The era of downloading price lists by link and placing orders by manager’s call should become a thing of the past. And ideally as soon as possible. Sales automation and optimization of man-hours are increasingly coming into the picture. Moreover, the gradual change of generations affects the approval of new principles in the work.
The baby boomers (1946–1964) are retiring, Generation X (1965–1979) is taking over the leadership seats, with the Millennials (1981–1995) competing with them, but also Generation Z (1996 and later) is already tailing after them. This means that doing things ‘like before’ does not exactly work, as those at the wheel are shaped by technology and have grown up in a rapidly changing and highly competitive world.
To make your business stand out with service and approach from competitors who process applications by phone, modern solutions are required. If implemented wisely, they will help reduce the costs and increase profits, no matter what field you work in.
Tasks That the Personal Account Solves
Let’s look at the pain points our clients faced when they wanted to create a quick personal account on the website to highlight the tasks it was supposed to solve.
A lot of time was spent by managers on communicating with customers who wanted to place a bulk order — the task is to reduce managerial costs and automate sales.
There are two dealers of the same brand of cars in the country, you need to build up and offer additional services — creating a competitive advantage.
You need to increase the average check — marketing personalized pre-sales by catalog.
A large number of documents and the human factor, affected processing errors — automation and creation of electronic document management, saving time.
Some customers ‘fall off’ at the point of making a purchase — get a purchase funnel.
What else is the Personal Account for? For example, you have a bonus system based on the number of orders or the total amount of purchases. Or you want to make life easier for regular wholesale customers who need to save selections of products for quick access to them. Or maybe you offer to track the status of an object or an order fulfillment process. All these tasks are solved by creating a Personal Account.
In my article How an ideal online store looks like, I described what a personal account should look like in an online store, that is, in the B2C segment. Today I’m going to break this down for B2B clients. I will also tell you how its quality affects the loyalty of such customers.
Target Audience of a Personal Account
At one of our customers, clients are divided into 2 types: small businesses that take 80% of the manager’s time but only bring in 20% of the revenue, and large businesses that take the remaining 20% of the time but make 80% of the profit.
Why is it important to separate their display at the moment of creating a Personal Account? The field activity for different client statuses is also different. For example, the payment method is different: large players have deferred payment or the ‘no prepayment’ function, while others do not.
In banking, 24/7 tech support or a personal manager is not provided for everyone.
Personal Accounts will be different if you provide services not only to legal entities but also to individuals. Some people find it convenient to search for products by article, while there is no need for large and detailed product images. For others, it is important to see what you have ordered so that you do not make a mistake and set up searches according to morphological principles.
There is also a distinction between the Personal Accounts of a client and a manager. The first one has a ‘store with a consultant’, the second one has their own workplace.
Levels of Access to the Personal Account
However, the division of the Personal Accounts by client type is not the only option. Levels of access and interface can vary according to the hierarchy principles in the company.
For example, accountants will be able to extend the integration of the cabinet with oracle (access to financial statements, accounts payable/receivable, credit facilities), and managers will be able to issue bills, invoices, certificates, waybills, reconciliation statements, and the director will have full access to all information. And all this will not just be in tabular form, but with convenient navigation.
You are free to decide which processes to automate and for whom. I’ll give you a hint: you need to decide this at the moment of drafting the Terms of Reference. Of course, you can refine something in the process, but it is better to have an idea in advance of how long the task will take, and how much it will cost.
Setting up the integration is a purely technical issue that is resolved in conjunction with oracle developers or those who set up these or other systems.
I will not go into specific cases, I will draw your attention to the integration with oracle. In my practice, unfortunately, it is not uncommon for developers on the other side not to understand or not to want to understand what is required of them. Therefore, some settings can take weeks to complete. To protect ourselves from the carelessness of ‘colleagues’ we try to deal only with reliable representatives and often bring them to the project.
For our part, to protect the customer from any possible disruptions and errors in oracle, integrated into the Personal Account, we draw attention to the following points:
When exchanging data with oracle, you should keep in mind that it may be unavailable due to maintenance, so you must guarantee the delivery of data and work of the Personal Account after access is restored.
