

Your on-site search must be fast and efficient. Most likely, your search functionality is driving the guided (faceted) navigation. It is called a search engine for a reason, and the fuel for that engine is product content—high-quality, granular content.

Step 3: Gain trust.
If you have your product attributes and assortment in order, the B2B buyer should now have a few alternatives to choose from that match their need. Like any great sales rep, your goal now is to build rapport and trust with the customer—through your website interaction. You need to make it fast and easy to compare products, by providing all the necessary information. Most importantly, you need to display accurate information that is consistent across all the touchpoints in the customer's buying journey. Even small errors, such as the gross weight being lower than the net weight, will make the rest of your information not seem very trustworthy. On the other hand, a product video or a 360-degree spin will increase the chances of a sale, by increasing the customer's confidence in your product.

Selling complex products
If you sell complex products, it is often necessary to have an expert, such as a customer care or sales representative, help the customer to create a correct order. However, even if that is the case, most buyers will have done considerable research before they contact your sales rep or product expert. B2B buyers are empowered buyers, and you need to empower your sales team to meet this new challenge. Buyers and sellers alike need access to all the knowledge you have about the product, and they need it in real time, just like your website. You may also need to augment this information with a CPQ tool (Configure Price Quote) with configuration capabilities, which will unquestionably drive the need for more and extremely accurate product information.

Content is still king!
I hope you get my point. Content is the foundation for turning this dramatic shift to your advantage, in all phases of the buying journey, and irrespective of the systems and tools you invest in. Don't get me wrong: digital marketing and sales tools are necessary to manage the new B2B sales funnel efficiently. But before you invest in tools that empower customers and sales reps alike, invest in your content and keep investing in it. Content is a lot like fruit; it is a perishable asset with a shelf life, and you can never stop producing and updating it.

Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver

15 December 2016

The Importance of Content During Micro-Moments

Last month, inRiver had the pleasure of sponsoring and taking part in a panel discussion, along with our integration partner, Jasper Studios, at Fashion Digital New York.
The topic of the session was “micro-moments”—defined by Google as those moments of intention during a shopper’s buying cycle when the buyer conducts research, forms opinions, acts on preferences, and ultimately makes purchasing decisions.

We were excited to include Michael Burke, Head of Industry—Fashion, Sports & Toys, Google and Mark Lippmann, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Deborah Lippmann, on our panel to cover topics ranging from the challenges of addressing micro-moments for fashion retailers to the types of tools and measurements you need to be successful. We will be continuing to cover aspects of detecting and addressing micro-moments over a series of blog posts in the coming weeks. In this initial post, we would like to offer some insights into the role of content.

The Right Content for Micro-moments

Micro-moments are creating challenges for retailers across industries. There is a very short window in which a retailer has the opportunity to engage the buyer and convince them to buy. The key is to get the right content into shoppers’ hands at the place and the time that they are needing it—when they are researching products and ultimately making purchases.
To do this, you may need more content, in more formats, so that you can satisfy the needs of a variety of customer needs. In addition, your content may need to be more granular and of higher-quality, so that it can be found and identified when it is needed. Last, it must be served up to the right shopper at the right moment in time.

Identify Key Touchpoints

The first step in developing this content production factory is to identify all of the touchpoints where buyers will be in need of product information. You will then need to prioritize those touchpoints to address the most critical ones first. Because many companies do not have enough information about how consumers are interacting with their content, it is important to set up metrics to measure the success of your content and touchpoints at those crucial junctures.

Determine Where You Are Losing Potential Customers

Online retailers frequently measure the frequency of abandoned carts. However, you need to consider the possibility that you are losing customers and related sales long before the “Add to Cart” button is clicked. This may be because your content is insufficient, irrelevant, or  inaccurate for a given buyer. Determine where you are losing customers before they are reaching your cart and establish a feedback loop to improve your content. Analyze what type of content is most likely to convert or influence conversion. What do your buyers want from your content that will result in clicking that “Add to Cart” button? 

Create a Content Production Factory

Once you have established a strategy for providing content at key touchpoints, you will then need to start developing your targeted content. However, to produce this better quality, more copious content, you need the right tools and internal processes. Companies that have been successful at this effort have been structured in their approach. They have developed a “content production factory” to make the content creation process faster and easier. There are a number of tools that support this production effort, but the heart of the ecosystem is the product information management (PIM) application. Providing excellent product stories is the foundation on which you can build enticing product assortments and stellar customer experiences.

In the coming weeks, we will delve further into some of the techniques and tools that you can employ to help run your content production factory. In addition, we will highlight some companies that have been successful in addressing micro-moments and share some of their secrets.

Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager North America, inRiver

08 December 2016

Shooting from the hip just won't cut it anymore. Is the solution a PIM or a DAM?

As customer interactions are rapidly moving to the digital channels, organizations need to address the inefficiencies in their content production processes. Shooting from the hip just won't cut it anymore, not even in the creative department. You have to have a disciplined approach to get the right product content produced and distributed to the right channels at the right time. Creating and distributing more content faster cannot be done efficiently using a brute-force approach or by simply adding more people. Instead, it needs to be done by working smarter rather than harder—and finding system support to help you achieve efficiency in your content production processes.

Does your organization require a solution for PIM, DAM, or both?
In their search for a solution that can help them to achieve the required efficiency, many organizations ask themselves if they need a solution to manage their product information (PIM) or one that manages their digital assets (DAM). There are some questions that we need to answer before we can decide that:
  • Are you selling products or images of products?
  • How many products do you manage and what is the sum of all information that your products need?
  • How many channels are you publishing to and how often do you need to update them?
  • How complex is it to manage your digital assets and the related processes?
Products typically need to be described and augmented using numerous different types of information, such as specifications, USPs, descriptions, documents, up-sells, cross-sells, and much more. This information must be of high quality, be granular, and be very structured. Depending on the industry and product type it also needs to be a part of an ecosystem—for example, as a part of a bundle, solution, repair kit, look, or room. To have a complete and compelling product story it also requires an ever-increasing number of digital assets, from 360 spins and how-to-videos to regular static photos.

We can conclude that we must be able to manage product data and product-related digital assets at the same time. Thus, we cannot choose between PIM and DAM as we need both to support the creation and distribution of a complete and compelling product story. Simply put, a DAM cannot manage the product data and the product ecosystem, so as long as you're not selling images, going with just a DAM to manage your product information will not be sufficient. Do you need two separate solutions? To know that, we need to define more granular requirements.

If you do not manage large volumes of digital assets that are nonproduct-related and choose a PIM solution with strong built-in DAM capabilities, you most likely don't need a separate DAM. The built-in one will be sufficient and already tightly integrated. However, if you do manage large volumes of nonproduct-related digital assets, you should consider adding an enterprise DAM solution and integrate that with your PIM system. The integration with a PIM is necessary as it will drastically reduce the metadata maintenance and automate the distribution of the assets to the channels.

How to manage the selection and review of assets?
WIP, short for Work In Progress, usually represents the first step of the creative workflow, right after or during the photo shoot, but before final delivery to a PIM or a DAM. Sometimes I meet with organizations that believe they need a DAM, when in reality, they are need of a Work In Progress system. A tool that manages the WIP process can be used to streamline review and approval for digital assets and make the selection process easier and faster, so it makes sense that some DAM solutions have this built-in as a feature. Whether you choose to integrate a DAM or use the built-in one in your PIM, adding WIP process support can provide additional efficiency gains.

Whatever you do, don't hamper your sales by shooting from the hip in the content creation process.

Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver