B2B digital transformation can seem overwhelming and expensive, particularly in a rapidly evolving landscape. Yet properly executed, digital transformation is a game-changer for B2B that maximizes profits and ensures satisfied customers.
If anything, COVID-19 accelerated adoption of eCommerce for B2B buyers even more aggressively, with McKinsey definitively stating it altered the landscape forever. In a comprehensive study conducted last year, they discovered that there was a 250% increase in mobile ordering, and that B2B companies that offered outstanding digital experiences were twice as likely to be selected as a primary supplier.
So what does all of this mean? The case for B2B digital transformation has never been more compelling -- and the time is now.
Understanding B2B Digital Transformation
The first step to undergoing digital transformation for B2B sales is understanding the concept.
Put simply, B2B digital transformation is about leveraging digital solutions to create a better user experience. Digital transformation typically streamlines processes, improves efficiency, provides customers more access to information and often even self-service options, and creates omnichannel experiences that seamlessly connect online and offline interactions.
B2B digital transformations differ from B2C because B2B businesses often need to reorganize their selling channels. Rather than relying on resellers or distributors, some B2B companies use digital transformation as an opportunity to sell directly to businesses via eCommerce.
Best Practices for B2B Sales Digital Transformation
It’s All Comes Down to Culture
While a successful digital transformation requires investing in the correct solutions and often significant restructuring, most importantly it requires a culture shift.
B2B organizations that are looking to pursue digital transformation need to develop a comprehensive change management strategy to ensure buy in and adoption. They also need to ensure that the right people are leading the charge.
Let’s elaborate a bit further on the importance of culture in your digital transformation strategy. As stated above, technology is a critical part of the process. You’ll need to review legacy technology and processes and update them with innovative solutions.
But more importantly, successful organizations focus on developing an innovative culture - not just implementing innovative tech stacks.
Technology that Supports Speed & Agility
In addition to a culture that’s innovative, businesses also need agile solutions that can adapt in an instant. COVID-19 makes this case for us, as businesses that could quickly adjust their fulfillment practices (among other processes) came out with higher profits than ever.
A great example of the impact of agile solutions is Cloud technology, which has significantly altered eCommerce thanks to its flexibility and scalability.
Focus on Customer Experience
While digital transformation will look different for each company, there’s one commonality that all organizations share: the focus needs to be on the customer experience.
B2B digital sales transformation can certainly make your businesses more agile and profitable, but only if the solutions implemented enhance the customer experience.
One great example of this is self-service. While this is a relatively common concept in B2C, B2B still has catching up to do - and the ROI supports the investment. It’s estimated that over 60% of the B2B sales cycle happens before a potential customer even connects with a sales representative, and 70% of B2B buyers find buying from a website more convenient than buying from a sales rep.
Customers now do an incredible amount of research online before they even reach out to your business, so the easier you can make their online experience, the better for your bottom line.
Of course, in order to develop and deliver an enhanced customer experience, you have to know your customers. Companies do this in a wide variety of ways, from Voice of the Customer programs to focus groups, research, social listening, and cutting-edge technologies that provide analysis and insight to your customers’ behaviors and desires.
Leveraging digital technology to satisfy customer needs - and position your business as their go-to solution - is the key to successful digital transformation.
B2B Digital Transformation Examples
Moving from the theoretical to the practical, let’s examine some examples of B2B digital transformation.
We’ve already addressed self-service, yet there are a myriad of other ways that B2B organizations can utilize digital transformation to better meet customer needs, improve efficiency, and increase ROI.
If you’re a B2B retailer, for example, digital transformation provides a massive opportunity to provide personalized experiences for your buyers. Improvements in technology allow you to tailor communications, ads, pricing, sales, and even promoted or featured products depending user behavior. You can provide customers with an individualized buyer journey, increasingly their likelihood of making a purchase.
For manufacturers, you could show retail pricing upfront and offer discounting behind a verified login. Digital transformation will allow you to provide tiered or volume pricing, and this level of convenience and transparency will increase customer loyalty.
Many businesses are able to automate significant amounts of processes, improving operational efficiencies and cutting costs. For example, AI chatbots are one solution to minimizing customer support requests and speeding up wait times.
The possibilities run deep, and thanks to constantly evolving and emerging technologies, digital solutions get better each day.
A B2B Digital Transformation Case Study
At the end of the day, the best case for B2B digital transformation is one that demonstrates the ROI.
One Object Edge case study, featuring an industry leader that provided caps, plugs, and custom solutions for a variety of industries needed to become the “Amazon of B2B plastics” - meaning that they wanted to deliver a fast, intuitive, and minimal-click experience for customers.
Yet quick and easy transactions were just one component of their digital transformation. This B2B organization also needed to emulate the personal sales experience in a digital way, without sacrificing their superior customer experience.
Additionally, they needed to provide both “off-the-shelf” solutions and custom products, catering to two different types of audiences.
Our digital transformation strategy for this businesses involved three main focus areas:
Research - Conducted extensive user research and even did journey mapping. These journeys exposed opportunities for improvement across the engagement pathway. We honed in on four specific types of users: buyers, shopper, admins, and shoppers seeking a custom solution.
SEO - The SEO work was extensive, beginning with keyword and rank analysis. This included a list of ranking organic keywords, monthly search volume, difficulty, position, and rank. Next, link, URL, and metadata optimizations resulted in updated link structures, keyword optimized URLs, and a ‘to and from’ list for migrating domains. The migration plan emphasized preserving content, optimizing search performance, and maintaining existing rank and authority throughout migration.
Design & Copy - The goal for the website design and copy was to reflect the company’s decades of expertise, deep commitment to customer service, innate attention to detail, and their well-respected reputation. This meant offering self-service, creating an intuitive flow, and the practical application of design cues to more strategically focus the user.
At the end of the project, the B2B organization had customized User Journeys to guide their efforts, improved SEO and processes for continuously improving their ranking, a new and intuitively designed website, and a User Interface kit.
Beyond the deliverables, they also experienced a 26% increase in sales in just one year, thanks to a successful digital transformation.
In Summary: Digital Transformation for B2B Companies
Digital transformation for B2B companies can seem overwhelming and expensive, particularly as the landscape continues to rapidly evolve. Yet the reality is that properly executed, digital transformation is a game-changer for B2B businesses that maximizes profits while ensuring a satisfied and loyal customer base.
Traditional and legacy B2B brands that refuse to adapt are getting left behind, but those that use digital transformation as an opportunity to enhance their customer experience and truly leverage what makes their business great see results. And those results speak for themselves.
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.