The pandemic created a tidal wave of emphasis on digital interactions than no one could have ever predicted, with the closure of all stores and offices. B2B companies had to swiftly adapt their operational and sales processes. We look at how COVID has sped up B2B digital transformation and the key ways B2B organisations will be adapting going forwards.
Accelerating Digital Adoption
For many B2B organisations, decisive action was needed to figure out how to still trade, accelerating their adoption of digital processes faster than we have seen before. Companies that have thrived, have shown great digital agility, turning their business models around within weeks and finding new ways of working. Although before COVID many manufacturers or distributors had already created some form of B2B digital presence, the variation of technology adoption was on a vast spectrum.
From those on the lower end, with a very unsophisticated digital presence, with basic product information, no ability to buy online, no pricing displayed and no account section to log in to see or negotiate. Here the purchase process was hugely reliant on an offline experience where you have to contact your account manager or a distributor. Then on the other end of the scale, you have high-end progressive disruptors who are really engaging in experiential or experience-driven eCommerce.
To survive those at the lower end of the scale needed to rapidly adapt to using a greater scale of technology adoption. Reshaping the way they work, their internal process, how they share systems, pricing and resources. Creating a new way of working and shifting sales preferences on how we would all like to do business in the future from traditional ways to digital – perhaps permanently.
Mckinsey’s B2B Decisions Makers Survey stated: “Digital sales preference is now ~3X more than traditional sales interactions in the UK; with self-serve, digital ordering methods now preferred with mobile app ordering up ~50 per cent”
This change in digital preference has accelerated the digital transformation of every organisation and touched every part of even the most technologically advanced companies.
Adapting B2B Business Strategies
How can organisations adapt their business strategies for today’s ‘new normal’? Recent research from B2B International from their pandemic tracker highlights there are four main categories in which B2B is adapting their business strategies post COVID (Source: B2B International):
- Greater Customer Insight
- 74% said they would be conducting research with their customers to better understand what they need.
- 68% will be improving the data and insight they have on their customers/markets to anticipate future needs.
- 65% Will invest in new systems to help serve customers better (e.g. CRM, ERP etc.)
- Responsible Actions
- 63% will be offering more flexibility with customers to help them through the crisis (e.g. on payment terms etc.).
- 62% will be taking a much more active role in community projects / social initiatives
- Direct Channel Development
- 61 % will be increasing investment in their eCommerce / online sales capabilities
- 56% will be selling more directly to customers (i.e. not through retailers/distributors).
- 52% will be developing/investing more in their delivery / “last mile” infrastructure.
- Reduced Human Interactions
- 61% will be making fewer face-to-face/sales visits to customers.
- 61% will use more automation, self-serve machines, robots.
Future of B2B eCommerce
As a result, the future of B2B eCommerce is very bright and will see a lot of innovation. Peter Sheldon, Senior Director Commerce Strategy at Adobe gave us some insight into what B2B eCommerce of the future will be focusing on:
“There will be a big focus on the buying experience, making it much simpler. More firms are realising that an easy ordering is what buyers really want.”
He continues, “AR and VR technology will become more prominent, there will be environments where you can virtually configure your product, virtually install it, and learn how to use it without ever having committed to ordering it.”
In addition, Peter says “There will be a lot of innovation on the delivery side too. For example in the ordering scenarios where a machine has broken down and a spare part is needed, and a company is losing revenue all the time that they’re waiting for that part. Drone deliveries will be a lot more applicable in B2B than they will in B2C. Factories and warehouses will have a dedicated drone landing pad for B2B deliveries. There will be a lot of innovation around the “post-purchase experience”, what happens after you actually submit the order.”
Digital the heart of your business
But the reality of today, is that customers are frustrated with many B2B firms, shouting “Why is your mobile buying experience so terrible? Why can I not buy online?”. Either that or they’re simply leaving in droves and going to competitors.
It is not a nice-to-have any more, it is an essential way of doing business. Customers are demanding a frictionless, fast experience – and if you don’t deliver, they will go elsewhere.
If you need greater support to help you adapt your digital eCommerce operations, contact us today.