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From my experience working with ‘oh, so many’ companies, businesses that are proactive and fast at implementing new technologies, staying on top of tech trends, are much more likely to get ahead and make a name for themselves.
Every successful industry naturally, gets more competitive with time, which forces serious players to keep up to date with new sales technologies. Doing this successfully can often prove to offer a superior ROI.
The sales and marketing tech industry is no different.
Be less proactive, and watch your competitors get ahead of you because they will already be running and had already optimized new tools, which you haven’t tried. Stay passive and you might just miss the train.
How do the pros in our industry know where to invest their research and training efforts? After all, there are tons of new tools and techniques… It’s simple, they look for trends! Trends help us understand the important evolutions within the industry, usually based on thought leaders, experience and lessons learned.
So, in attempt to make things a little easier on you (I know you are busy, I hear you) and point your attention to what’s important, I’ve gathered five online sales technology trends for 2017, I am following and I think you should too.
(1) Integrated Sales & Marketing processes for a better synergy
Automated sales and marketing operations aren’t new. From what I’ve seen, most online businesses are using at least one of them, if not both. But many companies still don’t have the two operations integrated into one centralized operational system.
In the eCommerce industry, for example, it is known that potential buyers go through in-depth research before making a purchase decision and before proceeding to an online purchase ( 81% in fact).
While sales techniques are highly related to the purchase phase, marketing tactics (content marketing and nurturing in more specific) are needed to help the prospect reach their purchase decisions.
Since we know now that sales and marketing depend on one another, an integrated operation is becoming a must.
We all talk about the customer journey, online customer journey, eCommerce customer journey, you get the idea. Well, it’s easier said than done.
When the marketing isn’t optimized, the prospect reaches the purchase screen too early, unaware of important benefits or unique values. This can certainly distress them during the decision-making process. It results in harder work for the sales teams and naturally, impacts conversion rates.
But, when the marketing is integrated well before the purchase is made, the user can find all the required info, clear product descriptions, guidelines, required content, in variety of formats (to match multiple users with different preferences), and so forth. Then your sales people enjoy and benefit from significantly higher chances of converting prospects into happy paying customers.
Naturally, this is much harder to achieve without building and having a close co-operation between your sales and marketing teams.
More so, there’s an ongoing open discussion about who should be responsible for tracking, analyzing and communicating the conversion funnel data and whether it’s the marketing or the sales department? Gladly, there’s no argument about the importance of the data. No one can enjoy a successful business without knowing their cost per acquisition, conversion rates and LTV.
When there’s a synergy between your sales and marketing teams, everybody works together on the numbers, each brings a unique contribution to the discussion. Adding important insights, the communication flows better and the result has a higher chance the customer journey will be taken care of, with minimal blind spots.
Sales and marketing synergy = transparency = better connectivity = optimized customer journey!
let’s take us, Bontact, as an example. We’ve recently added a system that’s serves both our marketing and sales team, hence leading to a unified data flow (not being promotional so I am not writing its name, Sorry for that. Still, feel free to contact me in private, I will gladly share more data).
Why? We couldn’t live without it anymore. Simply said. We were facing a lot of miscommunication issues, some of them I already described above.
While leads came, our talented sales people were missing critical info. We looked, well, how shell I put it gently? Not very smart.
Our sales person would talk to a lead, not knowing that he received a special promotion, until the prospect complained about the price that the salesperson has mentioned.
That’s only one example.
Generally speaking, we’ve launched marketing activities that helped us enjoy a nice stream of leads, but for a couple of months, we’ve felt that our sales operation isn’t meeting the potential. We began to seriously wonder about the “why”.
That’s when we understood the pain caused by the fact that our sales people aren’t analyzing the prospects’ journey from the top of the funnel. They didn’t know what trigger caused a prospect to visit our website, what content did they read prior to the sales interaction, or alike. All these missing parts affected our conversions from leads to paying users.
That was when we decided to go for an integrated system. No more one automation system for the marketing and another, a CRM, for the sales.
Currently, our sales people can see the full picture. From Prospects’ very first trigger, through their entire conversion journey to new leads and nurtured leads.
We have seen a VERY significant uplift. Moreover, our sales reps started feeding our marketers, with relevant info about what motivates our prospect and where they see our best values. Pure gold if you ask me.
(2) From eCommerce to mCommerce, it’s happening now.
The talk about mobile commerce has been happening for a while now. But now, the numbers are here.
Simply put, users are purchasing things online through their mobile phones. It means our B2C marketing and sales should be, focused on mobile.
Smartphone devices penetration is at almost 90%. We are facing the market at a fit stage.
“Buy” is the new “Like”
You must have seen that popular social media networks like Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter (that are mostly accessed on mobile devices) have introduced “Buy” buttons, and are investing their best efforts in eCommerce features and tools. Making it easy for online shoppers to buy whatever they want without leaving the social media site or app.
Last year, U.S. shoppers alone purchased more than $2.4 billion worth of goods using smartphones or tablets.
This year, the number of mobile conversions by means of phone or tablet, is expected to increase a lot more.
So, we know that our customers are performing more and more shopping on the go.
It’s an evolution and buzz that has been in the industry for a long time. But now the shift from online to mobile is increasingly significant. I expect that in the future, mobile commerce will outsmart online commerce, and businesses that will not be ready, will be faced with losses in revenue.
Don’t think about having a mobile site. That’s obvious and goes without saying.
I am talking about covering each and every aspect of your users journey, imagine desktop doesn’t exist.
Plan your mobile flow, supporting your buyers journey, as if desktop doesn’t exist and all you have is, mobile…
Last week I got annoyed. Nothing new or exciting here, I’ve been getting annoyed a lot lately… a different story… but the reason I got so annoyed, can provide a great example to the mobile shift I am talking about.
