With B2B ecommerce here to stay manufacturers must evolve their sales strategies to embrace a digital-first approach and deliver the types of digital experiences consumer expect to remain competitive and grow their business, according to research by physical digital platform provider Copperberg, ecommerce solutions provider Intershop, and digital agency Valtech.
The report, which surveyed 50 leaders in digital and commerce across Europe, asked respondents to identify their main challenges and objectives when it comes to their digital strategies.
Not surprisingly, the survey revealed that respondents are still in various stages of readiness to meet B2B buyers’ growing preference for digital commerce. While some manufacturers were well positioned to adapt, others were not and faced a host of challenges including not being found online, delivering a dissatisfying customer experience online, and a lack of digital maturity and resources.
While 31% of respondents believe they are ahead of their competitors when it comes to digital maturity, and 2% believe they are far ahead, 24% are in danger of falling behind. In addition, 44% of respondents believe their digital maturity level is on par with that of their competitors.
Despite the high percentage of respondents at risk falling behind the competition, respondents showed a willingness to make substantial investments to bring their digital strategies to fruition. A whopping 63% of respondents say they plan to spend up to 20% more than they did the previous year on their digital objectives and 20% said they planned to spend more than 20% than the previous year.
Another bright spot reflecting manufacturers willingness to beef up their digital sales channels is that 58% of respondents have acquired an e-commerce solution, and 59% use EDI and digital marketing tools to generate more leads and sales.
A key driver behind respondents’ willingness to invest in digital commerce is the need to grow their business. Indeed, 41% of respondents cited the need to tap into new revenue streams through value-added products and services such as selling connected machines and metered pay-as-you-use services, the report says.
Another 24% are driven by the need for new business models and/or adjacent industry offerings. “This demand for companies to evolve their offerings is based on the shift from traditional solutions towards digital ones, where technologies such as IoT and rich data enable new digital business potential,” says the report.
Technologies respondents plan to deploy as part of their digital strategies include configure, price and quote solutions, which typically work in tandem with CRM platforms and ERP programs, digital customer portals, and 360° customer view data platforms. Such solutions not only enhance the buyer experience but help streamline sales processes and provide better insights into the customer journey.
Manufacturers also realize that in order to thrive in the world of ecommerce they must transform their corporate culture to ensure a digital-first mindset to ensure ecommerce is a top priority. A large part of that transformation involves breaking down internal data silos so that all departments can share customer and sales data to create better customer experiences, as well as marketing, sales and support strategies than increase the lifetime value of the customer.
“By bringing together different departments and making sense of available data, companies can purposefully plan and create one consistent, excellent customer experience, and actively embed customer considerations across the enterprise,” the report says.
Without collaboration between departments it becomes difficult to fully leverage the power of digital selling, the report adds.
For the majority of respondents, the push toward a digital-first mindset is already occurring with 56% saying they have established basic structures for a company-wide digital strategy and roadmap. In addition, 24% say they have a systematic change management process in place when it comes to digital commerce.