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THE NEW FACE OF B2B: HOW DECISION MARKETERS INTERACT WITH SUPPLIERS

By Jonathan Whiteside, Principal Technology Consultant,Dept Agency

 

Face-to-face meetings between buyers and suppliers have always been central to building an ongoing relationship in the B2B world. Both parties benefit from the personal touch and the ease of airing out any queries and sorting potential issues. With the coronavirus pandemic cancelling every booked face-to-face for the foreseeable future, buyers are now looking for a digital solution to the challenge.

At the same time, disruption to factory production has broken links in the global supply chain, creating the added challenge of buyers potentially needing to source new suppliers who are able to deliver. If lockdown measures have limited production or forced the temporary closure of a factory, these potential buyers need to be able to quickly find the solution that your business is offering.

Supply chain disruption, combined with the difficulty of running in-person meetings, means the manufacturing sector must consider alternative options. McKinsey’s recent ‘Global B2B decision-maker response to COVID-19 crisis’ survey covered what B2B decision-makers are looking for when researching suppliers, tracking the importance of different digital features in this new marketplace. The survey looked at the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, China, India, South Korea, Brazil and the US, and found that across the board, there’s an increase in demand for digital self-serve options that empower buyers to find their solution.

 

Jonathan Whiteside

Onsite Search is a Priority

Across all surveyed countries, when asked “what ways of interacting with a supplier would be most beneficial to you when researching/considering suppliers going forward?”, the most popular choice was onsite search. Can a buyer visit the company website, search for the product they are looking for, easily find more information, and process their order?

It’s important to consider this in terms of the purchase journey. Onsite search often comes early on; a quick guarantee that this company can supply the product they need. After the first point of contact, whether it’s a call, email, piece of direct mail or a self-initiated Google search or referral, the company website becomes the most important reference point, always answering questions that a potential customer may have.

For this reason, every manufacturer and supplier needs to ensure there is a search option onsite and that existing product and information pages are up-to-date with relevant information. Your CMS or commerce platform may provide a simple search feature to add to the site, but optimising the content for search requires a little more work.

From a UX perspective, a visible and well-defined search bar will make it quick and easy for anyone to find products and information. This will result in fewer clicks and less time spent on the homepage. A faceted search will enhance the general search, enabling users to narrow down their search to a category, price, product options and custom fields. All of this will improve the customer experience and help customers find what they’re looking for, quickly and easily.

Having a well optimised on-site search also has the added benefit of providing further insight into what buyers are looking for and what the roadblocks to purchase are. This information is gold dust; it either shows demand, or it shows opportunity. For example, a product selling at a fairly low rate could actually be getting high search volume, indicating a potential opportunity for the business to push this product to the fore.

These search stats and insights can also inform your business of developing trends in terms of customer demand or common difficulties. While there is nothing better than speaking one-to-one with a client about the challenges they are facing in the coming weeks, months and years, having clients visit your site and type their challenges into the search bar is a close second. Use this to tool your sales team with information on what common challenges are driving discussion in the industry. It’s also useful in optimising the messaging of onsite copy and any marketing campaigns your business is running. Reviewing search logs can also guide your business on what is currently missing from your site.

The preference for onsite search shows two important points. The buying and research process is digital-first and driven by self-serve opportunities. This shows a drift towards on demand information, giving buyers the ability to research at their own pace. This is backed up by the second preference — live chat. Rather than scheduled phone calls or back and forth emails, buyers are opting for the on demand option, enabling them to engage with potential suppliers when it suits their schedule.

 

Improving the Customer Experience with Live Chat & Chatbots

A strong live chat system combines automated and staffed solutions. Like a customer service line, live chat conversations typically begin with a light automated opening that directs the visitor to the appropriate colleague for this conversation. Parts of this can be decided in the background, such as knowing which page the visitor is on and using this information to inform which representative joins the live chat.

The added bonus for companies implementing a live chat or chatbot feature on site comes through an extra customer services option; through a flow of automated responses, a chatbot can help current customers find a quick solution, taking the strain off of call lines.

When looking at the surveyed countries in Europe, there is a soft preference for sales rep led interactions, showing the importance of a personal touch, even in an increasingly digital market. Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK all name face-to-face meetings in their top three ways of interacting with suppliers; a major challenge during the lockdown period.

The clear lockdown replacement is video calling. What is often ignored is the idea of availability. It’s generally understood that if a buyer wants to call a supplier, they can pick up the phone and dial a number listed on the site. The culture does not yet exist around video calling, meaning companies need to make it clear that their sales reps are ready for video calls should a buyer want to talk face-to-face.

Update your site design with information about video calling as an option, and speak about it in your outreach and marketing. Proactive options include video consultancy sessions, organised on a one-to-one basis or a gated livestream, available to viewers that sign up. This broadcasts the point that your business offers video conferencing to current and potential clients that are still interested in face-to-face discussions. With sales reps working from home, keeping the CRM system up to date with information from these video calls is a top priority.

