“Self-service used to be about saving money by accepting a worse experience,” says Nikhil Govindaraj, Head of Products at goMoxie. Pump your own gas, and you get dirty hands, cook your own dinner, and you get a bland meal, carry your own bags, and you get backache – the self-service experience is poor, but, hey, you save a few bucks.
When it comes to B2B sales, the relationship between self-service and customer experience has totally changed. Today, 87% of B2B buyers would prefer to self-serve. Self-service no longer means cheap and crappy; it means convenient, flexible, fast, empowered, and, since Covid, socially distanced.
Manufacturers of engineer-to-order products tend to count themselves among a small band of unfortunate companies for whom digital self-service isn’t a realistic proposition. They sell highly technical configurable products. They have hundreds, thousands, even millions of potential product options. How could customers possibly serve themselves!?
The answer: robust configure price quote software.
How to Deliver a B2B eCommerce Experience
Executives shouldn’t think of eCommerce as "just another sales channel". Learn how this massive shift in B2B buying is shaping how companies win or lose.
Configure price quote software (CPQ) empowers customers to configure and purchase the most complex products without any input from sales or engineering. Every product is guaranteed to be error-free and optimized for engineering efficiency.
Read on to find out how your company can benefit from the game-changing potential of configure price quote software? It’s easier (and cheaper) than you might think.
Over two-thirds of B2B sellers are adopting self-service tools. Why the sudden change?
It’s not sudden at all.
B2B companies are lagging years behind their B2C counterparts when it comes to self-service and eCommerce. Companies like Amazon have set such a high bar for self-service that buyers now expect – demand, even – the same level of personalized online experiences when they buy for business.
Demographics are driving this change too. Millennials already occupy influential buying positions in most large companies, and by 2025, they’ll account for 75 percent of the entire global workforce. This generation is the first that grew up on the Internet. They’re not scared to buy big-ticket items online – it’s the norm. Face-to-face interactions with salespeople, on the other hand, feel contrived, pressurized, and unnecessarily time-consuming.
It’s not only buyers who benefit from eCommerce self-service. The ultimate goal is to get results, quickly and effectively – for sellers too. By focusing energies on self-service, manufacturers stand to gain in the following ways:
- Increased customer satisfaction: Buyers want to self-serve – manufacturers that fail to provide the relevant channels are passed over in favor of those that can.
- Extended global reach: How many prospects can your sales team physically meet with every month? It’s less than 65.6 percent of the entire world’s population – that’s how many people have internet access.
- Deeper insights into customer behavior: You can better track behavior when customers interact with products and options online. Which products are the most popular? Which are the biggest turnoffs? Where have your customers come from? Which cities are showing the most interest? These insights can be precious, enabling data-driven decision-making and informing strategy.
- Lower support costs: It stands to reason that self-serving customers require less support (if not, something’s seriously wrong!) According to the Harvard Business Review, the average cost of a live service interaction (phone, e-mail, or webchat) is more than $13 for a B2B company ($7 for a B2C company). Self-service costs pennies.
- Better customer service when it counts: By freeing up live-channel sales reps and support agents from the most repetitive, menial interactions, you let them focus on the most complicated customer issues, improving overall performance.
How Configure Price Quote Solutions Helps Customers Self-Serve
Buyers are looking for self-serve alternatives to in-person sales interactions. Robust configure price quote software holds the key to selling complex, configurable products online.
What is configure price quote software?
Configure price quote software automates three core processes in the sale of engineer-to-order goods:
- Configuration: Sales reps input data about a customer and their requirements. The software a) picks out the optimal product and options for the customer, or b) guides the user step-by-step through the product configuration process, empowering them to choose options for themselves.
- Pricing: The software calculates prices in real-time depending on the options selected. Manufacturers can use a basic cost-plus pricing model, adding a standard margin onto fixed cost prices.
- Quoting: The software generates an instant quote or proposal for the customer.
How is visual configure price quote software different?
The three steps outlined above describe the functionality of traditional configure price quote software. As you can see, it’s exclusively used as a sales tool. A visual CPQ solution like KBMax, on the other hand, touches every function in the engineer-to-order process. Here’s how:
- Configuration: The user – who could be a sales rep or an end-customer – configures a product using a visual product configurator – a highly intuitive visual interface. They interact with 3D product renderings to create their configurations, dragging and dropping to change features, colors, dimensions, parts, and other attributes.
- Pricing: “Dynamic pricing” calculates prices in real-time as the user tries out different options. Prices can be displayed alongside products on-screen, putting additional configuration power into the users’ hands.
- Quoting: As with more basic configure price quote solutions, the user can generate a quote instantly with a click.
- CAD and design automation: In addition to quotes, KBMax users can auto-generate CAD drawings, saving engineers hours of valuable time producing custom specs.
- Manufacturing automation: KBMax can also generate BOMs, CNC cut sheets, and all manner of assembly guidance needed by the shop floor.
- System integration: KBMax integrates seamlessly with CRM, ERP, and any of your other core business systems. Once users have configured their product using the visual configurator, KBMax handles all the downstream processes automatically.
Your CPQ configurator must have the following three characteristics to drive self-service:
- The product configuration process must be highly visual: Today’s customers are visual learners and visual buyers. They don’t want to read long, boring product descriptions or look at generic images; they want to see what they’re getting as part of an immersive experience.
- Embedding must be super-easy: Embedding your visual product configurator into your B2B eCommerce website should be as easy as copying and pasting a few lines of code. 67% of consumers move between devices when shopping online; your configurator should work seamlessly on any device.
- CPQ product rules must be highly advanced: Buyers have incomplete knowledge of configurable products, but with advanced product rules, every product they configure is error-free and optimized for engineering efficiency, i.e., products work in theory and practice. Rules in KBMax are built using the no-code visual programming language Snap, designed for everybody, not just developers.
My visual product configurator is LIVE! Where are the buyers?
So you’ve chosen your configure price quote software vendor, built your product and pricing rules, launched your configurator and embedded it into your website. Well done, half the battle is won. Now you need to get those self-service buyers onto your website.
If your new online buying experience is solid, existing customers will migrate over quickly without coaxing. That’s just the way things are going. The challenge lies in getting new customers onto your site. If you can overcome these three obstacles (courtesy of Gartner), you’ll be well on your way to self-service excellence:
- External search: If your site shows up near the top of Google when customers type in common search terms, you’ll get visitors. Unfortunately, this is harder than it sounds. You have two options: 1) Search engine optimization (SEO) – using on-page and off-page tactics to inflate your rankings, and 2) Paid search (Google Ads) – paying to advertise your website at the top, bottom, or side of the search results.
- Site navigation: Getting visitors to your site is one thing; getting them to use your visual product configurator is another. Your site should be easy to navigate, and your visual product configurator easy to find.
- Self-service capabilities: This one speaks for itself. If your visual product configurator is poorly designed or lacks the content or functionality necessary to configure complex products, customers won’t use it.