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Shaping customer loyalty in B2B - why digitization creates closeness

When you are supposed to define customer loyalty, the first thought that comes to mind is personal contact? Maybe even regular phone calls and specially signed Christmas cards? It is logical that digitization does not even appear in your idea of customer loyalty. In the B2B area in particular, digitization plays a major role in customer loyalty today, as Mario Holt from ifm told us in our "B2B Digital - The Live Talk". We have summarized the key facts from this conversation for you.
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Best practice with ifm

Mario Holt has been working at ifm for 15 years, where he gained years of experience as a product manager and is now the main department head for content and campaign management. "Customer loyalty always came first for ifm!", Mr. Holt tells us. Not at all easy to implement for a company that specializes in automation and digitization technology, markets correspondingly highly complex products and employs 7,300 people in over 95 countries.

What defines customer loyalty and what role digitization plays

Before we get in, we should clarify what customer loyalty actually means in the B2B area. Is it really the time spent with the customer that counts, or is it not the result that matters? That we know through conversations what the customer wants, what special features he is looking for and what is really important for him? Ultimately, most salespeople agree that we speak of customer loyalty when the customer is satisfied with the product and service and likes to come back. You build it up when the customer feels picked up and receives exactly the product or service he was looking for as quickly and conveniently as possible.

Now digitization comes into play. Because, like ifm, many B2B sales outlets offer a wide range of products that are worth explaining - in this case there are even more than 10,000. How should the customer, who is usually not really familiar with the relevant technical terms, find the right articles find for his project? Ultimately, he will not rummage through heaps of content in order to finally have found the right product after hours have passed. It gets even worse if he orders the wrong thing out of ignorance and goes to another company disappointed with the product and service. Customer loyalty failed!

Why a good online shop strengthens customer loyalty and what it takes for it

At best, however, the website is the central point of contact in a company - Mario Holt also advises this. 10 % of the group sales are to be taken in this way in the future, he states as one of the goals of ifm. The company even had its first online shop around 20 years ago and around 7 years ago the foundation stone was laid for a completely new architecture of the website - and my goodness, it was digitized here: processes were modernized, new tools found and solutions integrated. Ifm thinks in two strands: on the one hand, they want to increase the company's efficiency, on the other hand they want to meet the customer's expectations, offer them the best possible service and actively support them in their purchase decision. In short: build proximity to customers and ultimately strengthen customer loyalty.

Whenever possible, ifm integrates standard solutions in the online shop that optimize processes and give the customer orientation, explains Mr. Holt. But they wanted to go one step further, enable customers to shop completely carefree and take customer loyalty to the next level through advanced digital advice. Mr. Holt compares the desired process with a visit to the supermarket: "When the customer goes shopping for a delicious breakfast, he knows exactly what he wants for it and writes a shopping list accordingly: croissants, coffee, cold cuts ..." In the B2B sector on the other hand, the customer does not always know what product-specific needs are to be satisfied. So how about finding a way to write this “shopping list” for him and lead him specifically to the products that meet his requirements? In relation to ifm, the “shopping lists” would be individual packages or system-specific parts lists. For example, if the customer wants to carry out condition-based maintenance for a fan, then this is initially a challenge for him - logically not for ifm, as they have the necessary expertise. It would be of great advantage for both sides if this expertise could be passed on not only in a direct customer conversation, but also via the online shop and lead the customer directly to the best options, so the basic idea.

How ifm and FoxBase solved the problem and how the digitization of sales created customer loyalty

If customer loyalty arises from the fact that the customer arrives at his desired solution as quickly and as quickly as possible, then it is essential that the processes that lead him there interlock: This is only possible if they come “from a single source”, according to Mr. Holt . The customer deserves a fair, i.e. one and the same representation of the product from the selection to the order, a clear product comparison and a consistent illustration in the shopping cart. With all these requests, ifm came across FoxBase and the about a year and a half ago Digital Product Selector, a software with which companies in the B2B environment can finally digitize their sales. The Selector ensures that potential new customers can independently find their desired product in a few seconds - regardless of whether they are familiar with the subject matter or not. In this way, sales cycles are shortened and the sales department has more time again for more intensive care of existing customers. In short: efficiency is increased and at the same time customer loyalty is created from the very first moment.

In our talk, Mr. Holt and FoxBase founder Benjamin Dammertz talk about how ifm found FoxBase, which hurdles they tackled together and what successes were celebrated. “The common factor of automation technology definitely brought us together,” recalls Mr. Holt. The fact that FoxBase is a startup didn't play that big a role for ifm at first. “The eye level was just right immediately.” There was a great deal of agreement on the requirements for the selector, i.e. which components should be combined in it to allow the user easy orientation and thus ultimately to increase efficiency and strengthen customer loyalty. In fact, the MVP, the first, preliminary version of the solution, was tested internally by ifm's sales specialists after a short time and integrated on the website after around six months. Since then, more new features have been added steadily. Large corporations usually have to get used to this startup-typical way of working, says Mr. Holt, referring to the rapid implementation. But he noticed that it is precisely the agility with which startups like FoxBase approach projects that give them much better predictability: With an MVP you quickly have a “small solution” that is constantly being developed and can grow. So you can start with a smaller investment, requirements are implemented precisely and the current status and progress can be traced at any time.

Today both FoxBase and ifm speak of a successful cooperation, the result of which relieves the salesperson and supports the customer in his purchase decision, which increases efficiency and increases customer loyalty. Thanks to the integrated Customer Insights Portal in the Digital Product Selector, salespeople can also better understand the decision of potential buyers and react accordingly quickly, which creates additional customer proximity.

Are you curious about the full talk? Here can you have a look at it:

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