Looking across to the APAC region, Brazil and the US, digital self-serve options fill the priority touchpoints for buyers, from apps to websites to social media. Knowing that these regions prioritise digital and self-serve is useful for suppliers and manufacturers in Europe that sell internationally.

 

Increasing Agility with Headless

If you operate internationally, the already complex task of managing localisation is currently heightened, given the varying level of Covid-19 restraints in your operating markets. To speed up the delivery of localised messaging, content and microsites, you can consider moving to a headless technical architecture for your content management.

A regular CMS connects a single front end (the sales channel that a customer interacts with), to a single back end (the operational side that processes payment and data and keeps the channel running). In this setup, changes to the front end must be reflected in the back end. This creates a fair amount of work if a company is running multiple websites, an app, or mobile-specific sites, as any updates must be repeated across each sales channel. A headless CMS connects each front end into a single back end. This means edits can be made to the front end without requiring a constant update to the back end. Launching new sites or creating an app for these new markets is a much more agile process with a headless architecture. For more of a deep dive into the benefits of headless and when to consider it, check out our recent webinar, ‘Moving with speed and agility with headless systems.’

It’s important to remember that this shift has been accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis, rather than being caused by it. The drift towards digital and self-serve options in the B2B space is part of a industry-wide move to online and on-demand that’s been building momentum over the past couple of years. Reorienting your operations to be more digital ensures relevance during the pandemic, but also provides a platform for the company to stay at the forefront of how buyer and supplier relationships function.

Each adjustment the business makes now should factor in the multi-year strategy for the business, an initial change that leads to a much wider digital transformation. Now is the perfect time to review your digital roadmap and accelerate the digitalisation plans that will make the biggest impact as we enter a period of recovery.

Business

CAN TECHNICAL INNOVATION HELP FINANCIAL SERVICES FIGHT BACK AGAINST FINANCIAL CRIME?

By Charlie Roberts, Head of Business Development, UK, Ireland & EU at IDnow

 

It’s no secret that the financial services sector is a top target among cyber criminals. In fact, according to a report from IBM, it retained its top spot as the most targeted sector in 2019.

The consequences of falling victim to an attack can be severe too. It can lead to financial losses and reputational damage as well as loss of customer confidence and therefore sales. One UK financial services firm, for example, was hit by a total loss of $87.9 million.

So, if we consider that the coronavirus crisis continues to drive increased online consumer activity, should financial services be more concerned? Simply put, yes.

We are seeing a significant increase in organisations taking their business online to reach their customers. Banks, for example, in adapting to COVID-19, are offering customers a more convenient way of opening an account given branch visiting restrictions. But while these services offer more choice and ease for customers, it also means that new account fraud is opening up and is becoming a major challenge for organisations to overcome.

Charlie Roberts

Some cyber criminals are even trying to exploit the pandemic as an opportunity for financial crime by posing as trusted organisations like banks and even the World Health Organisation. According to Action Fraud, over £6.2 million has reportedly been lost by UK citizens to coronavirus-related scams. And this figure continues to rise week by week.

 

The role of innovation

The rise in financial crime shows just how much the financial services sector is in need of technological innovation. We’ve already seen great progress. About half of financial services and insurance firms globally already use Artificial Intelligence (AI), according to Forrester.

It has many use cases too. In a recent report published by The Alan Turing Institute, AI is largely being used for fraud detection and compliance. AI is beneficial because its algorithms can analyse millions of data points to detect fraudulent transactions which could otherwise go unnoticed by humans. What’s more, these AI-driven fraud detection systems can now actively learn and calibrate in response to new potential (or real) security threats.

The report also details some of the ways that financial services companies are exploring AI-based fraud prevention alternatives. It includes the use of AI to increase approvals for genuine transactions and the use of real-time and high volume data to help protect schemes, financial institutions and their customers from fraud and financial crime.

It’s perhaps no wonder that, outside of the technology sector, the financial services industry is the biggest spender on AI services according to The Bank of the Future report from Citi. But there is still some way to go in using technology to combat financial crime.

 

The identity verification era

Arguably, identity verification is one of the most important processes that technology can help transform – especially as the current crisis continues to drive increased online customer behaviour. In fact, AI and video based identity verification software can provide financial services organisations with a fast, seamless and secure onboarding process that increases conversion rates and customer satisfaction while providing the highest level of security.

Demand for this software in the UK’s financial services sector has already more than doubled since the start of the year, as growth in scams linked to COVID-19 continue to rise.

It’s this technology that will become critical in validating a person’s identity quickly and confidently while limiting the increased risk of fraud for both businesses and consumers.

