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Defining Omnichannel Excellence in B2B

Defining Omnichannel Excellence in B2BDefining Omnichannel Excellence in B2B

In B2C retail, an omnichannel paradigm is the new gold standard, paving the way for similar progress for B2B. There are several major benefits to a more coordinated digital strategy, not the least of which is the ability to align channels towards the creation of a cohesive customer facing brand experience. On the back end, the ability to collect customer data and incorporate it into a single view has major potential for brands who can tailor their programs around progressively more segmented insights based on this information.


Key points include:

  • Organization of ecommerce and digital marketing strategies
  • Growing digital sales
  • Need to integrate point solutions into omnichannel

 


Executive Summary

As digital commerce grows, the perceptions and expectations of the average consumer are changing with them. In B2C retail, an omnichannel paradigm is the new gold standard, paving the way for similar progress for B2B. There are several major benefits to a more coordinated digital strategy, not the least of which is the ability to align channels towards the creation of a cohesive customer facing brand experience. On the back end, the ability to collect customer data and incorporate it into a single view has major potential for brands who can tailor their programs around progressively more segmented insights based on this information.

However, progress towards a fully integrated digital strategy can be difficult for B2B brands. On top of the logistical challenges posed by integration of siloed point solutions, they are facing the need to overcome internal resistance and create executive buy-in for new or revamped programs.

Despite these issues, the trend towards more fully developed ecommerce capabilities is clear,and the large majority of B2B companies are predicting significant gains in the sales they will make through digital channels year-over-year. The rising importance of ecommerce has lead to the creation of management roles with ownership over elements of a brand’s digital performance, encompassing the back and front end capabilities of their ecommerce platforms, content and social strategies, brand management, and customer experience.

Key Findings

While many B2B companies are still just beginning to develop their ecommerce operations, the majority are also projecting bullish growth year-over-year. The growth of omnichannel strategies within the B2B community has been steady, but the majority are still working toward the creation of a truly omnichannel sales and marketing strategy. Still, the larger part of these businesses are projecting that their digital sales will grow by a significant amount within the year, indicating that progress may be exponential.

The buy-in for investing in digital and ecommerce projects is largely present, and where executives may be resistant, they are being persuaded to come around by a need to keep pace with a changing market and customer expectations. The writing is on the wall as more and more business is done through digital channels. For an example of how to progress towards an omnichannel paradigm, B2B businesses need only to look to their peers in B2C retail. B2B buyers may evaluate products using different criteria from their B2C counterparts, but they are coming to expect the same levels of customer experience and convenience that they get from big name retailers. Momentum towards a responsive, consumer friendly digital presence will only grow in importance as more B2B players seek to develop their ecommerce capabilities.

Omnichannel customer experiences and unified back end data present major opportunity for B2B, but the majority of respondents have yet to achieve this level of integration. Within B2B companies, ecommerce point solutions are fairly common, yet there can be a significant challenge when it comes to integrating the data that they provide. Integrating information from point solutions to contribute to a central “golden data record” is a long-term goal of many B2B companies.

Key Recommendations

Continue to justify the need for digital transformation, building on internal buy in. A class of executives in charge of digital and ecommerce initiatives are helming B2B’s strategic transition towards omnichannel, serving as the main proponents of transformation within their organizations. Currently, the majority either have full buy in or are taking steps towards creating it, yet B2B companies are spread out on the path to full integration. Maintaining a case for further ecommerce investment based on positive results is critical in order to keep ahead of the curve.

Prioritize scalability in your ecommerce and marketing strategy. With B2B brands predicting significant year-over-year growth in their digital sales, one of the keys to success will be the ability to rapidly scale programs to keep pace with customer expectations and increased traffic. Access to data that can help inform business strategy will be a key component of accurately forecasting and meeting demand, making it critical that access is worked into your relationships.

Move towards a single “golden data record” that pulls from all of your channels. The most commonly used point solutions within B2B companies are those supporting their ecommerce operations. As ecommerce sales become a larger part of total annual revenues, B2B companies should be making sure that these solutions provide data that can be integrated into a centralized database.


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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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