Ibexa Engage 2021: Growth Opportunity Meets Digital Agility
In June, Ibexa hosted its annual Ibexa Engage events with the theme: Future-proof Your B2B Sales Strategies – Mastering New Business Channels and Driving Growth into the Next Normal. The markets joining the round of virtual events thus far were the DACH region, France and the UK, with Spain to follow later in the year.
Digital leaders from a great mix of industries and companies took stock of the effects of COVID-19 and analyzed the themes that will define the B2B landscape as the global economy emerges from the crisis.
This blog post is a high-level view of the discussions, but we urge you to watch or revisit the presentations themselves, because of the wealth of detail and insight the different contributors bring to the table.
Although COVID-19 affected European B2B brands in different ways, everyone agreed that it has speeded up digital transformation – and by as much as 7.2 years across Germany, according to research presented by Benjamin Wahler of Vogel Communications. This acceleration presents B2B companies that have struggled to reach digital maturity with a chance to catch up but puts renewed pressure on digital champions to stay ahead.
The effects of COVID-19 are definitely not short-lived. Ibexa’s SVP of strategy, Roland Benedetti, discussed findings by McKinsey that of all the B2B buyers who pivoted to e-commerce during the crisis, just 15% wants to return to the “old normal” before COVID-19. In other words, B2B e-commerce will continue to grow significantly.
This was already a given, argued Mark Brohan of leading B2B analyst Digital Commerce 360, because e-commerce accounts for a modest percentage of overall B2B turnover. In the US, the penetration rate stands at just 8.2%. Although B2B e-commerce has made deeper inroads into European markets this will in no way inhibit growth which Brohan estimates to reach 15% CAGR over the next five years for all the major economies.
This figure is already looking cautious. Jean-François Mathieu of CambSen told his audience that in the first quarter of 2021, B2B e-commerce sales had grown by 21% in France.
The discussion turned to what companies must do to leverage these huge opportunities for growth.
A wide range of brands presented at Ibexa Engage. They included a €3 billion aviation group (Swissport), the world’s largest manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses (Essilor), a coffee subscription service (Café Royal Pro), a leading US manufacturer of adhesives and adhesive equipment (Dymax), and a leading European producer of taps and sanitary ware for hospitals and other public venues (Delabie).
Different as they are, what these organizations share is a vision of digital transformation that puts the customer at the heart of every change, of every technical decision.
Swissport replaced an outdated and fragmented digital presence with a user-friendly and responsive site that captures every aspect of its activities across all the geographies where it is operations for all its stakeholders, including passengers, freight operators, luggage handlers, security staff, fueling services and journalists. Attendees to the German event were treated to a preview of the new site.
Essilor is on the path to deeper digital engagement with a B2C2B site that educates consumers about the range of Essilor lenses with a store finder – managed as a headless integration on Ibexa DXP – creating leads for the partnered opticians that are its actual customers.
DELABIE overhauled its site to make it as frictionless as possible to find, collect, download and share detailed and highly technical information about its wide range of products. The site addresses two discrete audiences: the distributors that are DELABIE’s B2B buyers, but also the architects that are more likely to include Delabie products in their plans if it is made painless and intuitive – and free – for them to do so.
Essilor and DELABIE point to another theme of the Ibexa Engage events: that B2B digital transformation is about much more than e-commerce.
The growth of marketplaces loomed large over the discussion of B2B sales channels. Guy Weston of UK digital agency Creode argued strongly that B2B companies should be extremely wary of surrendering control of their sales channels to a third party that did not necessarily have their best interests at heart. To other speakers, the rise of Amazon Business pointed to the inevitability of marketplaces. François Duranton of technical advisory ZeTrace quoted research showing that in 2020, the number of marketplaces in France grew by 80%, while individual sellers increased their marketplace sales by 24%.
These figures imply that the marketplace sales channel is far from saturated.
The disruption of sales channels caused by Covid-19 drove companies to adopt another business model: direct-to-customer (D2C). For a UK brewer, this was an experiment, but a successful one that is continuing as its traditional outlets reopen.
Pivoting from a wholesaler/distributor model to D2C requires a certain degree of digital agility. That flexibility and agility are more than buzzword was illustrated vividly by Café Royal Pro, a coffee subscription B2B for offices. Because the majority of its contracts are flexible subscriptions without duration of commitment, the sudden shift to remote working in March 2020 led to a steep drop in sales.
“We did not hide in a corner, but proactively called our customers to remind them of the promise of flexibility of our contracts,” said Ghassan Kara of Café Royale Pro. “This created a strong bond with our customers. Because we are digital end-to-end, we could be hyper-responsive, track and control our stock and our logistics, limit our losses and above all, keep the dialogue open with our customers.”
Result? The business rebounded very rapidly as offices re-opened and Café Royal Pro is back to double-digit growth.
It is an example of how digitalization enables you to react to events – even ones as unprecedented as COVID-19.
We are looking forward to our Ibexa Engage events for the Spanish market. In the meantime, the collective experience and insight of the speakers we were privileged to host so far is the best framework with which to begin strategizing your own B2B sales strategy.
The opportunity is there for the taking.
To watch the on-demand videos for Ibexa Engage presentations in English, French and German please go to the Ibexa Engage 2021 page.