IDnow’s AutoIdent is one software solution that has this year been experiencing high demand from the financial services industry. Its AI technology can use the camera on a customer’s smartphone to recognise the country and type of ID document without the need for user input. The technology then captures the machine-readable part of the ID document as well as non-machine-readable areas, such as address fields, before automatically checking the optical security features of the ID documents, such as holograms.

With the subsequent biometric video check of the person and “liveness detection”, the identification process is completed for the customer within just a few steps. The system can then decide if the identification is valid, with a reliability that meets compliance requirements.

 

Fighting back

The threat of financial crime is not going away any time soon and so there is no better way than to fight back with innovation. With the right technology investment, such as in AI identity products, the sector will be in a stronger position to support businesses who have a duty of care to protect their customers from risk of fraud while ensuring they remain resilient during this pandemic.

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Business

TOP 5 LINKEDIN PROFILE OPTIMIZATION HACKS FOR ASPIRING BANKERS

According to Firmex, finance professionals cannot afford to be not on LinkedIn. A significant number of organizations acquire talent in the financial industry through LinkedIn.

Especially for aspiring professionals, your internet presence matters a lot as recruiters are most likely to search your name on the internet before making a decision about your application.

As an aspiring banker on a professional platform, you should consider changing the outlook of your profile, to garner the recruiter’s attention. Your profile is unlikely to get noticed if it is out-of-date and inaccurate.

Here’s how you can optimize your LinkedIn profile:

 

Headline

Here’s an example of a good headline for a banker:

“Aspiring Banker majored in finance specializing in forecasting and risk management best practices”.

Scrolling through most professional profiles for bankers on LinkedIn, these individuals pay little attention to the headline.

A well-optimized headline gives the recruiters reasons to click on a profile. Though you just have 120 characters to make it great and charm the recruiter.

You can include pointers on what you are trying to achieve as a banker, or include your major as a way of connecting the skills-gap. If you are an MBA degree holder, then you can reflect this on your headline along with the major.

Though here are a few things you should know about creating a headline:

  • Be professional and avoid writing words like “superstar worker”, “top performer”, etc.
  • Be discreet with your job search, don’t directly mention “looking for a job”, “unemployed”, etc.
  • Research on other professional’s headlines with a network presence.
  • Include the usage of strong adjectives/action verbs.

 

Connections

On LinkedIn, develop meaningful connections with professionals and recruiters. With little effort, you can significantly increase your number of connections.

However, having 5000+ connections is not valuable if they are irrelevant to your interests. Hence, keep your connections limited to professionals in the finance industry.

  • Connect with individuals that are relevant in the finance industry and send a personalized message along with the connection request.
  • You are most likely to get ignored if you mindlessly send out requests. Though LinkedIn advocates being active, you should derive an invitation strategy for effective network expansion.
  • Message recruiters that are hiring professionals in the finance industry and ask them for advice on how you can further optimize your profile.

 

Professional Experience

Your LinkedIn profile works as a digital resume. It should give an idea of a constructive career progression. Hence, LinkedIn profile optimization becomes quite important.

  • Write points in a bullet form, don’t include long paragraphs.
  • Mentioning your roles and responsibilities isn’t ideal. Construct the points in a way that showcase all your accomplishments & contributions.
  • Add your projects separately; do not add them in the career highlights section.

 

Keywords

As with any other search engine, recruiters are dependent on the algorithm to show them the best profile as per their searches. Based on a certain set of relevant keywords in your industry, recruiters will try to search for candidates on LinkedIn.

Here’s how you can use keywords to optimize your profile:

  • Research: Thoroughly research the keywords that are of prime importance in the finance industry. Check the profiles of other professionals on LinkedIn and refer job postings to gain an understanding of how to sprinkle these keywords in your profile.
  • Section: Utilize each section efficiently of your LinkedIn profile to showcase your contributions and achievements. Don’t just stuff your profile with contextual keywords. In the end, your profile should foremost be easily readable.
  • Industry and Skills: Update the industry in your profile and include all the skills you are familiar with. Further, you can even include skills that you are not familiar with. Let’s say you need to include “Budget Forecasting” in your profile and you have not had any real-life experience with it. You may write it as “Interested in gaining experience in budget forecasting”.

 

Skills & Recommendations

Recruiters look for professionals who can deliver, hence your profile should include the skills that are highly relevant to your targeted profile. Though in the banking industry recruiters search for general skills as well. So, make sure your profile is a match for both.

Further, just listing your expertise is not going to be enough. Get your mentors, employers, etc. to write you a stellar recommendation. If you provide credibility for your skills then it can do wonders for you.

 

Final Word

  • Just as the headline of your profile, your picture is equally important. Make sure you use a professional-looking photograph.
  • Continue to engage with your connections through comments and professional messaging.

As you are a banking professional, your profile is probably going to end up looking like all about your core competencies, However, it is important to include a few pointers about your hobbies that describe your personality as well.

 

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