When the client enters the order history, you need to take into account that oracle may not be available, it is necessary to show the most recent status of the order, which is stored in your database.
The client needs to guarantee the correct operation of the Personal Account and ensure timely delivery of data to oracle. If it does not work, then the order must be delivered until oracle gives feedback that the information is received.
It is necessary to make a section with logs to see all the errors that may occur during the exchange of data between the Personal Account and oracle.
As you can see, the setup integration should be given enough time, both the developers and oracle staff, so that data exchange between operators is carried out without loss.
Are you going to create a personal account?
Stages of Creating a Personal Account
Interaction in our company with customers after the conclusion of the contract is usually structured as follows:
Business analysis. At this stage, the analyst describes all the possible ways of the client when use a Personal Account, as well as how to handle situations in the event of errors or missing data. The contents of the account begin to be formed on the basis of the received schemes and the customer’s terms of reference.
Design. The UX/UI designer draws a prototype and coordinates it with the customer.
Development. API development begins, onto which the website, all the integrations, widgets, and mobile applications will be built.
It should be noted that it is not always necessary to do them all at once. Our approach allows you to first make only a website, and over time to develop a cross-platform application. This, by the way, allows for uniformity and the same logic of operation for both iOS and Android users. Thanks to the API flexibility, applications will be fully synchronized with the website whenever they are made.
There are a few important rules to ensure that both you and your customers can work safely. Here they are:
Not to allow issuing certificates directly in the system. This is because from a legal point of view there may be inconsistencies when the goods have not yet been delivered or there may be precedents that do not allow the signing of the certificate. You can show a notional ‘draft’, but the real certificate with a signature must be posted in person.
To separate access levels to protect yourself from unscrupulous managers who want to steal your customer database, or from various mistakes and confusions.
To establish a secure connection for the personal account with oracle via VPN in order to guarantee the data exchange over a special secure channel, so that no one can intercept the information.
Regardless of whether you sell to a particular customer or another business, nobody has canceled the stimulation of demand. And it is possible to carve out from the competition, using both classic marketing tools and modern trends inherent in e-commerce:
Tutorials on how to use the new services
Novelty reviews and marketing information that the customer can use for educational or commercial purposes on their websites
Personalized offers and the opportunity to get feedback
Additional sales (cross-sale and up-sale) on the same principle as in the case of the B2C segment
Bonus systems, loyalty programs
Influencing customer demand with auxiliary units
Gathering information about the client’s preferences, plans, income level
Notifications of arrivals or promotional offers
The development of personal accounts with a loyalty program, in general, is becoming more and more relevant. An alternative is a mobile app. We explained what it should look like in the article «The Perfect Retailer Loyalty Program App».
Personal Account Features
Catalog, pricing, and checkout procedure are the key elements of a successful B2B store. But there are a number of important little things that make it more convenient for customers in a wholesale company. From our point of view, the following stand out:
One of the decencies when interacting with a B2B client is to provide a personal manager. It affects loyalty. A Personal Account should provide the ability to quickly communicate with him/her, access his/her contacts, and even an avatar. This will demonstrate an individual approach and transparency.
Request for Deferred Payment
Regular customers are often given a credit facility or deferred payment. This will be displayed in the Personal Account and can be set up by a personal manager or automatically (for example, when reaching a certain amount of orders).
You can also set up a new order with deferred payment automatically. If for some reason this is not possible, the customer will be notified. Additionally, a manager may receive such a notification.
This step makes life easier for both you and the client. No need to remember passwords, you will always have access to the account, regardless of the device from which you log in. And you will always have a database of phone numbers of all your clients. And the cherry on the cake is the safety of your database. A manager who left the company will not be able to access the database without your phone.
Personal Account Personalization
One client may often have several legal entities, and one legal entity may have several contact persons. The right solution is to create individual accounts rather than creating one for everyone. This way we can build a better purchase funnel, and the analytics will be more accurate.
