The world has become really unforgiving to businesses.
We, as consumers and buyers, either drive businesses to become global sensations or knock them out of business towards bankruptcy. There is no room for mediocrity anymore. Companies that stay complacent, thinking their business is just good enough, become stories of spectacular failures.
And companies that exercise inertia and fail to move fast enough with the changes happening around them meet a sad end too, just like Sears and Toys R’ Us that filed for bankruptcy after enjoying steady growth for decades.
If you take a closer look and listen more attentively, you’ll easily see and accept the brutal reality around you.
Things are changing massively and rapidly in the B2B cosmos. Everything about your customers – from their demographics to their buying behaviors and expectations – is changing.
The good news is, if you move fast enough and catch up with everyone else, massive rewards await. The bad news is, if you don’t move fast enough, you are going to lag behind and get crushed.
The B2B landscape reminds me of ‘The Croods’ animated movie. Either heed the warning and move towards a new world or get crushed under the collapsing earth.
While experts in the B2B industry have been warning us about the inevitable changes for a decade, the window of opportunity – or warning – is rapidly coming to a close.
What’s making digitization and B2B eCommerce such an urgent need?
Your most important revenue-driver, YOUR CUSTOMER, is changing.
As baby boomers zoom out, millennials are filling up their spaces in the workforce. By 2025, 75% of the workforce will consist of millennials who are increasingly moving into B2B procurement roles.
Your buyers are mostly millennials now – people who were born between 1981 to 1996. Everything about this group of people is different from the people you were serving before. These people grew up surrounded by technology and are digital or Amazon natives. They make 60% of their purchases online and about 90% of their online shopping is done on Amazon.
It’s simple; your customers are forcing you to change: they want you to deliver an Amazon-like experience or they will go elsewhere.
What makes B2B eCommerce a trillion-dollar opportunity?
It’s the numbers. Global sales in B2B eCommerce amounted to $12.2 trillion in 2019. Trillions of dollars are out there and the market continues to grow.
Having an eCommerce channel allows B2B companies to reach new customers, enter new markets, and increase the value of existing customers. Businesses that have prepared for the digital transformation are reaping these benefits and grabbing their share from the trillion-dollar market, exploding their revenue as a result.
How can B2B Companies Successfully Kickstart Digital Transformation?
B2B eCommerce isn’t just about getting a website or an online store up and running. To reap the true benefits of eCommerce, you need to set the stage for your company’s digital transformation.
The truth is, if your eCommerce channel isn’t aligned properly with the rest of the organization, or worse, faces resistance from other departments, all your time and money spent in eCommerce development will backfire and negatively affect the customer experience. You will risk losing your customers and decline your revenue instead.
In other words, you can’t reap the benefits of B2B eCommerce unless ‘digital’ becomes a critical part of everyone’s DNA and you become a digital-first company.
Creating a digital mindset and culture across the organization is, therefore, crucial for creating an effective eCommerce channel that leads to business and revenue growth.
Though developing a B2B eCommerce channel is the first thing a B2B manufacturer, distributor, or wholesaler would want to do when hearing this advice on digital transformation, here are three preceding steps that need to be checked before diving into the technical side of eCommerce.
1. Ensure the Top-Level Leadership is Committed
Change can’t come without a commitment from top-level leadership. B2B eCommerce isn’t just a website project – it transforms the entire organization and touches every aspect and all departments of the company.
B2B companies that have existed for decades and even centuries are often slaved by legacy thinking and traditional selling methods that create resistance from change and organizational inertia.
However, the first thing leaders need to do is accept the brutal reality and acknowledge the threat looming above them. They need to look at facts and realize that their customer is changing and so, they need to change as well to accommodate new buying behaviors and patterns in their target market.
When top-executives accept the reality and make their commitment to the organization’s digital transformation, it’s a battle half-won already. The rest of the journey becomes easier.
2. Hiring the Right People Needed For the Digital Transformation
Leaders cannot be successful without the right people around them. Not hiring the right people is one of the mistakes B2B leaders make when creating their eCommerce channel.
The first person an organization may need to hire is an eCommerce executive. Many companies look internally for someone to promote to this level – particularly from the IT department. But it’s best when companies hire someone with eCommerce experience to fill this role. This can even be from the B2C world.
Besides the eCommerce Executive, companies also need to hire to fill in roles in Digital Marketing, Web Merchandising, and Website Management and Maintenance.
3. Align the Whole Company with eCommerce
Finally, you need to make sure every department in your organization is working towards this digital transformation and striving to make eCommerce a success.
One way to do that is by creating well-defined KPIs to measure the performance of every department and their contribution to your eCommerce channel.
4. Align Your Sales Team
One of the biggest challenges in creating the eCommerce channel is perhaps thrown by the sales team. eCommerce and digitization often draw the ire of the sales team as they perceive eCommerce as their ‘replacement’.
To get full support from the sales team, educate them on how eCommerce makes them more effective and allows them to be more focused, enter new markets, and reach more customers.
Highlight how the sales team is spending most of their time pushing paper than closing deals and how eCommerce will free up their time so they can do more strategic work and focus on building their relationships with high-value customers than spending their time on tedious tasks.
Let them know how small customers can self-serve their own accounts so they can focus on the big accounts and grow their overall book of business.
If you involve your sales team from day 1, your salespeople will appreciate how eCommerce allows them to be more consultative with customers instead of just taking orders and closing deals, be more proactive, and do more strategic work.
Let your salespeople know that business will always be about relationships and how eCommerce allows them to be more proactive and strategic.
Successful digital transformation of a B2B company requires patience and can’t be done overnight. However, with leadership, commitment, and investment, your company can successfully kickstart its digitization so it can seize the trillion-dollar opportunity and survive the changing tides.