Subscription sales: online channels

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This is the seventh article in our 12-part subscription sales series, designed to help you understand and prepare for the evolving sales landscape. This article discusses the importance of online channels in streamlining the customer experience. Don’t forget to read the previous six articles in this series; a new sales strategy, customer segmentation, understanding your customer market, customer-centric sales approaches, understanding the customer journey and the road to profitability.

Online channels

The 21st century has transformed the way people buy. Consumers have almost daily interactions with companies like Spotify, Netflix, Uber and Amazon. The prevalence of these companies has changed consumer purchase expectations with online sales becoming the new normal for both B2C or a B2B transactions.

It’s only a matter of time before this disruption appears in all sectors and industries. It was initially considered that luxury, high-value products could not be sold entirely online. However, Tesla has successfully sold to customers through their online channels and shown it’s possible to eliminate car dealerships.

Online channels simplify the customer journey

Traditional sales processes were never designed with the end customer in mind. Dividing sales responsibilities across different team members meant customers were constantly handed between different sales people. With each handover, customers experienced the same sales pitch and the same information. This process ultimately added time and cost to the customer’s purchase process.

Online channels simplify the customer journey. Well-designed websites and applications allow customers to self-serve without ever interacting with a sales person. Customers who do want support can access any one sales person across the business to assist the customer to make their purchase.

Importantly, building a strong online channel does not eliminate the need for account executives. Customer support and negotiation continues to play a critical role in the sales process. High-touch customers, such as those in the Enterprise segment, are a prime example. These customers require substantial engagement and stakeholder management to ensure all involved parties are backing the purchase decision.

Businesses benefit when they invest in their online experience

A strong online service reduces a business’ resource load. The greater the investment in the online experience, the more customers are able to self serve. A high number of self-serving customers creates free time for sales team members to spend on value-add activities that enhance the customers’ experience.

Online channels also allow businesses to control the customer experience. For example, automated follow-ups or advertisements can be programmed to ensure companies consistently deliver best-in-class sales practices.

Example of the Online Sales Experience

An online sales channel does not mean the customer journey looks the same for each product and person. An individual may be looking for support over the phone, through online chat, or by referring to how-to guides and FAQs to independently work through issues.

Regardless of what journey a customer takes, the online channel should be the backbone of the experience. The below blueprint demonstrates the role that online experience plays during the customer journey.

Case study

One of our clients, we’ll refer to as Foot Co., found success creating an app to support businesses with client logistics. They had achieved solid growth with smaller customers, but identified that they would need to expand into Enterprise customers if they wanted the business to scale. They knew this required a sales approach transformation.

Foot had been heavily investing in digital marketing and had created a strong customer pipeline. However, these customers would sign-up to the app but would not use (and pay for) the product because they could not understand how to use it. To combat this issue, Foot established teams of sales people who were responsible for calling customers after they had signed up for the app to show them a demonstration. This ensures customers started using and paying for the product, but the approach was scalable and did not cater for Enterprise customers.

As customers were already self-serving by signing up for the product, we advised Foot to build a self-guided demonstration into their app. This would allow willing customers to understand the product and app on their own.

The benefits of this investment were significant. Foot materially reduced their cost of acquisition for small, self-service customers and found a solution that allowed them to scale without making a sizeable investment in additional sales people. Since the sales reps no longer had to run demonstrations, they could deliver more valuable activities, such as bringing in new business through outbound sales.

Furthermore, the superior, consistent experience delivered through the app also drove customer retention due to a more positive onboarding experience.

Foot’s investment opened up an entirely new customer base. Foot had previously struggled to attract customers with side businesses, which was a large customer base. These customers previously signed up to Foot’s product on weekends, hoping to use it straight away, only to find they needed to wait until a weekday (when they were in their day jobs) to receive a product demonstration. Foot was now able to capture these customers that had previously been turning to competitors.

Contact us for more information on implementing digital channels to improve your overall customer journey.


Next up in this subscription sales series we focus on a comprehensive guide to data that will build your transformation foundation.

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