Consumers’ expectations of digital products and services are constantly rising. Products are becoming smarter, offering additional digital functions, and the variety as well as the range of services is increasing, giving consumers greater flexibility – whether in the form of a car subscription, short-term rental of scooters and bicycles, or home delivery of supermarket orders only within ten minutes. In addition to the demands on products and services, however, the focus is increasingly on the digital shopping experience itself.

Figure 1: Digital Sales Center (DSC) Approach

For one thing, this includes the purchasing process itself, but also upstream and downstream services and functions, such as the information provided on products and services, the presentation of the product/service as well as the quality of the presentation, and also the advice or comparison function of products and services, downstream services such as order processing, shipment tracking, overview and history of orders as well as the storage and modification of customer data such as stored means of payment and stored delivery addresses. In addition to the order-related functions, additive functions such as special apps, blogs, vlogs or communities offer additional convenience for the customer beyond the pure product or service. At the same time, additive functions create additional touchpoints with the customer – thus further opportunities to get to know him better and to adapt even better to him as a brand manufacturer.

This applies not only to the B2C sector, but also to the B2B sector. Particularly with regards to B2B business, the requirements for usability and customer experience have risen sharply and are no longer inferior to those in the B2C sector – a purely logical consequence when one considers that B2B buyers are just as much B2C customers and their requirements regarding the digital shopping experience in their private environment hardly differ from those in their business environment.

In order to finally meet these requirements, it is necessary to develop, build, adapt and operationalise the shopping experience as a whole, from a customer-oriented perspective. The ultimate objective must be to offer a comfortable shopping experience, to accompany the customer and support him from the research to the purchase to services and functions that offer him added value beyond the purchased product or service and bind him to the brand in the long term.

Therefore, the focus of brand manufacturers should no longer only be on providing and operating a web shop, but on offering a direct sales centre that combines the elements of direct sales, after sales, self service and digital service and provides a holistic shopping experience tailored to the individual customer needs (see Figure 1).

Advantages and Implications

Digital Sales Centers can be used to address customers individually via different channels (E-Commerce, stores, online/offline, desktop/mobile), services (customer relationship management (CRM), mobile services such as apps) and functions (website, apps, advertising campaigns, etc.) to interact with them, to introduce them to complementary or related products and finally to bind them to the brand. At the same time, by interacting with the customer and capturing multiple, diverse data points through the Digital Sales Center, services and features can be better tailored to each customer, creating a personalised customer experience (see Figure 2). This results in a variety of other benefits for the customer: Extended coverage of the customer journey by combining different elements, lead generation through advisory and community functions and services, central collection point of all customer data and thus increased convenience for the customer, a uniform corporate identity that can be experienced by the customer across different channels, functions and services, and access to all digital products, services and functions of a brand manufacturer via one login.

Figure 2: Customer-centric view and advantages of a Digital Sales Center

Therefore, not only brand manufacturers benefit from a Digital Sales Center, but above all the users. In this way, a DSC approach not only delivers increased usability and a more personalised and comprehensive customer experience, but also helps to serve the customer in the long term, to keep him from churning and thus to prevail over competitors.

Components and structure in detail

The DSC approach combines four core elements: Direct Sales, After Sales, Self Service and Digital Service, which together cover the entire customer journey (see Figure 3). Access is via a central login and represents the so-called central core of the Digital Sales Center. Within the four core elements, the respective features and services are defined, and other parties are integrated. Direct Sales describes all features that are related to the direct sale or rental of products and services and names third-party providers that can be included in the shop as providers of additional products and/or services. These can also be products and services that are not sold in the shop but enable or support the transaction, such as payment services. Likewise, the other core elements define all functions that are necessary for implementation and name external parties and services that should be integrated additionally.

This means that all digital services, functions, and touchpoints with the customer are defined and summarized in the Digital Sales Center approach.

Figure 3: Structure and design of a Digital Sales Center

Development and implementation of DSC approach

Every company designs the elements of its Digital Sales Center according to the respective customer requirements – therefore Digital Sales Center approaches differ from each other and can hardly be copied.

