B2B trade portal and customer loyalty: a lesson the B2B world can learn from the leading UK banks

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Why should we care about loyalty at all

Loyal customers are crucial:
They bring 80% of your total revenue.
• They are 60-70% more likely to buy additional as well as complimentary products and services from you.
• They are the first to try your new services.
• They are the best source of referrals.

Ok, it’s super important. On the Internet, you can come across tons of how-to articles on the art of increasing customer loyalty. They will probably advise you to introduce bonuses and rewards, to collect feedback whenever possible, to be reliable, to be caring, to control quality and so on. Here we will focus on the fresh way to keep your customers loyal by the example of the leading UK banks, such as Santander UK, Lloyds and the Bank of Scotland.

B2B trade portal as a new way to keep the customers loyal

Instead of applying to usual loyalty increasing tools, Santander, Lloyds and the Bank of Scotland decided that the best bet will be to become a part of their customers’ everyday business life. And they placed a stake on B2B trade portals that combine valuable information on global business, as well as tools and resources that streamline and facilitate international purchasing process (here they are – Santander’s, Lloyds’ and the Bank of Scotland’s).

The launch of B2B trade portals have turned the banks into trusted mentors to their customers and made the customers to do business on the banks’ territory, triggering in such a way the strongest retention mechanism. The banks became a part of the customers’ everyday business life, and the portals – an indispensable tool for their international trade.
Of course, it’s not that any trade portal can bring this significant benefit to the table. The banks implemented a really well-thought-out solutions that truly addresses the needs of their customers. Let’s try to figure out how they managed to achieve this.

The recipe for success with B2B trade portals

Your buyer-customers always need sellers, your supplier-customers always need buyers. This is the basis of any trade portal, thus…

They bring buyers

Buyers are attracted through:
– A wide choice of qualified and trusted sellers (e.g. Santander vendor database provides info about more than 150,000 suppliers).
– Comprehensive global market research.
– Consolidated info on costs, currencies, shipment documents, fees etc.
– Online financial transactions and multiple payment options.

They bring sellers

Sellers are motivated by:
– New opportunities and new markets for their products around the globe.
– Competitor analysis.

Multiple buyers and suppliers are great, but it’s not enough. To become ‘a tool for life’, the portal should combine really useful features needed in everyday business processes. Here’s what the existing bank-managed portals offer today.

They introduce useful functionality

Good searchable database:
– Of verified suppliers and buyers – that’s quite evident.
– Of valuable knowledge. The banks greatly leverage their amassed international databases (reports, ratings, articles, studies, and statistics) and provide their customers with valuable insight on different markets around the globe. This includes country profiles, export pricing and documents, international market research, report on international currencies, country investment potential, info about relevant trade shows and professional events. It greatly helps the customers to find best opportunities and is obviously much appreciated by them.

Personalization

As it’s not the best idea to overwhelm the customers with the data they hardly have any interest in, the banks’ trade portals introduce the possibility to set up unique preferences and track the customers’ search history. This way, the system can focus on the country/product/events/reports the customer is interested in, making them feel heard and understood.

Communication platform

To keep the portal alive and to create a true business platform, the banks also inspire the conversation between their customers: let them share their valuable knowledge, experience and ideas, consult selected service professionals as well as discuss the recent events and trends of the market. This allows to apply to one of the most powerful tools for customer loyalty building – a sense of community and belonging.
The banks’ trade portal users are also looking forward to implementation of a live chat that could enhance the international business processes even more, allowing quick real-time communication between buyers and sellers.

Import/export calculator

The trade portals’ complex calculators allow to find optimal shipping costs in a few clicks, considering export/import prices, cross-border duties, shipping rates, conversion between the currencies, etc., which greatly saves time and effort of the customers.

Notifications

With automatic alerts the portal keeps its users always informed and timely notifies about the recent partners’ actions as well as any relevant changes in the products and countries (e.g. in the specific customs duty) they are interested in.

But when chasing customer loyalty with a brand-new solution, it’s very important, first of all, to avoid losing their credibility through its untrustworthy and inconvenience. Thus, to keep their customers’ trust, the UK banks also pay special attention to the following aspects:

Information security

Privacy issues (the leakage of personal information, bank card data, other sensitive info, account takeover, identity theft) are the top risks the customers see in B2B portals. Exceptionally high concentration of valuable data, makes them one the major hacking targets and the consequences can be disastrous. The UK banks claim to introduce the highest standard of confidentiality, put the bullet-proof tools to make the platform a secure environment as well as endeavor to prevent social engineering attacks.

Fraud protection

It’s not that easy to stop the fraud at all. But at least every attempt should be undertaken to minimize the risks, so that the portal could earn the trust of its customers. The bank-managed portals confront the risks requiring verification of all unusual payments, monitoring account activity, checking if the company is sanctioned or banned from undertaking commercial transactions.

User experience

So that the portal could become an everyday tool for your customers, it should be convenient to use. The banks speak to their customers to provide the tool they want. They offer relevant information. They organize it wisely. They ensure simple and quick navigation (mutually exclusive categories, interactive maps).

The takeaway

The importance of customer loyalty is beyond doubt. To increase it, you can apply a set of usual tools, or find some ‘indirect route’, as the UK banks did, and achieve amazing customer retention with implementation of B2B trade portals for your customers. The portal will allow you to bring the customers’ businesses to your territory and greatly strengthen the connection with them. Though, it requires rather painstaking efforts if you expect the new solution to really work, let you enjoy the multiple benefits a trade portal may bring. For that, first, the customers should want to use it – the portal should address their needs and provide really necessary tools for their everyday business. Secondly, the customers should not be afraid to use it – the portal should minimize all possible risks (data leakage, unverified counterparties, bad faith partners) and inconveniences (irrelevant info, illogical lay out, over-complex structure) that such huge systems may introduce.

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