I tried booking a hotel through my mobile. It was an absolute nightmare. I tried over and over again, but the system kept reacting and presenting weird error messages. Eventually I called the service the next morning and boy, was this upsetting:
- First, they booked the hotel, but explained that since I didn’t use a digital, low touch wizard for the booking I will not enjoy the 5% benefit.
- Then, when I explained that I couldn’t book it on my mobile as it was buggy, they said that of course, purchase via mobile isn’t supported (!!!)
- When I asked, why isn’t there a clear message saying so (instead all the selection menus were available on mobile view, even the billing menus and only at the end I kept getting unrelated error messages) they didn’t have a good answer, but still they wouldn’t grant me the wishful 5% discount.
I was furious. Here’s an example of a respectable, huge hotel chain that hasn’t yet understood that eCommerce has moved to mobile. I was even more annoyed because I felt that mobile is the standard now, it’s not an exception.
Of course, I felt extremely disappointed by this hotel chain.
If you don’t ‘mobilize’ your eCommerce or B2C domains, you are annoying and disappointing your users.
( 3 ) Social Selling
From content sharing, tweeting, analyzing data to converting sales channels, social media is becoming a prevalent platform in the world of B2C.
LinkedIn describes the four pillars of social selling perfectly:
- Create a professional looking brand.
- Focus on the right prospects.
- Engage your customers with the right insights.
- Build relationships based on trust.
Social selling is expected to become a very big trend in 2017. I am for sure keeping my eyes and ears open.
According to studies, companies that engage in social selling are more than 51% likely to hit their monthly or weekly quotas, and are able to generate 45% more opportunities.
Right, reports say many things, but as I mentioned before, the efforts that the social media networks put into eCommerce features, give us a good hint for what is coming our way.
Social media is no longer about socializing, it hasn’t been for a while now. Social media channels have turned to into ad machines, search engines, event promotion platform and survey systems. It’s only natural move for the popular social media channels to become virtual online shops.
Trust the big social media networks management teams, not to skip this great opportunity and fight for this major, highly monetizable industry.
I am not sure when and how social media commerce will behave in the near future, but I am sure to take a closer look at related techniques and tools.
Meanwhile, investing in social presence is something I believe in. Especially as I believe that social giants like Facebook will find a way to offer businesses innovative ways to monetize in the communities they have raised so well, I am just not sure how.
( 4 ) Automated Customer Support Services. Multiple Communication Apps.
Providing 24/7 customer support is a huge benefit for any online business, let alone end customer oriented business or an eCommerce shop.
No one likes to wait on hold, customers want their questions answered as quickly as possible, we are all now used to instant gratification and we can bare zero frustration.
However, it’s obvious that it’s not always a feasible option for a small or even medium size business to have someone waiting by the phone.
For global businesses, the problem is even bigger and you can understand why.
A potential customer can easily turn to another direction, and start interacting with a competitor that happens to be available. Competitors are always available when you are not. Murphy’s…
I’ve got some friends that started playing ‘Clash of Clans’ you know, the mobile game? I am mentioning it for a reason, one minute, please.
In this “social” game, players attack each other’s camps, so they can steal gold and gems, god knows what else, and gain strength. When are you bound to get robbed? When you are off the game. For Clash of Clans edits, it's mainly when you go to sleep. When you are playing, there’s no harm. Only you rob others. This is how the game publishers made sure to maximize play time. Genius ha?
It’s not very different in the online sales business. Going offline means you get robbed.
This is precisely why businesses are moving towards automated support options, like Chatbots, and are integrating multiple communication apps on their online and mobile domains. End customers must enjoy easy ways to interact with businesses, or they will go somewhere else.
Automated customer support mechanisms, means being live, even when you are not. It not save you the need to keep someone on, 24/7 , if you wish to reach the highest standard of service, but it will allow you to get a lot more efficient with it and while satisfying your customers.
Integrating multiple communication apps, on the other hand, means being a great host, one that goes above and beyond with staying approachable.
Letting your potential customers reach you anyway they want creates a new standard of service and allows you to differentiate yourself, in a very competitive landscape.
Bontact, that’s us (you knew it was coming 🙂 ) offers an “all–in–one” multi-channel communication solution, to add them all in a single and simple integration, and to then allow you to enjoy a single unified data stream, which is added to the Bontact dashboard or to any 3rd party CRM. Start a free trial now.
( 5 ) Lights, Camera, Action - The Rise of Live Video
Like for so many other trends, Facebook paved the way.
Live video was making waves on YouTube for ages, but Facebook helped live video streamers to reach a specific and targeted audience.
“Going live”, the new live video stream that’s now available on Facebook, offers a great business opportunity.
Many businesses have started piloting it now. Many giants like Buzz Feed, Dunkin Donuts and Airbnb, as well as some SMB’s.
Live video offers a unique way of sharing information about products, and presenting them in real time with no filters. It a trust building technique. No Photoshop and much closer to reality.
Live video also allows businesses to communicate with their prospects and followers in a personal and authentic way. It’s also a brilliant way to build a strong following.
What’s the direct ROI? Well, I haven’t seen enough data that indicates how live video has managed to support business KPIs, like direct sales, recurring sales or alike, yet.
I am sure the numbers will come soon, but meanwhile I am keeping my eyes open and looking at the companies who embrace this technology. I am also collecting ideas on how I can use live video creatively!
The Bottom Line…
These are some of my favorite trends that I will be keeping an eye on in 2017, though there must be many more.
Feel free to drop me a note and share more trends you follow, so I can consider adding them here.
May 2017 be a great year for online sales!