Increasingly, B2B companies that fail to go digital are being left behind by competitors – and, yes, this includes the ever-present threat of Amazon. According to McKinsey & Company, digital leaders in the B2B space generate five times more revenue than the rest of the B2B field.
Why aren’t more B2B companies making the move to digital? It could be their outdated technology or possibly the lack of a digital strategy.
Regardless of what holds these B2B businesses back, one thing is clear – without a digital presence buyers will just find other suppliers that make B2B purchasing simpler, faster, and more convenient.
B2B business: The Amazon effect
More than ever, B2B buyers expect the same shopping experiences as those of consumer sites, such as Amazon. And, speaking of the elephant in the room, don’t think Amazon isn’t your competitor in the B2B space. According to surveys by Forrester, 92% of B2B buyers use Amazon to research purchases for work, while 82% reported buying through Amazon. Considering that the online retail giant is ramping up its business marketplace, the threat looms even larger.
The key takeaway? Amazon is not just raising the bar on customer experience; it’s creating a competitive landscape where a digital sales channel is a requirement to survive and thrive.
Recent research from Forrester and other industry analysts clearly shows that B2B customers using both traditional sales channels – such as direct sales – and self-service digital tools are the most profitable customers that, on average:
- Spend more money
- Engage more often
- Exhibit more openness to trying new products and services
- Cost less to support
- Are more likely to become repeat customers
So, how do most businesses measure up? Forrester Research reports 63% feel they cannot compete with Amazon’s experience.
Digital isn’t all or nothing. Buyers still want to call a salesperson or customer service representative when considering more complex or expensive purchases. Sales and service reps also can benefit from new digital tools – including configure, price, and quote (CPQ); quote to cash (QTC); and similar sales-enabling technologies – to better serve key accounts and high-value customers.
Get started today
The time to go digital is now. Having worked with businesses spanning several industries to digitalize their businesses, my advice is to take a series of manageable steps in the right direction, but more importantly keep moving.
- Start by identifying customer and account types that would benefit from self-service and basic process automation. While direct sales reps might best handle some customers and prospects, most can be served and retained by self-service websites with additional direct support available when needed.
- Roll out standard online self-service features quickly to a subset of customers, migrating targeted segments to low-cost digital channels. Use this shift to fund ongoing digital improvements and experiences as you reduce costs, generate incremental revenue, and improve customer loyalty.
- Put in place commerce technology that will grow with you. There are several flexible platforms available that can scale to accommodate future growth and change at a lower cost point than even two years ago. This investment will not only drive higher revenues, but also reduce sales and support costs.
As these options highlight, going digital isn’t an all-or-nothing approach and it doesn’t have to be overly complex. Yet, the imperative is crystal clear for B2B businesses – get moving to see higher sales and greater returns.