Technology and Electricals have always been an industry of highly competitive brands that change rapidly and engage in frequent product and service development. However, the environment and the rules surrounding the sector have been rewritten during 2020, which is causing brands to review their strategy.
We spoke to Client Account Director, Lindsay Hey about what brands need to consider in both their Consumer and B2B strategies, and what sales and marketing agencies can do to help brands set and achieve their strategy in this fast moving landscape:
Lindsay starts, “In a period of rapid change and uncertainty, it’s critical for brands to get the right strategy in place across both Consumer and B2B channels. They need to look at these channels holistically.”
What’s the different between retail consumer and B2B sales teams and what should brands do to win in both channels?
“Now more than ever, brands should be seeking partnerships with agencies who can deliver across both sectors – they need to have a two-pronged strategy and win with consumers AND B2B. The environment has changed significantly across both channels.
Let’s take consumer retail first - there have been 4 key changes in the consumer environment:
- Temporary and permanent closure of bricks and mortar retail: Across key retailers, more than 50% of stores have remained closed, and retailers assessing the viability of every outlet meaning more may close in the future.
- Online (or Pureplays) are winning, but they’re facing new challenges: Consumers have found ways to research and purchase the products they want, but supply chains have creaked at the seams and customer service has been challenging in a digital environment. Every retailer has posted positive growth in online channels, but it hasn’t been sufficient to make up the gap from bricks and mortar sales.
- Blended experiences are being launched and refined: By this I mean consumers are able to connect with retail professionals in new ways - from Shop Live from Dixons supporting over 20,000 customer conversations each week, to John Lewis launching a personal shopper service on Zoom - retailers are realising that the personal experience still delivers value. It increases transaction values and reduces returns, and all while increasing customer satisfaction.
- Technology and Home Electricals are an enabler in everyday life, work and education: With a huge increase in home working and schooling, consumers have reassessed their requirements to be able to work productively and comfortably from home. This has driven many people to update their technology at home, from software to broadband equipment, and devices to kitchen gadgets, to optimise their “new normal”.
Meanwhile the B2B channel has also been impacted, and I think that the way brands can be more successful in this space is leverage the attitude and skillset of their consumer channel teams:
There’s a huge opportunity here for B2B teams to learn from how B2C teams operate. If done right brands can create long term customers vs win short term sales, as long as the right strategy is applied. Here’s how:
- Use data to understand your customer base: In B2B, the landscape is quite different. Here, the IT Reseller and VAR market holds an opportunity to win for those who can understand their customer base and managed offerings in granular detail. Data is the key to understanding your market and it’s not being utilised in this channel to it’s full potential and that’s a huge gap.
- Align brand proposition with customer need for long term partnership: Right now, businesses are seeking flexibility and efficiency more than ever before. Products like cloud, collaboration and communication devices, and security products are on the rise. Businesses are buying to satisfy an immediate need. Brands need to sell a solution story and adapt their propositions to match the needs of businesses for the long term. We think that the brands who can simplify their message and proactively target this to their audience will be the ones who win.
- Meaningful digital engagement will win sales and promote advocacy: Restricted face to face interaction has made meaningful digital engagement very important. Brands need to rely on their sales teams to breathe life and purpose into engaging digital campaigns. Monotonous webinars, untailored to their customers needs, won’t cut it. Brands need to find ways to create community and provoke emotion with their B2B audiences.
When your consumer retail teams learn from you B2B teams and vice versa, both become more successful. Creativity, personalisation and using data to ensure being in the right place at the right time are all keys to success.
These three points are all things we do well in the consumer channel and when we apply this to brands B2B arms we see transformational success. Brands who think outside the box will change the way B2B sales are done forever.”
What factors influence purchase, and are there any consistencies across the B2C or B2B channels or are they different?
Lindsay tell us, “There is actually a lot of similarity in what influences sales with the Consumer and in and B2B. In fact, we can point to 3 areas that are consistent across both B2B and Consumer channels:
- Execution of product: Whether online or in a bricks and mortar location, the execution of product draws buyers in. To make a person engage you must first make sure they can find the product and create a display of sorts to draw them in.
- Advice from staff: A huge reason that people buy via retailers or resellers is so they can get advice. People rely on staff to provide expert recommendations based on their specific needs, it’s a way for them to make sure they’re buying the right product. Staff need to be knowledgeable, skilled at matching needs, and passionate advocates of the products and brands they sell.
- Product demonstration: Buyers want an experience and to be able to get ‘hands on’ with the product they are considering buying - the product demonstration can be the difference between a ‘maybe’ and a ‘yes’ when it comes to purchase.
So, what do brands actually have to do to win? Can you give us a formula for success in each channel?
Lindsay comments, “The combination of environmental change with consistent purchasing influencers has revolutionised what brands need to do to win.
In the Consumer channel, brands must
- Track and influence online execution to the same level as bricks and mortar, ensuring the product story is consistent
- Change the way they engage staff, embracing digital training and influence over a face to face bias
- Engage consumers online through video powered and live facetime experiences, bringing the store experience to their home.
In the B2B channel, the approach brands take needs to be led by a goal of achieving long term success through engagement, rather than hitting short term sales targets. To do this, brands must:
- Create and implement a program of engagement, not just a short-term sales plan
- Engage channel staff in more than the numbers, employing people who can influence and engage business customers on solutions, not just sell boxes and licenses
- Leverage the available data. It’s not enough to just track and measure revenue. Revenue data at a point in time only tells part of the story.
So, we’ve identified the challenges, the consistencies and what brands need to do to sell more in both B2C and B2B channels, but how do they do it? Do you have any tips on how they engage the right partners to help them create and deliver the right strategy?
Lindsay starts, “If your goal is to sell more then I’d be telling you to look for a partner who has experience across different sectors, who has a reputation for blending people, data and technology to create tailored solutions, who is known for their thinking in addition to their action, and who is agile enough to quickly adapt and reset to fit changes in environment or strategy or proactively flex between channels or activities when the strategy or data tells them to.
At McCurrach, whichever channel is your focus, we can help you sell more, and we’re focused on 3 areas to do this:
- Multi-sector: We’re experts in both retail and commercial sectors, enabling us to adapt to your business needs and demands
- Breadth of service proposition: We’ll help you find the perfect blend of execution, staff training and advocacy, and direct consumer engagement, whether online or in bricks and mortar locations. We deliver blended learning and advocacy programs, insight capture, sales, active selling, and consumer experiences, enabling us to create a tailored service to fit your strategy.
- Agile teams: We ensure our people have a breadth of expertise that’s unrivalled. This means they can pivot quickly from physical to digital and from B2B to Consumer channels, ensuring you get the most from your resource at all times.”
If you’d like to talk more about how your brand can revolutionise the approach to success in both Consumer and B2B channels to sell more, talk to us.
Alternatively, follow our LinkedIn page to stay up to date with our latest views.
MEET THE EXPERT:
For more information on Lindsay Hey, Client Account Director, specialising in the Technology sector, visit her LinkedIn page.