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Going Digital Means More than Going Online for B2B

Christian Sharrow-Blaum • October 12, 2017

By now, you’ve read the headlines and get the point: it is time for B2B organizations to embrace digital.

As we race towards the end of 2017, the B2B eCommerce market is projected to hit over $800 billion in sales – and that’s just in the US. Huge profits like this grab the attention of board members and decision makers, and over the past year or so there has been a blitz as more and more B2B firms try to transform digitally and get themselves a piece of the eCommerce pie.


Consider the Entire Buying Journey

In order to see success, though, these businesses need to do more than simply launch a website. Customers are spending more and more time researching their purchases. This means they need to be supported with intelligently targeted content to help guide their decisions, and the right tools to enable the maximum amount of customer self-service. “Going digital” means businesses must examine their customer experiences, re-architect these experiences, and strategically deploy them to present consistent offerings and services across all touchpoints.

B2B buyers are B2C shoppers in their personal lives. When it comes to work purchases, they expect a similar buying experience. Buyers spend more time researching purchases than ever before, which means that they are engaging salespeople later and later in the process.

That’s not to say salespeople are losing relevance – quite the opposite, in fact – but that they need to be better informed to deal with better-educated buyers. Strong content and lead-generation programs arm salespeople with the tools to address highly educated buyers and win their business.

As mentioned earlier, B2B buyers want to have the B2C experiences that they are accustomed to in their personal lives. A large part of this comes down to buyer self-service: customers don’t want to engage sales people as often as they used to. B2B businesses can leverage digital capabilities to provide more buyer autonomy and drive stronger results.


Think Like a Digital Business

When people think of eCommerce, it is common to focus on the transactional element, but eCommerce is so much more than just the purchasing of goods online.

Successful digital businesses combine content, marketing, industrial automation, commerce, and consumer technologies to reach a digitally savvy customer and nurture the brand experience from prospecting to post-purchase service.

Typically, the monolithic platforms that most B2B companies deploy to “go online” are unable to easily engage customers beyond traditional, browser-based front-end touchpoint. The best digital strategies are ineffective if a company’s technology is unable to enable and support them. This means that there may be technology changes needed if a B2B business wants to “go digital.” Understandably, large technology changes can seem risky, but, in a time where technology and buyer demands are growing so rapidly, businesses need to ensure they are ahead of their customers, not trying to play catch-up.


Innovate or Die

It may seem obvious, but B2B organizations MUST continually innovate to remain competitive. Organizations risk being perceived as out of touch with their buyers if they don’t embrace digital. No matter the industry, buyers increasingly prefer online channels when it comes to transacting business.

With 64% of B2B buyers researching at least half of their work purchases online, companies need to utilize more than a catalog or a website to win their business. Consequently, top brands are abandoning this approach in favor of eCommerce strategies – and the technology that enables them – to reach buyers across all touchpoints throughout their buying process

Many B2B companies are stuck in eCommerce no-man’s-land. In other words, these companies have launched eCommerce sites with purchasing capabilities for commodity products and simple transactions, but they haven’t quite taken their business “digital.”

If their end goal is to create new customer experiences, elevate new business models, and disrupt their industry, basic add-ons like “add-to-cart” and “product review” won’t go far enough. Instead, B2B organizations that want to “go digital” need to focus on consumerization – cross-selling, upselling, searchandizing, personalization, etc. – to create truly differentiated digital experiences.


To truly think and act like a digital business, organizations must react to changing customer demands, create new services, and customize buyer experiences. In today’s business environment, this might be the difference between profit and loss, and eventually, life and death.

Christian Sharrow-Blaum

About the author

Christian Sharrow-Blaum

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