To set up a suitable Digital Sales Center, we recommend three successive development phases with respective sub-steps (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Development of a Digital Sales Center

The first step is the development of a DSC strategy meeting the requirements of the industry or the market, whilst also recording, evaluating, and including approaches from competitors and current trends. On the other hand, the development of a DSC strategy also includes the collection and investigation of requirements, needs, and wants of potential customers or even existing customers. Finally, revenue streams, services and features are collected based on the market analysis and then analysed from different perspectives: on the one hand, on the basis of their classification along the customer journey, and on the other hand, by means of the Kano model (see Figure 5). The Kano model enables a dedicated classification into different element groups, which in turn determine the extent to which features and/or services are fundamental, attractive, irrelevant, or significant for the usability and the customer experience – from the customer’s point of view. Based on the functional analysis, market, competition and trend analysis and joint brainstorming, possible further revenue streams and features can be conceived, whereby these should be discussed openly, internally but also take into account partners and potential customers.

Figure 5: Analysis of features and functions from the customer’s perspective

Based on the analysed revenue streams, services and features, a DSC target picture is finally created defining the features, services and revenue streams required from the customer’s point of view.

The necessary competences, processes, organisational structures, IT and management systems and human resources are then derived from this (see Figure 6). First and foremost is the definition of competencies critical for the implementation, the operational management, and the further development of the Digital Sales Center. Based on these, the necessary processes or process adjustments, extensions and adjustments of the existing organisational structure, new tools and systems as well as new, additive positions are determined.

Figure 6: Determination of DSC requirements

Once the target picture with its requirements and effects is in place, the last phase – the implementation of the Digital Sales Center – can begin.

First, the discrepancies between the defined target picture and the structures that already exist today are analysed. Second, based on the analysis’ results, a process can be developed that gradually transforms today’s conditions and finally transforms the already defined target picture into reality.

This process basically consists of seven individual steps, which can vary in their respective design depending on the initial situation (see Figure 7). The transformation process begins with an in-depth assessment of the current status in terms of competencies, processes, organisational structures, IT and management systems and human resources. This is followed by the final approval of the defined DSC target picture before the implementation of the first project streams can begin. Here we recommend to firstly evaluate competencies and skills in a separate stream, identify competencies to be built up, create a comprehensive process landscape and finally, based on all of this, to develop a new, adapted organisational structure. However, in order not to jeopardise the target picture and its implementation through unnecessary political disputes, employees should only be assigned to the new roles in the very last step. To manage this project stream effectively and to finally implement the organisational adjustments, a capable and efficient project team is needed.

In addition to the skills, processes and resulting organisational adjustments that have to be adapted and implemented, the next step is to formulate all the necessary systemic requirements, evaluate potential system and tool providers and, in a further step, implement the necessary systems and tools, taking into account the existing system landscape.

To finally implement the target picture comprehensively with all revenue streams, services and features, a project management office (PMO) should be integrated to oversee the development of the Digital Sales Center and the transformation of the existing organisation into an agile organisation. In a final step, so-called tribe teams are recommended to be established. If necessary, specialised recruiting services from our partner agency Digilents can be used.

Figure 7: Implementation process for a Digital Sales Center

After successful implementation of the Digital Sales Center, the project teams and any interim resources in the tribe teams can be dissolved again. The Digital Sales Center now operates independently using the implemented processes, structures, and resources – but within the overall organization.

Case Studies

We at FOSTEC & Company have already developed various Digital Sales Center strategies and target pictures for different companies and industries, as well as supported their implementation.

In the following we would like to explain two examples to you in greater detail.

Case study 1 – Conception of a Digital Sales Center to strengthen the E-Business area of a manufacturer of intralogistics solutions

A global manufacturer with a wide range of high quality products in the field of intralogistics solutions wants to strengthen its E-Business unit by integrating a Digital Sales Center. FOSTEC & Company was commissioned to assess the future requirements for the E-Business and from this conceptualised a target image for a Digital Sales Center including the definition of all essential features and revenue sources to meet customer demand and current trends.

Figure 8: Case study 1 – Direct Sales Center concept to strengthen the existing E-Business

Case study 2 – Development of a Digital Sales Center approach in the automotive aftermarket

A multichannel retailer in the automotive sector experienced disruptive market challenges such as the consolidation of independent distributors, increased price transparency, enormous growth of online distributors, OEM expansions into the retail business and the digitalisation of sales channels. In this context, FOSTEC & Company was asked to develop a comprehensive Digital Sales Centre (DSC) strategy integrating the already established web shop.

Figure 9: Case study 2 – Direct Sales Center approach integrating the already established web shop

Your contact with respect to questions regarding the Digital Sales Center:

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