Online or offline

Online or offline – why can’t it be both?

Just in case you missed it, online ordering is soaring – particularly B2B ordering. A recent Wunderman Thompson survey showed that nearly 50% of B2B purchases are now made online, a staggering increase on the single digits of yesteryear.

However, in that same survey, respondents were still not happy with the state of current B2B online and left wanting for something more omni-channel.

Now this might sound counter-intuitive, as surely the more digital the experience, the better, right? Well the answer is not that simple, and has a lot to do with the specific complexities of B2B.

On one end, we have orders for widgets – simple items with little to no optionality – the name of the game here is speed and efficiency. This is where an easy-to-use, minimal fuss online portal shines brightest. It’s the classic shopping cart experience; pick your item, stick it in the cart and check out. Although there may be some complexity for the supplier (tiered volume or discounted pricing for example), the buyer generally doesn’t need to concern themselves with that and everything just works.

At the other end of the B2B spectrum we have highly complex products and/or service requests. Items with many options, configurations and likely a level of technical expertise required in order to make the correct choice. By definition these items are also more expensive and if there are any errors in spec, can quickly become a messy affair for both sides. A well-defined, considered quotation prepared by a suitably qualified individual (or individuals) is the best approach and conceivably will continue to be for a long time. 

So what about the vast grey-area in between? Products with some degree of optionality, that might present a level of difficulty for the uninitiated. An expert buyer will want to breeze through online, but others will feel better having a level of personal reassurance. This is what’s driving the demand for omni-channel or hybrid solutions. 

Larger B2B suppliers, particularly those in the technology supply space, have to deal with this grey-area all the time. That is, catalogues mixed with simple and complex products, customers of all sizes, and buyers of all (technical) abilities. How are you supposed to solve for this?

Well, this is kinda the whole idea behind Devicedesk. We’ve chosen to specialise in making the complex, that bit more simple. For everyone.

Simple products? Easy, everyday stuff. Throw it in the cart and you’re set.

But more complex products? We offer technically-minded folks the ability to self-configure and place orders as they need, but also support an order-on-behalf model. Here the sales or specialist functions can navigate the complexity for customers and can add a step for review and sign-off prior to ordering.

Crucially, this eliminates misconfigurations and importantly keeps the transaction in-system so there’s no need to go offline.

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