The evolution of eCommerce has been rapid and enables levels of customer experience we could only dream about even 5 years ago. Customers expect more flexibility, more reliability, more transparency, and more speed. B2B customers are increasingly evaluating suppliers, not just based on product performance and sustainability, but also on their reliability, and customer experience.
David Howes is Head of Digital Commercial and explains how Clariant BU Pigment’s Colorants Webshop helps create a better customer experience, and in particular, how a customer portal is key to offering more transparency and better service to customers.
Mr. David Howes, Head of Digital Commercial at Clariant
Many companies now offer a webshop, so why is the Colorants Webshop different?
Mr. Howes: In many ways our webshop is the same as other B2B webshops. It supports product search, sample request, order confirmation and safety data sheet download. However, by integrating systems used by our customer service teams, we can create a true customer portal providing more real time information. For example, a personalized product catalogue, faster reordering, real time order changes, delivery updates, as well as regulatory, safety and technical documents relevant to each customer. It is a win-win for our customers who can make better decisions, but also our customer-facing teams who can offer more proactive customer service supporting a better customer experience.
How does the Colorants Webshop help create a better customer experience?
Mr. Howes: We set ourselves the challenge to offer a ‘one click’ experience to make the webshop as easy to use as possible. With this in mind, we designed a homepage with frequently used functions and most important information together in one customer view. Friction is frustrating, but it also increases hidden costs linked to delay. Whilst we are not there yet, we aspire to make our customers experience as frictionless as possible.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. How do you know that customers like using the Colorants Webshop?
Mr. Howes: There are two parts to a successful customer portal. Making it fast and easy to use, but importantly, ensuring the information provided is useful for daily business. We ask every new user to give us feedback 6-8 weeks after 1st login. We also display a customer thermometer on the homepage which customers can use anytime to give us feedback. So far, the results have been encouraging. 82% of users recommend the Colorants Webshop and see it as a value adding service. When a customer uses it to order, it does speed up order processing, but it is completely optional. The main benefit continues to be accessing relevant information, all in one place.
In the last decade, online marketplaces have grown exponentially, as have the products and services being offered. Why not just invest in B2B marketplaces?
Mr. Howes: We do use B2B marketplaces where it matches our needs, especially for customers with less demand for pigments, and to promote our colour solutions in new markets. For this reason, we encourage our distributors to engage online, either through their own customer portal, or through a B2B marketplace. Part of our digital strategy is to be more reliable through effective use of technology and data. From effective sampling and selection of our colour solutions through to efficient delivery and integrated customer service. Something we cannot yet do through a B2B marketplace, and why we continue to invest in our customer portal.
It sounds like you have overcome many challenges. What can we learn from Clariant BU Pigments’ eCommerce journey?
Mr. Howes: We now have customers on the platform from every region we do business in. The biggest challenge we faced was harmonizing the way we work across these regions to automate and provide real time information that customers can trust. By rolling out region by region, it allowed us to better understand cultural and regulatory needs. For example, the need for eSignatures in certain countries, or translating into more languages to make it easier for customers to use. As a result, the Colorants Webshop is now available in Chinese, English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. Rolling out gradually has allowed our teams to support personalized onboarding. Perhaps another reason why 82% of users recommend the Colorants Webshop.
What advice would you give your customers or distributors who want to create their own webshop?
Mr. Howes: Be curious, and appreciative when customers and customer service teams take the time to give feedback. Some of it is common sense, like being more reliable, offering self-service, and generally being more proactive. With advances in technology, this is now possible, but at the core is listening to customers, and customer service teams who suggested new features which otherwise would not have been added. I would personally like to thank everyone who has helped us so far on our digital journey together.
What is Clariant BU Pigments planning next for the Colorants Webshop?
Mr. Howes: Last month we added the shelf life of our products and announced a new certified range of compostable colorants to support biodegradable packaging. Next month we aim to show a real time overview of price changes in a new price book. In 2022, we aim to further personalize the customer experience by adding new features, such as notifications if a delivery is delayed, online technical support, and communicating more innovation through the webshop. The more feedback we receive, the more we improve, and why we encourage all our customers to register for the Colorants Webshop. To help us offer a better customer experience.
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