The competitive landscape is rapidly changing for B2B companies, with businesses increasingly expecting eCommerce and other digital experiences. 

While distributors and suppliers have been historically slow to invest in digital transformation, even that is shifting. In fact, companies like AB Inbev have invested tens of millions into a digital ecosystem that it heavily encourages distributors to leverage. And it’s working - in Q3 of 2021, InBev shared that these efforts had generated more than $1 billion year-to-date. 

Other companies, like Pro-V, are trying to own the retailer relationship purely through modern and easier experiences.

With more and more businesses investing in these kinds of approaches, platforms like Salesforce have launched consolidated solutions that suppliers can use to lower their cost of doing business, automate processes, and increase sales. 

This is a huge win for distributors who are looking to technology to help enhance their buying experiences, increase their digital channels, and control costs. 

The Key to Customer Engagement

When it comes to customers of any type - B2B, B2C, etc. - experiences are what keep them engaged. But it’s pricing and personalization that get them to spend more with your brand. 

Investing in robust, effective, and easy-to-use digital and analog experiences is what keeps your customers coming back, and gives you a competitive advantage over your competition. In fact, the key to getting more people to buy online has always been about creating an easy experience. 

Imagine your company as a castle. It may be large, have strong walls, and withstood the tests of time. Yet it’s surrounded by competitors and customers who are more than ready to jump ship at the first sign of another business that’s easier to work with. 

Digital experiences that address these concerns, like quick, accurate, and personalized quoting; comprehensive order histories to help customers find what they need; simple and automated reordering; and other features that make doing business with your brand incredibly easy are the moat around the castle. It insulates your business from threats, and protects its legacy. 

But the path to winning - or the drawbridge out of the castle gates - is offering features like personalization, special promotions, hybrid shopping options, such as interchangeable digital and analog channels, and the ability to cross-sell and upsell. 

With eCommerce giants such as Amazon pushing boundaries and offering innovative experiences that drastically influence user expectations, customers have come to expect that level of service.

The Importance of Data Structures

So what prevents ERP storefronts from delivering impactful experiences and personalization? It ultimately comes down to their data structures. 

Many ERPs have limited navigational browsing and consequently do not provide direct access to product catalogs. This, unfortunately, creates a barrier to product discovery that can lead to frustration and eventual abandonment by users. 

Another example of the challenges with ERPs are the landing screens, which often lack expedited pathways to purchase that are based upon previous orders and user behaviors. This can slow down the time to reorder or limit the frequency of orders. 

Beyond user frustrations with a lack of standard eCommerce features, ERPs as eCommerce are not as effective for driving revenue. Product pages don’t necessarily allow for cross-selling or upselling opportunities, whereas a platform like Salesforce can highlight associated products that may increase the average order value, and show product imagery to help buyers make informed decisions. In fact, recent studies have shown that product imagery is the most critical content within the buying experience. 

Additionally, Salesforce offers self-service features, which allow customers to navigate, search, and access what they need when they want it, trimming down on the times sales teams spend fielding phone calls and emails and generating quotes. 

The Case for Salesforce

Implementing Salesforce allows for businesses to achieve three key objectives: increasing revenue, decreasing costs, and lowering the total cost of ownership.

It specifically offers key technology enablers that aren’t available on many ERPs:

  • Innovative self-service ordering platform
  • Filter or flag out-of-stock
  • Easily pay pending invoices with an on-brand UX
  • Predictive selling and recommendations with Einstein AI
  • Catalog management + product filtering with ease
  • Ease of creating, tracking, increasing orders
  • Reduction in transactional support
  • Real-time insights into opportunities and sales pipeline
  • Automated, web-based, routing of order status and information requests
  • Integrated and centralized data access for sales, merchandisers, delivery and operations

It also actively measures the following KPIs, allowing for more informed business decisions:

  • Share of wallet
  • Order Value: Add Ons/Bundles
  • CSAT: Lifetime Value
  • Sales Time on Consultation/Strategic
  • planning
  • Cost of Placing Orders
  • Order Errors & Time to Fix
  • Collaboration
  • Time on Administrative Tasks
  • IT TCO

Furthermore, Salesforce offers additional benefits that while non-quantifiable, are just as tangible and important: 

  • Greater operational transparency and control with real-time insights
  • Secure, scalable and agile technology platform
  • Centralized data model readily available to inform decision making
  • Greater innovation and reduced deployment time for new business needs
  • Improved strategic planning process
  • Cross-functional collaboration across DSR, DSM, and Sales Support

Beyond these benefits, a major aspect of the value lies in channel shift to digital, allowing sales reps to increase their productivity. 

Graphic containing six times ROI table

The Value of Salesforce for B2B

Let’s break down the impact that adopting Salesforce can have on your business by looking at the below scenario, based upon numbers from an actual company.

The Value of Salesforce for B2B Workflow Graphic

If you scale out those projections for five years, the impact is massive - six times ROI.

Graphic containing six times ROI table

While there is an initial investment, the return on it is clearly worthwhile.

In Summary

Making the shift to eCommerce, specifically via Salesforce, can have massive benefits for businesses. Not only does its ROI speak for itself, it also results in increased customer loyalty, more efficient and effective team members, and a way to differentiate your business from competitors. 

If you’re considering investing in a digital channel, and are not sure where to begin or would like to learn more, get in touch with the team of experts at Object Edge. We’re here to help.  

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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