What’s all this “B2B Transformation” you ask? Well, put simply, digital transformation is the application of digital technologies to streamline processes and improve customer experience. Easy, right? Well, kind of.
In order to stay relevant and compete in the age of information, it’s more important than ever for companies to take a step back and review how operations and strategy can be optimised digitally. While this can look different for each business, B2B digital transformations have traditionally focused on improving efficiency internally, such as updating systems and workflows.
What does this entail? Usually it means significant investment and a mindset shift for the entire organisation, which can be challenging for complex B2B companies that require buy-in from senior leadership based on financial return. A much greater share of B2C companies have already undertaken some level of digital transformation, or at least plan to in the near future, whereas B2B companies make slower progress with their longer deal cycles and complicated vendor negotiations. Because steering a big old ship takes a lot longer than a smaller, more nimble sailboat. See what we’re saying?
Internal advocacy is therefore crucial to successful transformation. It requires the right people, saying the right things, with the right vision, digital strategy and influence to drive change. Could you be the person for the job?
Beyond the internal organisation efficiencies, at the core of any business’ digital transformation should be a focus on how they think about and engage with customers. For B2B, this also means a shift from being product-centric to customer-centric, to ensure that the customer experience is immersive and meets their needs. To do this successfully, businesses need to take a step back and assess whether they’re reaching customers and achieving their goals, right through to data strategy that unlocks insights about audiences. It takes time, sure. But is it worth it? Absolutely.
Delivering a personalised customer experience based on understanding behaviours and consumption patterns from consumer data insights, is also critical in transforming B2B organisations.
When it comes to digital technology and the online ecosystem, the incentive for B2B companies should be clear - those that are successfully transforming are driving 5 times more revenue than the competition. B2B efforts have a tendency to focus on internal cost and process efficiencies, whereas B2C focuses on innovation around customer experience and sales. The real growth lies in the latter, and is in part being driven by a millennials who demand control based on consuming content, in order to reach their own conclusions. According to one Demand Gen Report, more than 70% of the B2B purchase decision making process is made before even speaking to a sales representative, and Accenture Interactive research uncovered that 61% of all purchases start online. Times have definitely changed!
As B2C takes the lead on digital transformation, B2B organisations need to follow suit in regards to data management and analysis, agility and the channel marketing strategy, to ensure success. While direct sales will remain important, B2B marketers will need to adopt techniques more traditionally associated with B2C marketing, to allow buyers to do business in the channel of their choosing. The digital transformation should also ensure that easy online purchasing and self-service models are included as options, as they are now expected.
Despite the array of challenges, with the next technological leap around the corner and the significant competition from online marketplaces such as Amazon, Ebay and Alibaba, digital transformation should be a priority for any B2B organisation.
In today’s world, people expect the same experience whether B2C or B2B. The bar has been raised, and it’s time for B2B companies to catch up or they risk being left behind.