How to Develop a B2B Digital Commerce Strategy
Looking to move your B2B business online? You are not alone. Whether it is building an online ordering system to serve current clients, or building a direct-to-consumer sales channel, B2B companies are embracing digital transformation more than ever out of necessity.
Developing a B2B digital commerce strategy
Developing your B2B digital commerce strategy
The nature of today’s B2B buyers is changing and the way they work with suppliers and partners needs to evolve. Not only are there more millennials in decision-making and buying positions for B2B clients, but COVID-19 has also impacted the traditional face-to-face sales model.
First things first: getting online
According to a Merit study, the research phase of the B2B sales journey is happening mostly through digital channels. It is going to be imperative for B2B companies that don’t already have an online presence to develop one fast.
For those that do already have an online presence, the focus should be on improving omnichannel customer experience. B2B companies must deliver the content, features and experiences that their buyers expect from their daily lives as B2C consumers. Digital savvy customers find value in receiving training, demos and product news from vendors and marketing tactics that relay practical, relevant and specific data-driven information.
So, where does that leave your B2B business? If you do not already have an ecommerce website, start there.
It is completely possible to start selling online, even for companies with products that have complicated products, bulk buying options, complex legacy technology environments, operational processes, organizational structures and information security concerns. But don’t get bogged down in the minutiae of it all.
Focus your efforts on getting the smallest possible, best functioning product to market, and then work through an Agile development process that improves the overall product over time. That MVP, or pilot site, could mean starting with an online catalogue that showcases your product, but doesn’t have an online ordering system. Customers can still call in to place orders while you build out the best cart functionality in future site iterations.
Post pilot development and scaling is where you can start to settle into a development process, continuing to move quickly in 2 or 3-week development cycles. This process helps your teams realize scalable growth and continuous improvements.
Continuous improvement and pain point elimination
If you already have a website with self-service options, great! Now is the time to start looking at improvements and thinking about how to enhance the customer experience with your clients that are already using your digital commerce solution.
Once you get your digital commerce offerings nailed down and running, these are some common pain points that most businesses, B2B or B2C, should spend time considering and make plans to address with a continuous improvement strategy.
- The length of the ordering process: Decision-makers are increasingly frustrated with convoluted purchasing journeys and will drop suppliers if the buying process has too many steps.
- Think like a consumer. Ensure any e-commerce channel provides a B2C-like experience for every product or service, whether a new purchase or a repeat order.
- Hard to find products and insufficient search options: Make finding product pages as easy as possible. Include clear headings for catalogues and make sure that your on-page search functionality is top-notch.
- Rapidly fix what’s broken on websites and mobile apps. Watch for technical issues in real-time and resolve them as they appear. Making sure your site is operating optimally could increase revenue incrementally and improve the digital experience in ways that promote increased loyalty.
Helping customers adopt your new digital commerce options
In some cases, encouraging customers to abandon old habits is a hard sell. Especially with older clients, there are relationships and nuances that come with traditional sales. Shifting customers away from face-to-face selling can be exceptionally difficult, but it can be done with the right approach. Think about the best experience you have had with a retail website and seriously consider how your website can match that.
Make sure that buyers can readily find ALL the product information they need, compare options, make purchases, and receive service without live support from sales reps for less complex needs. Ensure that live support is available at the right time during more complex purchasing situations.
Speed, transparency and expertise are key in delivering best-in-class customer experience. By applying those attributes across all your sales channels, you will quickly achieve the experience that your customers are looking for. Live chat, for example, is an option that delivers speed, transparency, and expertise—things that customers value most.
“Results in our 2019 survey showed that those suppliers who provide outstanding digital experiences to their buyers are more than twice as likely to be chosen as a primary supplier than those who provide poor experiences, and about 70 percent more likely than those providing only fair ones.” - McKinsey & Company
Other processes you can implement that will draw your customers to your online experience:
- Train your sales rep to run customer meetings via videoconferencing (Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, etc.).
- Host multi-customer virtual product demos, launches and info sessions with phone follow-up from reps.
- Publish and email tailored content that reflects your customers’ needs and current reality.
Track how well your digital commerce strategy is working
Implementing a new strategy means figuring out what is working and what isn’t. That means on top of getting your digital commerce strategy planned out, you also need to figure out a way to report on the efficacy of the improvements you have made, and figure out where to spend your time and energy next.
Useful areas to benchmark and track:
- Churn rates, customer loyalty and satisfaction
- Performance variations between digital and in-person sales channels
- Link ecommerce sales goals to your overall sales targets and incentive systems. Be willing and able to double-count credit when customers interact both digitally and with sales reps.
One final word of advice
Developing a digital commerce strategy requires the coordination of many different departments, strategies and technology requirements. Excluding one of these departments in the construction of the overall strategy will result in complications or outright failures, so getting all your internal stakeholders on board before you start a digital transformation is key. Spend time doing your research and present clear, data-driven reasoning for the changes your company needs.
Starting a digital commerce strategy is not a quick or easy task. Every B2B business has different parameters that they work within and each will require their own specific action plan. If you are feeling overwhelmed with this process, we are here to help. Acro Media has years of experience and dedicated subject matter experts to get your company online, or improve your digital commerce experience, quickly and effectively. Reach out today to speak with one of our ecommerce software consultants and start moving your B2B company towards providing better digital experiences and increasing sales.