What is your ninth biggest B2B eCommerce Challenge? Creating an Omnichannel Experience

However you spell the word: Omni-channel, omnichannel or omni channel, instead of arguing about the correct usage, let's just accept that the concept is a force to be reckoned with, if you're doing ANY business online or in person.

We believe that Omnichannel is something new and important, evolutionary or even revolutionary, for businesses.

By no means is the concept new. "Omni" comes from the Latin word for "all" or "universal." Compare this to similar words in our lexicon, such as “multichannel”, from the Latin for "many" or "crosschannel" from the Latin meaning "to go across."

What does Omnichannel Mean?

Let’s start by defining what Omnichannel is. It’s a current buzzword in the eCommerce world and is just not that familiar to everyone. Omnichannel refers to the shopping experience that is created by the seller.

Customers today are seeking a seamless buying experience with multiple purchasing options, whether they are on a desktop computer, a mobile device, in-person at a brick-and-mortar store, or on the phone. The key here is the tightly connected integration between all of these shopping experiences.

If a user is shopping on their desktop computer, they should be able to continue the shopping experience on their mobile device. Perhaps the online customer can view inventory levels that represent a store location, then they can decide to purchase the product at that location, or even purchase online and retrieve the product in-person from the store.

Additionally, if a customer has made purchases in the past, then their account information, past purchase list and buying preferences should be as easily accessible by the buyer and a company's customer representatives alike.

How Does Omnichannel Apply to the B2B World?

Omnichannel is quickly becoming a common definition of the B2C (business-to-consumer) experience, and I predict it will become the B2B (business-to-business) expectation.

But the world of B2B eCommerce is so much larger and complex than B2C. How can we create an omnichannel experience for B2B purchases?

The first place to start is ensure that you are conducting B2B business online. Many B2B companies have been slow to migrate to the world of eCommerce, and worse yet, many that are online do not have integrated systems between eCommerce and their business management and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. By the end of this decade, the integration of all of these technologies will be a requirement to continue competing in the large-scale business world.

Once you have these systems in place, ensure that all of your customer experiences are device-agnostic. If a user is on their desktop computer reading about your products, and then they have to run to a meeting, ensure they can continuing their shopping experience from their smartphone while traveling on public transportation.

Additionally, if a customer dials into your call center with a question, the customer representative should be able to quickly access the customer's user profile, purchasing history and customer information using your CRM system.

How can we take this further?

Think of the last time you were at a big-box retail store and about to make a significant purchase. Maybe you were buying a new set of golf clubs, looking at flat screen TVs, or about to test drive cars. In these cases, you usually had a sales representative assisting you through the process. They were asking you questions, making suggestions, and learning about you as an individual to help you make the right decision. Initially, this feels like a person-to-person only engagement that requires face time.

Perhaps it can be replicated in a digital environment.

Imagine browsing an eCommerce store for that same large purchase. You are trying to narrow down a few options and simply wish someone could help you. Now, imagine that a live Web chat feature appeared, and you could instantly be introduced to a virtual customer representative. Not only does the customer representative know that you have been lingering on a product page for a particular period of time, they also know the other pages you’ve looked at, how many times you’ve visited these pages in previous hours, days or weeks. The system can also — programmatically — send you to the most appropriate customer representative based on the product type that you are reviewing. This virtual experience exceeds the in-person experience. The eCommerce shop actually has the ability to send you the most qualified representative to answer your questions.

To take it a step further, imagine a "Call Now" button that would place a call via your Web browser and put you in touch with the most appropriate person to ask questions about that particular product.

This example of technology is more than a science fiction definition of how things could be. This is actually a current work in progress, and it will likely be the future of the online buying experience. Not only will this assist B2C purchasers find the right flat screen for their living room, it will help the B2B customer feel confident in the large business purchase they are about to place online. Suddenly companies will enjoy the confidence of a virtual salesforce of representatives paired with the customers that need information.

Moving forward we'll see more and more of these types of integrations with big brands, and over time they will be our expectations, consumer-based or in business transactions. Years from now the omnichannel ‘buzzword’ will disappear, and this will simply be the standard buying experience. Make sure that your moving in this direction now, so that your business is prepared for the future.


As I promised, this is the next in a series of blog posts that introduces you to the xTupleCommerce system. Look for more upcoming information, and please don’t hesitate to contact me and the xTuple Web Services Group (WSG) team with questions.

My last post in the series was: What is your eighth biggest B2B eCommerce Challenge? Multiple Payment Options

Look for our YouTube Webinars on eCommerce and eCommerce tutorials on xTuple University.


Josh Fischer

Product Manager — xTupleCommerce, December 2013 - October 2018

xTuple’s Josh Fischer is passionate about launching successful Web projects — from online retailers and distributors to manufacturers big and small — to improve customer conversions (and bottom line profits!). As product manager of xTupleCommerce, Josh is developing revolutionary B2B eCommerce Web portals — integrated with open source xTuple Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) — to solve productivity and customer relationship issues for every business type and size. Josh writes and teaches about innovative strategy and technologies to build Web-based brands, launching startups, productivity and leadership, online presence and growth-hacking. Josh is a graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County with a B.S. in Visual Arts & New Media.