Product Catalog Personalization
As we mentioned earlier, the Personal Accounts of a legal entity and an individual are different. Hence, the catalogs in them are different, too. But even for B2B clients, it makes sense to provide the ability to switch between interfaces. For example, in addition to the classic visualization of the list of products in the form of tiles, you can offer to view the catalog in the form of a table with a large number of items.
Another level of personalization is when your prices in the catalog are set separately for each partner.
Current Cart Status
You need to update the availability of ordered items in the cart (in case someone managed to buy all the items out of stock), change the price depending on the number of items, and save the entire cart, if necessary. Because the customers often place orders for the same products.
This option can be made in the form of a list of products, thanks to which you can make an express order by simply changing the number of products in the desired line. Prices should be constantly updated as well as the stock levels. To prevent you from working at a loss or selling nonexistent positions.
In my opinion, the most convenient is the search made with MeiliSearch. Like Elasticsearch, it allows you to take morphology into account, search through synonym lists, rank search results, index and re-index search suggestions, but in contrast, it is much faster, more flexible, and less voracious. This is an open-source, incredibly fast and hyper-relevant search engine that will improve your search experience.
In any case, if we are talking about efficiency, then the user should be able to:
Search for information in catalogs, cards, and even articles
See search prompts when searching
Not to think about spelling mistakes
See the number of search results
See the price
Not to see the products that are not on sale
Use smart autofill based on query frequency
Not to focus on the keyboard layout
Embedding Analytics in the Personal Account
We have recently found out that in one of the online stores we worked on, people do not use the search bar and look for products by category. Even though we are talking about the B2C segment, one conclusion is inescapable — analytics must be thought through at the very start of the project. Otherwise, this information would have never come out.
Other benefits of the various metrics that you have thought through in advance will be:
ability to give access to personalized offers
ability to predict seasonal sales of different groups of goods and plan profits
introduce bonus systems and loyalty programs
Notifications in the Personal Account are certainly a good thing. But let’s be honest, customers do not spend eight hours in it every day. This means that they may not know that the cost of delivery has changed or there are problems with the shipment. So give them the opportunity to get push notifications where it is really convenient, at least in the form of emails.
The same capabilities should also be available to managers because they need to promptly receive messages and changes in the status of the order from their customers. And also to stay in touch with them. The main thing here is not to do it the way you are used to, but the way it will be more convenient for the users of the Personal Account.
The issue of delivery for the B2B segment is no less critical than for individuals. You should also take into account the work schedule, the ability to choose the right company and know in advance how much it will cost you. This is why we usually insist that the following information should be displayed in the Personal Account:
Delivery calendar: the client can see when and which orders will be delivered, which of them have already been paid and processed, and which are still waiting to be delivered.
Delivery services: this is relevant if third parties take on the work, and the client will also need to sign some documents with them.
Delivery cost calculation: this is relevant when customers are in different cities and countries.
Payment methods: this is not just about cash/non-cash, this is about deferrals, bonus systems, and prepayment.
The effectiveness of a Personal Account depends not only on the right decisions made by the customer before starting a project but also on the experience of the contractor. We recommend paying attention to the following issues before starting a project:
Defining the objectives and expectations of the implementation before the project begins.
Availability of an experienced contractor, with relevant experience in creating personal accounts.
Willingness to devote time to participate in the project. As a rule, employees who will use the office from the customer’s side, as well as its longest-standing customers should be involved in the work. It would be worthwhile to involve IT specialists, who will deal with the configuration of standard and non-standard integrations. And you also need a particular person who can competently make decisions and coordinate all phases of the work.
And most importantly, remember that if you’ve already decided to create a Personal Account for your business, do not strive to do it anyhow, and do not merely reincarnate your Excel in a more advanced form. Really think through what processes you can automate, and what advantages in money terms you will get. A Personal Account is an opportunity to improve your business, so you should not pass it up by entrusting the work to a contractor who offers a quick, cheap, and template-driven solution.
Would you like to develop such a project?
We have extensive experience in creating effective personal accounts for both B2B and B2C companies. So feel free to contact us if you need to develop such a portal.
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