The world has drastically changed. The pandemic catapulted us into a digital-first world where physical channels practically evaporated overnight.
Companies who had already invested in digital were able to pivot quickly to continue serving their customers, while others struggled with nowhere to turn and not enough time to adapt to the overnight changes that were happening.
In a recent webinar around the current state of the B2B industry, Joe Cicman, Senior Analyst at Forrrester shared, “As a result of the changes, we’ve experienced 10 years of ecommerce growth in less than three months.”
Though the trend toward digital has been a reality since before the pandemic, it’s clear the disruption accelerated digital transformation in the B2B space. Here are a few additional takeaways from Cicman’s webinar:
B2B buyer expectations have been consumerized
For years now, Forrester has been writing about how B2B buyers are behaving more like consumers every day. The “new B2B consumer” differs from the traditional B2B buyer across some key dimensions.
B2B consumers expect that the brand experiences they encounter during their professional lives will have the same emotional relevance as the ones in their personal lives. In addition, digital-first B2B consumers typically choose to engage much later in their buying journey. Moreover, word of mouth and the opinion of peers have long had influence on consumers. Forrester’s 2020 report, The B2B Consumer Grows Up found that, more than 60 percent of B2B buyers are relying on peer recommendations and review sites.
The demand for seamless digital and brand experiences is not exclusive to the B2C world. B2B buyers expect their experience to be open, connected intuitive and immediate – and this trend isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
B2B ecommerce drives business value in industrial businesses
Mastering digital and ecommerce pays off, especially in today’s world. Cicman described the business impacts of digital transformation as the “virtuous cycle of B2B ecommerce”. B2B companies who invest in B2B ecommerce see a myriad of benefits.
First, as customers adapt digital channels and self-serve, it lowers your cost to serve. Plus, it is a tool in omnichannel strategies that helps to increase customer value and attract new customers. When you serve your customers in all their preferred ways, you promote loyalty and advocacy which, in turn, decreases churn and customer acquisition costs. Therein lies the virtuous cycle of B2B ecommerce.
Now is the time to rethink your martech stack
Today’s B2B buyer expects consistent experiences across their entire buying journey. In order to deliver that experience, you need flexible technology. Transactions are just one piece of the customer lifecycle puzzle. Consider how your ERP, PIM and other technologies are playing a role in ecommerce.
You may consider investing in a digital experience platform to acquire one consistent system and foundation behind every digital touchpoint. If you do take this path, ensure your DXP has an API-first architecture allowing it to integrate into services that provide infrastructure, data, systems of record, channel and touchpoint management tools. This will enable you to integrate with your crucial backend business systems like your PIM, ERP and others, and third-party tools, giving you the ability to further manage things like your email, advertising, chat and so forth.
Take a customer-centric approach
If you’re struggling with where to get started, take things to the core of your business – your customer. Segment your customers, segment your products and map your buyer’s journey to begin to understand your customers and emphasize with them.
After you’ve worked to better understand your customers, you’ll want to build a long-term plan for transformation and a near-term plan for innovation. To do this, you’ll need to set achievable goals, measure and act on important KPIs, hire customer-obsessed employees, develop a robust but flexible budget and ultimately choose a technology that scales as your ecosystem scales.
Choosing the right technology partner may seem daunting, but Cicman concluded by providing a few considerations to watch for as you make your selection. The modern market requires seamlessly integrated capabilities, effective and intuitive practitioner tooling, modern architecture and open APIs and prebuilt, deep integrations.
Remaining stagnant is no longer an option in our digital-first world. Yesterday is the time to invest. Episerver B2B Commerce Cloud was purpose-built specifically for the unique challenges industrial businesses face like tiered pricing, thousands of SKUs, various user types and so forth. Learn more about Episerver B2B Commerce Cloud or watch the webinar, Making the Business Case for Investing in Ecommerce within Industrial Businesses today.