The online customer experience is more important than ever. And, as expectations rise, so do the challenges for organizations of all kinds.

That was one of the key messages during Coveo’s sessions at SAP Customer Experience LIVE: Unplugged. The software giant’s virtual event focused on CX “solutions that actually drive results.”

Of course, that’s what we’re about at Coveo, too, so we were excited to take part in two discussions:

  • “How Philips Speeds B2C and B2B Sales with SAP Commerce Cloud and Coveo AI” featured Sami Helin, global account director for Coveo, and Philips’ Louis Jansen, product owner, conversational AI, onsite search & SEO.
  • For “Engaging B2B Buyers with AI-Powered Search, Recommendations and Personalization,” Coveo’s Dale Traxler, senior director of alliances and channels, and Brian McGlynn, GM of ecommerce, joined Dwayne Doshier, senior director of strategic consulting at Gorilla Group.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from both discussions

Digital Giants Set the Tone

B2C and B2B customers have something in common, Helin said. They’ve all used sites like Google and Amazon that emphasize highly relevant, individualized experiences. From using those sites, they form expectations that they bring to every online shopping experience — whether they are purchasing for business or as an individual.

“The world is moving from ‘one size fits all’ to what’s relevant for you as an individual visitor,” he said.

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Complexity Makes Relevance (at Scale) a Challenge …

Creating relevant online experiences is one thing if your business offers a single, relatively simple product category in a limited geographic region. But it’s quite another for B2B sellers with catalogs that encompass millions of SKUs, or for an organization like Philips, which serves both B2B and B2C customers globally with a wide array of products—from toothbrushes to shavers, from medical alert devices to lighting for cars, homes, and more. Customers won’t cut you any slack just because your catalog is massive and available in 43 languages. They still expect to find what they’re looking for quickly.

A photo of a stock person taking inventory

… And That Challenge Is Too Big for Humans

“You have this explosion of SKU content, and there’s really no way to put enough people against that, especially on some of the intent detection,” Doshier said. “With a huge catalog, it isn’t feasible to “manually tag and put items together,” McGlynn added.

Jansen voiced something similar during his session.

“We [at Philips] play a game on such a level that we get simply too much data that simple human beings like myself were not able to digest all the data and make sense of,” he said. “We needed some smart technology to help us with that.”

AI Brings Meaning to Data

For Philips, the technological solution has been AI by Coveo. The company already had access to behavioral data, but they weren’t applying it, Jansen said. Now they can use it to improve their customer experience.

What does that look like? To predict what a customer might be looking for on a website, machine learning can analyze what past customers who have taken similar actions on the site have done, Doshier said. Businesses “need to be able to rapidly detect intent,” he said. “And it really takes AI to be able to do that across hundreds of thousands of buyers (and) complex catalogs.”

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The Search Box Is Evolving

And speaking of search, the search box is perhaps the key piece of real estate on websites for creating relevance for the shopper. On the B2B side, Doshier said he is seeing some shifts in what businesses want the search box to do.

“What we’re seeing now is manufacturers really want to use the search box to search well beyond product information, well beyond the SKU, or a product name,” he said. After all, not every business problem is solved by buying a product. For example, a customer might be better served by content that teaches them how to do a repair or that helps them find a physical location where they can receive a needed service. 

AI helps identify what the searcher really wants so that a website can solve their problem faster — and, in turn, the business can maintain the customer’s loyalty.

A photo shows two bicycle shop workers ordering inventory for their store

Relevance Is a Work in Progress

Jansen said that Philips has already seen improvements in its Net Promoter Scores after working with Coveo to create more relevant online experiences. But the company’s work on this front is not done.

“Digital products, they’re never finished,” he said. “Because sometimes we see things that could make our lives easier. And then we get feedback to the Coveo team, and they’re responsive to that.”

Helin expanded on that point. “We totally agree that providing relevant online experience is not a one-time activity,” he said “It’s a program. And the reasons are very simple. Over time, your customers change. Your information changes. People’s preferences change. So it’s really important to set yourself up for a programmatic approach.”

Technology Changes Can Drive Culture Changes

One of the things Jansen appreciates most about Philips’ work with Coveo is that it enables the company to make decisions based on data, not on emotion. He explained that when a business lacks the technological capabilities to make sense of its data, that opens the door for individual feelings to drive actions.

“Having a lot of visits and a lot of search queries is nice,” he said. “But if you don’t use all the data coming through these search results, it doesn’t make sense.”

Learn More About Relevant Customer Experiences

While these two sessions of SAP Customer Experience LIVE: Unplugged were not recorded, you can access other on-demand CX content from the event. You can also browse Coveo’s upcoming webinars and archive of on-demand resources to take a deeper dive into the topics discussed here.

Dig Deeper

If your site search experience is just an afterthought, think again. Bad search can hurt your conversion rate. See which on-site search metrics you should start paying attention to and learn how to leverage your search experience to boost conversions.

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How to Boost Conversions with Intelligent Site Search