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May 07 - 09, 2018

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Closing the Gap: Digital Leadership in B2B eCommerce

Closing the Gap: Digital Leadership in B2B eCommerceClosing the Gap: Digital Leadership in B2B eCommerce

The B2B market has already made significant strides in the adoption of new sales channels, but business buyers have shifted to online research and purchasing more quickly than many vendors have been able to adapt. Effective digital transformation for B2B eCommerce demands successful leveraging of technology and a responsive IT environment, one in which both technical teams and stakeholders collaborate to exploit technologies for business advantages.

Key findings include:

  • Fast-tracking digital transformation is a strategic priority on the path to digital leadership
  • The biggest obstacle to delivering the best possible omnichannel eCommerce experiences is Complexity
  • B2B companies must invest in new technologies to support the flexible, personalized omnichannel experiences

Executive Summary:

The B2B market has already made significant strides in the adoption of new sales channels, but business buyers have shifted to online research and purchasing more quickly than many vendors have been able to adapt. Oracle and B2B Online survey data suggests that 83% of companies are accelerating their own digital transformation because of its strategic value to core business operations and customer engagement.

Effective digital transformation for B2B eCommerce demands successful leveraging of technology and a responsive IT environment, one in which both technical teams and stakeholders collaborate to exploit technologies for business advantages. Cloud (SaaS) based ecommerce is transformative to both IT and line-of-business because of its benefits to both agility and the bottom line. Additionally, strategic use of content provides superior resources that help accelerate customer adoption of online buying. As B2B companies simultaneously engage with their customers on the eCommerce landscape, companies with these agile teams and solutions can respond to customers’ needs more effectively, providing them with distinct advantages over their competitors.

According to the survey data, 78% of companies identify B2B eCommerce as a critical component of this digital transformation; but while this is a strategic priority for some, many companies are only in the exploratory stages of development. This ‘execution gap’ is growing aggressively as competitive B2B companies invest in improvements to usability and online performance, registering clear advantages over companies who struggle to adapt.

B2B sellers in all stages of transformation intend to keep up with evolving customer expectations by providing user-friendly, omnichannel eCommerce experiences. Although 58% of survey respondents say 10% or less of their customers come from selling online today, 43% say that within three years, customers that come from selling online will increase to 50%. As B2B customers increasingly expect accessible, more responsive ways to research and buy products, only transformative eCommerce, cloud and web content management system (WCMS) adoption will enable B2B sellers to meet the demands of customers that are increasingly migrating to digital channels.

Key Recommendations

  • Create a digital strategy with the following initiative at its center: adapt to B2B customers’ buying behaviors, and meet their needs at every touchpoint: Many B2B players do not know how to begin development of a digital strategy. Keep in mind that before any conversations about technologies, costs and workflow, all companies should commit to fully understanding their customers, and how transformation will make their lives better. What you learn will contribute to the technology decision-making process, and encourage the rest of your organization to ‘buy in,’ and provide more resources. Additionally, companies should identify several ways to measure the return on their digital investments. They might identify improvement opportunities based on what they learn from their customers, and their cash flow.

  • Adopt cloud and web content management technologies to facilitate digital transformation: In order to accelerate their transition into online selling, B2B companies must evaluate integrated digital experience cloud platforms as opposed to buying and connecting standalone components. Modern digital experience platforms that include commerce, rich content management, marketing, service, mobile, analytics, and integrations with back-office/ERP systems allow companies to focus on business success, and not technology alone. 

    B2B companies who successfully invest in and adopt new technologies to improve the end-user experience will be in a stronger position than their competitors. Cloud technologies are the facilitators of digital transformation; and the advanced online search, content, imagery and video features supported by WCMS should be an immediate priority for B2B companies in terms of engaging customers and aligning those technologies with line-of-business objectives. Cloud solutions have an easy entry point and they are scalable as the transformation strategy unfolds. These qualities lend themselves to an omnichannel eCommerce environment that continuously evolves to deliver tailored experiences to customers, increase adoption by existing customers and build a customer experience that drives new customer acquisitions and revenue.

  • Incorporate omnichannel capabilities that will set you apart from your competitors: B2B companies must directly address the complexities of their business, then evolve to operate an array of seamlessly integrated channels in order to build their unique customer base. According to Oracle, improving the user experience is nearly equal among the top four ways companies are looking to upgrade their eCommerce experiences—a group that also includes accessibility to mobile channels. But in omnichannel, all channels must operate alongside each other as they contribute to a seamless experience for the customer. Individual cloud and WCMS solutions can support growth in your application ecosystem, and the unique experiences B2B buyers have come to expect. 

    When reflecting on what these companies identify as their top challenges for the next three years—increasing competition, sales growth, margins/profitability and omnichannel experience management—B2B companies should ask themselves: which of these four items should be on the banner of our next big initiative?

Executive Summary

By now, most B2B brands recognize that the Internet has upended the world of corporate purchasing. Customers who once relied on printed catalogs and placed orders through sales reps are increasingly ordering online using self-service tools, using mobile devices for research, and sharing feedback on suppliers via social media. As a result, B2B online sales are forecast to top $1.1 trillion by 2020, comprising 12% of all B2B sales. To put those numbers in perspective, the forecasted revenues for B2B eCommerce this year total $780 billion, more than double the $334 billion projected for all of direct-to-consumer retail sales online.

In response to this burgeoning growth, business-to-business providers are stepping up investment in online initiatives. Half of B2B executives in 2013 said they would upgrade their core eCommerce platform by this year, compared with just 12% of eBusiness executives overall. Initial reports from those who’ve begun focusing on digital initiatives are positive. B2B executives report that customers who’ve migrated online are more likely to try new offerings, make repeat purchases, and spend more than offline-only customers. Simultaneously, the costs are lower to support purchasers taking advantage of self-service online tools

With such clear signals from the marketplace and the industry, many B2B merchants can rationalize investment in their online offerings. But when it comes to mapping exactly how to invest, the devil is in the details. As B2B vendors strive to follow along, they encounter the same problems many B2C merchants face – a huge array of potential priorities and a seemingly-overwhelming rate of change within the marketplace. Just a few of the challenges B2B providers must contend with:

A merging B2B/B2C marketplace. Some of the largest names in B2C commerce, such as Amazon and Google, are playing a growing role in B2B purchasing. As in direct-to-consumer eCommerce, Amazon is emerging as a force to be reckoned with, having just relaunched and renamed its B2B site, Amazon Business. Fully 45% of B2B purchasers say they’ve purchased on the Amazon site, and a quarter of those report using it frequently. The exponential growth of mobile. While less than half of B2B executives currently report that even 10% of their online revenues come from mobile devices, workers are increasingly using multiple devices on the job. That means B2B vendors can expect to see the same “mobile-first” shift already underway in B2C eCommerce, where the majority of brand interactions occur via mobile touchpoints. B2B vendors are cognizant of the need to adapt, with 58% reporting that mobile functionality is a top investment priority.

Growing expectations for seamless, unified experiences across touchpoints. While shoppers appreciate the convenience of being able to shop via a variety of touchpoints, research shows they also crave consistency when it comes to products, pricing and promotions. For B2B brands, that means connecting call center and catalog operations with the eCommerce site, as well as giving sales reps on the road insights into customers’ online activities.

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