Ask any executive about their priorities and “growth” will be at the top of their list. CEOs expect not just business-as-usual growth but disruptive growth. Increased competition, shrinking margins, and customer demands are all pushing brands to invest in the customer experience to drive this growth. For B2B brands, this means expanding the online experience.
Many companies do not provide an effective online selling channel because they’re stuck with outdated technology while dealing with limited budgets, technical complexity and a cultural fear of change. Nonetheless, traditional ways of selling have changed and B2B businesses must increase digital commerce to drive growth because;
Digital commerce is more than just selling online. B2B buyers want a convenient, unique and engaging experience and modern technology can help drive innovation and organizational change. Let’s explore how to drive B2B growth with digital commerce.
1 - Cater to Modern Buyers with a 24/7 Business
Today’s buyers know their options. They spend more time researching online than engaging sales reps. 70% of the buying process is completed before the buyer contacts a potential supplier. 59% of buyers prefer online research, not interacting with sales reps, as their primary source of information. Let that one sink in.
Part of this transformation is due to the generational shift of B2B buyers. Millennials now outnumber GenXers and 82% of B2B buying committees include at least one millennial employee. The next generation of buyers expects to purchase whenever and wherever they want. Over 80% of B2B buyers use a smartphone to access content and 56% use a tablet.
B2B buyers want to buy online, but they still want offline options. This means connecting the customer experience across all channels - online, mobile, sales, service and partners. Regardless where a buyer executes a purchase, they’ll expect their information to be available and accurate however they check in.
2 - Adapt to Modern Customer Expectations
For B2B companies that sell online, providing a basic ecommerce portal with product and pricing information is no longer enough. Most B2B companies still haven’t successfully deployed tried and true tactics such as recommendations, personalization, guided selling, and utilizing the latest industry innovations.
There are several ways to improve the B2B digital commerce experience:
3 - Explore Latest Innovations
Chat bots, voice-activated shopping, image recognition, and AI are for more than just retail and direct-to-consumer businesses. For example, what Oracle calls “Adaptive Intelligence (AI)” can take personalization to the next level for B2B organizations.
AI allows businesses to provide a personalized and engaging customer experience regardless whether sales is cold calling or serving a first time website visitor. Research shows that 80% of B2B sales organizations find personalized interactions to be most effective with buyers.
AI can be used for online and offline sales transactions to improve conversion rates, order value and customer satisfaction by providing more relevant offers and products without the need to write manual rules. AI can help overcome the typical cold start problems most personalization solutions have when little is known about new buyers.
4 - Connect Experiences Across Digital Channels
Digital provides the opportunity to keep in touch with buyers, with commerce often the hub of these interactions.
For example, an ecommerce platform integrated with marketing automation can trigger personalized reminders, recommendations, and workflow. Imagine a scenario where a sale rep is alerted that a customer left an order in their online cart. That rep then contacts the customer to help her complete the transaction. Sales can also leverage recommendations based on buying history to improve the customer experience and increase order size.
Connecting to loyalty programs also provides a way to engage with your customer base, helps save money and boosts customer retention. But it’s easy for B2B companies to dismiss loyalty-marketing practices, a missed opportunity. Digital commerce is the ideal channel to connect loyalty programs with special discounts and promotions, members-only content and first-to-know information on products.
5 - Encourage Sales to Leverage the Online Channel
Customers aren’t the only beneficiaries from digital commerce. The industry has talked for years about channel conflict and the fear of “butting heads” with sales teams by implementing an online channel. These channels should work together, not against each other.
Encourage your sales teams to leverage the online channel as a way to get instant access to account information, product availability and supporting documentation as well as leverage real-time recommendations.
Invest in the Right Technology to Drive Growth
Digital transformation for your organization won’t happen overnight. It’s a moving target that requires continuous innovation. Oracle can help you capitalize on your customers’ demands and will partner with you to become a modern sales organization.