Rather than begin a digital transformation journey with technology (as many organizations tend to do), you must begin by setting objectives, evaluating your market, and determining where you fit. Only then can you begin to assess internal capabilities and begin selecting the technology to support new initiatives.
IT and Technology
New technology deployments require a strategy. It can be tempting to throw technology into the ecosystem very quickly, particularly when there is a significant technology deficit within your organization. Consider not only the skills and resources required to support new technology, but also the stress integration efforts that new systems will put on existing teams. Having a plan for ongoing care of your current system is imperative, as well as developing a roadmap for migrating new systems in the future.
In addition to skills, the evolution toward digital will put pressure on technology budgets and processes. Studies have shown that technology spend is increasing across the board as organizations realize how critical technology is to their success moving forward. That increase isn’t always funded from the traditional IT budget. Sales and marketing teams are becoming more significant technology advocates, and the push to upgrade may come from them as well.
Technology Systems and Resources
Commerce digital transformation requires new technologies and IT skill sets. You need to understand your current technological landscape. There are several systems that can benefit your digital transformation beyond a core eCommerce platform, but you may not need each one.
An eCommerce platform provides the base for the shopping and purchasing experience, including catalogue assessment, search, filter and refine, and checkout. It’s important to note the differences between B2B and B2C platforms. B2B platforms provide the functionality one typically finds in any consumer platform, but also support the additional complexity required of B2B buyers including customized catalogues, customer-specific pricing, customer-specific logistics and delivery options, organization-level user management, and enhanced ordering tools and interfaces.
Product Information Management (PIM)
PIM systems support both back- and front-end needs when it comes to managing and disseminating product data. Many evolving organizations manage product data in silos with different parts of the organization enhancing base product data to fit their individual needs. As a result, that information is often misaligned and inconsistent. Pulling that data together to support the customer-facing channel can be difficult or impossible to accomplish without a PIM system.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A CRM system allows your internal teams to stay aligned with what customers and clients are doing, regardless of their department. Any team member has the ability to see customer interactions with salespeople, the website, and customer service, as well as what marketing materials they’ve accessed and more. By tying all this information together, a CRM system gives a holistic view of your customer and keeps all teams on the same page.
It’s also an essential tool in providing an omnichannel experience for your customers. By enabling clients to transition from interacting online to interacting with internal teams, your employees will be better equipped to provide a seamless experience as the customer moves through the buying journey.
Marketing automation systems (often bundled with a CRM) have evolved to help companies market to
customers and potential customers. They allow organizations to target marketing based on customers’
interactions with the business. Consolidating data into these systems enables your teams to target messaging based on defined customer journeys and content.
Content Management System (CMS)
A CMS is used to manage content across marketing channels and customize what content is presented across various platforms such as print, website, email, and more. It may also provide personalization mechanisms to target content to specific users based on customer data. There is no prescriptive order to implement the systems outlined above.
There will be system overlap, and your organization may not have a need for certain programs. Glaring holes in your technology stack should be prioritized over less-critical problems where a temporary solution can suffice. In some cases, manual processes will be sufficient to bridge a gap and fulfill customer expectations. It may be strategic for leadership to take a stepwise approach in doling out additional technology investments as the digital journey progresses and demonstrates increasing value.
Order Management (OM)
OM systems provide a mechanism to manage customer orders. From determining how best to fill an
order to providing order status updates throughout the lifecycle, these systems are critical to providing
visibility to available inventory and enabling end-users to see their order status without human interaction.
These platforms are evolving at a rapid rate, and IT has to respond quickly to implement and meet customer needs. While it’s traditionally believed that IT (specifically technology) is an expensive component of business structure, it must also be viewed as a part of your value proposition to your customer.
Consider IT from an investment perspective. B2B customer expectations surrounding the delivery of new and improved capabilities are growing, often because of B2C experiences. Increased personalization, advanced analytics to anticipate customer needs, and tech trends like AI are all developing in traditional consumer markets, and it’s only a matter of time before customers expect those technology experiences to be a part of their experience. Have an accelerated IT program to bring value to customers more quickly. Be adaptable to customer needs. You need to have an IT organization that’s fast when it needs to be fast, and deliberate when it needs to be deliberate.
Your IT team needs certain capabilities in order to create a more seamless digital technology transformation:
- The ability to provide analytics and analytics support to maintain clear performance data
- The ability to integrate multiple systems seamlessly
- Ongoing maintenance and updates to the systems
- Awareness of new technological enhancements that could bring value to the business
Having an IT infrastructure in place and a team to support these tasks is a crucial component in the success of your digital transformation. Digitally transforming your eCommerce experience requires strategic thinking and internal assessment of your capabilities.
Technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and having the resources and data to back up your platform implementations is imperative to your success. If you begin with clear objectives and extensive market evaluation, you will be better equipped to determine your place in the market and make strategic business decisions and effective technological integrations. For even more information on digital transformation in B2B eCommerce, check out our guide.