Understanding the customer journey – and your internal team’s journey – is critical in B2B industries like manufacturing and distribution. You never know where you’ll find a user in the field. In fact, he usually doesn’t know where he’ll be on a daily basis. A common role in the trades, he is usually out working on a job. He may begin his day going to a supplier or picking up materials. He primarily relies on a mobile device to do his job, as he’s rarely at a desk.
Easy Access to Information
A user in the field has many different responsibilities, and his day is never the same as the one before. Maybe he’s a researcher when he’s at his desk, but out in the field, he’s a user who needs to access information quickly and efficiently. On-site, he may need manuals, installation guides, or other content that could help with the product he’s working with at that moment. He may need to look up product availability across various warehouses or view a customized catalog for easy reordering. He doesn’t want to sift through a bunch of irrelevant content; he wants the information he’s looking for to be available and easily accessible on any device they may be using. He is often on a mobile device, so he would benefit most from a customized user experience or a mobile app. It’s important to note that mobile usage in the field is predicted to continue to grow. Mobile usage per B2B worker is expected to increase from two hours a day to three by 2020, driven by millennials, Gen Z, and the increasing use of smartphones by older workers.
Communication on the Job
The user in the field spends a lot of time away from his desk, and he often encounters unexpected situations that need immediate attention. Maybe he runs out of an item on the job site, or a location changed and he needs to reroute a delivery. Whatever the case, he wants to be able to communicate his needs to the rest of his team or his supervisor. It’s not uncommon for a user in the field to be writing down items to be reordered as he goes about his day. He needs a quick way to relay those needs to his supervisor without having to give him a piece of paper or send an email. A system where he can put in requests, document order needs, and keep in touch with the rest of his team will go a long way in streamlining his day-to-day tasks.
A Buying Process that Fits His Needs
It’s not uncommon for a user in the field to have a relationship with people at the physical office location. He may start an order online, hit submit, and move on. Or, he could begin his order online, print his order list, and abandon his online cart to take the printout to your city desk in person. Why didn’t he finish that order online? Because maybe part of his day is going to the office and interacting with the team in person. If he’s constantly on the move, it may be more convenient for him to order in person.
He wants the ability to make his purchase wherever and whenever he wants. That’s why you need to look at your customer data both online and offline to really understand your individual customers’ buying process. Step back and look at the whole picture, rather than assuming cart abandonment or lack of online ordering is a failure. Providing a personalized purchasing journey is essential to the user in the field’s overall experience.
Interacting with the User in the Field
What He Does
- He is a subject matter expert in his field
- Is often sent to a job site by his supervisor
- Carries his equipment and supplies with him, but others might need to be picked up or delivered to the site
What He Needs
- Availability of the parts and supplies needed for the job.
- Manuals and installation guides when he is dealing with something new
- Access to information on a mobile device
- An easy way to locate product availability across warehouses based on his geographic location
Where You’ll Reach Him
Most of his day is spent working at a job site. He is rarely sitting behind a desk and must rely on mobile devices more than most. He may not know where he will be from one day to the next.
What You Can Provide to Make His Job Easier
- Collaborative project lists that are accessible from his computer and mobile device
- The ability to access manuals and product-specific content and download it to his mobile phone
- The ability to quickly reorder a product without a lot of effort
To learn more about the other roles involved in the B2B buying process and how you can improve their experience, check out our guide The People of the Manufacturing and Distribution Buyer Journey.
Senior Commerce Consultant for Perficient Digital, a leading digital transformation consulting firm. Experience includes more than two decades in digital commerce, product management, business development and marketing for manufacturing and distribution organizations. Has provided strategic leadership for global suppliers and brands resulting in innovative techniques for improving the customer experience overall, reducing cost of sales and accelerating efficiencies within complex buying and selling scenarios. Authored articles for leading publications in the manufacturing, distribution and ecommerce industries.