Here’s some good news: digital has a huge opportunity to drive revenue in your business. According to a McKinsey B2B survey, eCommerce now ties in-person as the channel driving revenue. Using the McKinsey approaches from earlier, this breaks down the following way:

McKinsey B2B survey graphic

B2B buyers are more and more comfortable spending money online. In a 2022 survey, McKinsey reports that “One in five B2B decision makers are now willing to spend between $500,000 and $5 million on a single interaction on remote or self-service channels. That’s a leap from the 16 percent who said the same earlier in 2021. In addition, seven percent of buyers are willing to complete transactions valued at more than $5 million fully online.”

Lean into B2B e-commerce or be sidelined: With potentially a third of sales at stake, e-commerce is a vital lynchpin for continued B2B revenue growth. If you don’t currently offer an online sales channel, ramp up that capability now. Win the journey, not just the transaction: Corporate decision makers are turning to e-commerce at every stage of the buying process, from research to reorders, and will walk away if the experience doesn’t deliver what they need. Design your site with million-dollar transactions in mind: Treat e-commerce as a full-service destination and design the online experience to support big- and small-ticket sales. Recognize that e-commerce is an ecosystem play: Leading B2Bs maximize their online “surface area,” recognizing that the more avenues they can use to get in front of customers, the better. A well-rounded e-commerce presence will include a specific marketplace and partner strategy. — McKinsey | Busting the five biggest B2B e-commerce myths | McKinsey

If you are feeling disappointed, don’t worry–you aren’t alone. According to Gartner, “more than half of B2B marketers (51 percent) rank their current digital experience as average at best.”



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So where do your problems lie? There are a number of lenses for approaching your digital revenue challenges: discovery, customer acquisition, digital commerce adoption, customer retention. Some of these you own in marketing, and some your technology teams may control or greatly influence. Your sales and customer service teams play a critical role supporting site registrations and white-glove service for adoption, conversion, and retention. This is how and why you’ll want to work in partnership to address your digital revenue challenges.

From the tech perspective:

Being agile has elevated marketing’s ability to translate the sales message better. They’re closer to what the customer needs are and better equipped to create tools and materials that resonate with them. For IT, agility means we integrate seamlessly with marketing, sales and operations, with direct connections to customers, to create digital capabilities that bring together disparate data and create seamless experiences, regardless of the channel. Mark Mintz, Chief Information Officer, Charles River Laboratories, The new B2B growth equation | McKinsey

B2B Manufacturers Need Robust Marketing

Marketing leaders at B2B manufacturing companies must make a commitment to building effective digital marketing strategies. As more of their buyers allocate an increasingly large portion of their time learning how to buy online, brands must follow the money and follow suit,” said Kyle Rees, director at Gartner. “If B2B marketers can’t get digital marketing right, they could seriously jeopardize the success of their company’s future digital business strategies, or worse, fail to protect themselves against looming competitive threats.

Gartner Says B2B Manufacturing Brands Must Improve Digital Marketing Operations to Drive Growth and Defend Against Competition

Discovery Customer acquisition Digital commerce adoption and conversion Customer retention
Marketing SEO
Social media
PR
Advertising
Referrals (from sales, partners, and other customers)
Data-driven advertising to targeted prospects

Content marketing strategy (white papers, landing pages)
Digital experience design (accessibility, user experience, easy checkout)

Easy navigation, great search, quick filtering, and sorting.
Robust ‘My Account’ features for easy reordering, order management, and quick order placement.

Data-driven advertising and remarketing to existing customers
Integrated, multichannel, personalized, and automated marketing programming to drive online registration, and orders.
Technology SEO page structure

Customer data collection and analysis to build target audience.
Robust, flexible content tools for orchestrating omnichannel content campaigns.

Customer data collection and analysis to build target audience.
Robust, integrated digital platforms that can collect user, product, and website information to create personalized experiences.

Fast, responsive platforms that can handle large catalogs, high levels of traffic, customizations.

Digital self-service experiences (see checklist above)
Sales Outbound outreach (email, phone, text, social media messaging) that directs to the website.
Customer Service White glove customer service on chat, phone, email to help with registration, site usage, ordering, returns/replacements/refunds, and reordering.
KPIs Website traffic (organic, paid, direct)
Cost per impression or engagement
Cost per acquisition
Customer registrations
Email/marketing opt-ins
Time on site/bounce rate
Conversion rate
eCommerce revenue
Average order value
Average time to transact
Customer retention
Customer lifetime value
Customer referral

Assessing the Need

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Risks

Your digital experiences are underperforming, and you’re losing revenue and digital business market share.
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Challenges for Change

For many manufacturers, digital experience has lived in the IT department, or with the technology team–or the process has been the digitization of the existing processes, rather than a digital-first transformation experience. You’ll need to partner closely with your technology team to define and share KPIs.
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Opportunities

Work in partnership with the technology teams to create a digital-first, customer-centric experience for your customers that allows you to differentiate and compete–especially when customer loyalty is fleeting.
Create programmatic, scalable, data-driven marketing that drives digital revenue through your digital channels. This way, you capture more data on your customers, as in how they shop, how they search, and how they purchase–all providing you critical insight into the wants and needs of your customers.
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Considerations

  • For these three approaches (digital, remote human, and traditional) what does white-glove service look like?
  • Where are there opportunities to elevate the brand experience?
  • Where does your team need better tooling, more training, or more resources to meet your customers’ expectations?
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Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

  • Acquisition
  • Retention
  • Digital commerce revenue
  • Average order value
  • Customer lifetime value
B2B organizations have fallen woefully behind the seamless, easy, and informative standard of B2C digital platforms. ‘We’re different because we’re B2B’ is no longer an acceptable excuse…. Conditions are ripening quickly for breakaway differentiation. What will this new digital-first world of B2B customer experience look like? Glimmers of innovation exist. Manufacturing sectors are developing digital innovation spaces, where customer and supplier experts can tour each other’s facilities to aid co-development efforts. 
For most organizations, it starts with assessing - at a detailed level - how, where, and what customers are learning, and the difficult decisions they must subsequently navigate in their purchase experiences. Isolating points of friction, gaps and information, and opportunities to build greater customer confidence are key…. Leaders failing to shift significant focus, resources, and political capital into creating rich digital experiences through the next five years risk alienating customers and losing business as a result. Gartner

About the Author

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Sarah Falcon

VP, Marketing Global

Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.

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