Digital B2B Services in the Next Normal
The information found in McKinsey & Co’s article “From Defense to Offense: Digital B2B Services in the Next Normal” gives B2B organizations an idea of what to expect in the post-pandemic era. We have summarized and touched on a few of the topics in that article to show how businesses in B2B and manufacturing can get ahead of the competition and stay resilient.
“For any individual organization, the extent of the digital transformation will naturally depend on the specific changes required to adapt the current operating model and leverage cutting-edge technologies. But what the most advanced businesses have in common is that they’re using DnA (digital and analytics) to develop solutions that make their operations not just safer, but stronger.” - McKinsey
How digital solutions can help make B2B & manufacturing organizations disruption-proof
Let’s face it, 2020 turned every business’ world on its end. Remote work, manufacturing shutdowns, and the loss of face-to-face sales impacted the sector heavily. The resulting decrease in demand led to less organizational spending and budget cuts in Q2 & Q3 of 2020, but Q4 saw a change in that trend, with as many as 96% of B2B organizations shifting their focus to digitally enabled self-serve, remote, and contactless operations models.
To stay competitive in the next normal, companies in sectors like manufacturing and B2B have expanded and accelerated their use of digital solutions. But digitization is about more than defending against disruptions and economic slumps. Companies can capture 30 percent revenue growth, see positive changes in their bottom line and better operational efficiencies.
So what are some of the ways that digital solutions can help make organizations in B2B and manufacturing disruption-proof? Let’s look at the three areas McKinsey highlights in their article: sales, service and support.
Sales: enabling a best-in-class experience
In the next normal, where face-to-face interactions are limited (by your customer’s choice, not just the pandemic), the key to sales will be leveraging digital and analytics to improve leads and sales team productivity.
By transitioning to contactless operations—in response to consumer behaviour changes AND employee preference— businesses in the B2B and manufacturing sectors have the opportunity to build customer confidence and potentially see higher sales conversions.
McKinsey also reports that companies that use digital solutions in their sales support chain are reporting a 25% increase in the effectiveness of those sales support efforts. Some organizations have adopted virtual solutions—such as video conferencing and virtual reality—to replace in-person interactions.
Companies are also reinforcing competitive advantage by incorporating advanced analytics throughout the sales process:
- Capturing customers’ preferences and ecommerce interaction patterns.
Mining the data for insights to prioritize key customers.
- Building advanced-analytics models built to predict the probability of purchase across customer segments and products.
- Dedicate more time to those with a higher propensity to buy, while minimizing time spent on low-propensity leads.
These tools empower innovative sales leaders to make strategic decisions that maximize sales efforts.
Service: low-touch delivery with high-tech capabilities
Businesses that have relied on in-person interactions have shifted to remote or virtual solutions to facilitate contactless operations. This shift is unlikely to change, as we see consumers remain sensitive to in-person interactions. That sensitivity will sustain the need for virtual delivery models.
In situations where remote servicing is not possible, such as a service call requiring parts replacement, service companies are increasingly using technology to reduce in-person interactions as much as possible. For example, field technicians use text messages for contactless signatures and payment.
The proliferation of connected devices and sensors in the Internet of Things (IoT) enables automation and the increased use of self-serve and sophisticated remote solutions. Let’s explore an example:
A business can use data generated by connected sensors to develop remote-delivery platforms that dramatically increase remote-servicing abilities and early problem resolution.
- By combining IoT with AI allows machines to improve their predictive-maintenance capabilities.
- This empowers service providers to track asset health in real-time and proactively address issues before a breakdown occurs.
- In the event of an equipment failure, remote resolution and AI gives technicians the visibility to fix the issue with minimal downtime for their customers—often resulting in a reduction in downtime.
Support: fully connected and backed by automation
To maximize productivity and effectiveness, B2B companies have incorporated digital tools that can automate back-office and support processes across all areas of their organization. These types of solutions allow organizations to make strategic decisions that address issues before they interrupt delivery service and, in worst-case scenarios, directly impact the customer experience.
Automating processes in B2B businesses to improve the efficiency of administrative support in HR, accounts receivable, and IT has proven to be a best-use case for digital solutions, as it is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of back-office tasks can be automated.
Enterprise-size B2B companies have also been quickly implementing robotic process automation (RPA) to complete basic tasks, which allows support staff to focus on high-value activities.
The new normal is ushering in an era of contactless, self-service and digital-only solutions for services in the B2B and manufacturing areas. With sustainable and adaptable tools in place, organizations will find themselves much more resilient to disruptions like we have been seeing across the globe. With improved digital experience, businesses will see increases in areas like customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and retention. The snowball effect of those increases will generate better revenue opportunities, better quality leads and the ability to scale operational and marketing strategies at will.
As noted in the tone of the McKinsey article, the key to securing a strong future for any organization is to move from reacting and scrambling to the pressures the new sales era is pushing on us to proactively building and designing solutions that propel digital transformation.