Across Latin America, Asia, and Africa, smartphones are far more pervasive than desktop and laptop computers. “To access the internet, people increasingly use smartphones rather than more cumbersome fixed landline connections and computers,” according to a 2015 report from Pew Research Center.
So Shawn Belling’s advice to U.S. businesses that want to get into B2B sales in the top emerging markets, especially to smaller customers, is to skip developing an e-commerce sales platform for the desktop shopper and go straight to selling via mobile. Belling is VP of product development at CloudCraze, a six-year-old enterprise class e-commerce system built upon the Salesforce platform.
He spoke with us about how even small businesses could break into these markets with a savvy tech approach to sales. Chemical company Ecolab, for instance, began selling industrial cleaning supplies to restaurants within 8 weeks of shaking hands with the CloudCraze mobile app development team.
“Our customers and partners and we have found that mobile first is the way to go,” Belling says. “If you take a look at SMBs in emerging markets, you don’t have the pervasion of PCs and laptops like we are so used to in the U.S. But everyone has got a smartphone.”
Consider the possible sales scenarios, he says: “Someone who owns a small restaurant or grocery store is likely to have 3G wireless connectivity and a smartphone. With that connectivity, they’re looking to order product from their mobile device, where they’re handling the rest of their business communications.”
U.S. businesses that make their products easy-to-order via smartphone provide those buyers with an experience that meshes with how they work. Indeed, Belling recommends familiarizing yourself with the day-to-day routines of the people who are going to be shopping on your e-commerce platform.
He points to CloudCraze customer Coca-Cola, for instance: “The strategy we employed in partnership with them was to look at the daily routines of the people purchasing their products and to understand how they run their businesses. We got really close to their day-to-day routines to see in what settings they’re placing orders.”
Belling says the exercise prompted Coca-Cola to give its customers the ability to start an order on their desktop, go into the warehouse and walk the aisles while updating their order on a mobile device, and then place the order back at their desk seamlessly.
Belling offers another example of understanding the rhythms of a customer’s business: “Say in the hours before I open my shop for business, I need to replenish my shelves. If I’ve got an order template open that shows me promotions, past orders, what products are in and out of stock, and alternative recommendations, then I can put in certain quantities or place the same order I placed last time to rapidly and efficiently restock my shelves.”
He says, “Make sure you’re giving them the tools necessary to go in and execute orders on mobile, and that you are efficiently presenting them with promotions they can take advantage of to run their business.”
Belling says his CloudCraze customers are placing the decision about “when and how to order supplies” in the hands of their small business buyers. “In some cases, our customers have seen order volume go up and cost per order go down due to the e-commerce approach to servicing these small businesses.”