In B2B, no big Commerce without Experience
When Digital is the only way for B2Bs, e-Commerce won't help much Without Experience
Avoid the trap of focusing on your e-shop when your B2B sales strategy needs much more. When Digital is the only way for B2Bs, e-Commerce won't help much Without Experience
As the Covid crisis spikes again and digital is the only option forward for the foreseeable future, B2B companies who were trailing digital transformation are now tempted to go full speed launching e-Commerce projects as quickly as possible as their physical and analog distribution channels are drying up.
They should be wary of not pigeonholing their digital initiatives into a dead-end. We’ve seen this too many times, and that is probably the main reason why so many B2B digital transformation initiatives fail.
“Mc Kinsey research shows that 70% of Digitalization and Transformation fail”
Pure e-Commerce covers only a fraction of your customer lifecycle (and is very likely to create barriers)
Traditionally, e-Commerce technology has developed ways for customers to shop online, and for vendors to sell online.
As advanced and usable that most pure e-Commerce solutions are, it's crucial to recognize that digitalizing your sales strategy starts way before customers are ready to add products to their purchase order or shopping basket on your website, and continues way after they hit the "purchase" button. There’s no doubt that pure-players of e-Commerce such as Magento, Shopify, Demandware and others are not the answer when it comes to covering the full span of the customer lifecycle.
Focusing solely on the purchase stage of the customer lifecycle can become a problem. It puts you at risk of neglecting to build a strong demand and a steady flow of prospects reaching your digital stores, which is what branding and content marketing can help achieve. It will also lose sight of anything happening post-purchase, which is known to be vital in creating a good customer experience which fuels loyalty, upsell and customer advocacy.
Furthermore, by doing so, you will miss out on differentiating from others, especially from leading B2B marketplaces like Amazon Business, who master the purchasing phase. With only an e-shop there’s little chance for you to build an edge over your competition as you’ll lack the means to create memorable experiences.
In the early phase of your customer lifecycle, it's all about branding and content marketing. To fuel the demand and the traffic to your digital channel, you need to develop your brand and exist in the open and wide digital world where prospects are researching solutions.
79% of B2B buyers said the winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their buying decision.
the 2019 B2B Buyer Report
In the later phase of the customer lifecycle, it is all about building loyalty and delivering outstanding experiences that will simplify the life of your customer: self-service options, subscriptions to repeat purchases in an automated way, support, customer service, etc.
Customers have more and more options where to shop. Disjointed experiences after the purchase cost millions and will lose your customers to the competition.
Complex product requires more than a simple "add-to-cart and check-out" interaction
Beyond these considerations, while some B2B companies are certainly selling products in a way that is somewhat similar to consumer e-commerce, with simple products and relatively simple buyer journeys, many others face a more complex challenge. They are selling complex products that might require heavy personalization (be it on the pricing, on the purchase terms, on the volume, on the supply chain – think of a complex distribution setup, or even the product itself which can be customized and adapted, embedding a significant part of custom offering).
Rushing to go live with an e-Commerce storefront that would have to take shortcuts in these essential aspects of complex sales scenario would equally lead to a failure in digitalizing the sales strategy.
Three risks of going for a quick (-and-dirty) simple e-Commerce presence for your B2B sales digitalization
- After the quick success celebrations of an easy e-shop launch, while your shop is running and being functional, your brand new digital sales channel will hardly see the traffic you hoped for and sales will plateau or, worse, erode.
- Customers will be disappointed by their experience and will not stick with your brand, as your competition provides more on the experience front.
- You'll build a technical debt that will show barriers moving on to digitalize your organization further, developing more advanced self-service customer portals.
At Ibexa, we've seen numerous B2B companies giving up on Digital Commerce for these wrong reasons. Instead of giving up, which is no longer an option, we’d like to share the following advice:
At all times, you need to be obsessed by the customer. Your customers just have to be first and foremost in everything you do. This means you need to integrate all aspects of the customer experience: awareness, acquisition, product experience, customer service, retention...and make sure all of them are aligned and working in concert.
For that, you'll need the culture and the organization but also the technology platform that will enable your team to turn this customer obsession into real customer digital experiences.
It is for this very reason that we have built Ibexa Commerce as the most complete of our software packages, offering, of course, B2B e-Commerce typical features, but it goes beyond that by including a full digital experience feature set that will enable you to do so much more than simply building an e-shop.
Ibexa Commerce is not a one-to-one replacement to other e-Commerce solutions such as Shopify, Magento or Woo-commerce that might let you to go live quickly with a shopping cart and product catalog, but that will fall short in the many other areas mentioned above. It is a full Digital Experience Platform (DXP) complemented by specific e-Commerce capabilities that will enable you to entirely digitalize your sales strategy, encompassing all phases of your customer lifecycle.
And because it’s agile, modular and designed for innovation, it will still let you accelerate your digitalization time-to-market.
As the second wave of the Pandemic hits us it’s worth taking the time to consider and develop a strong digital transformation plan that will not downplay or contradict your sales and marketing strategy or your product.
Photo by Gervyn Louis on Unsplash