In the past, ecommerce was believed to be the simple act of building a commerce website for your business and seeing how your customers used it. However, many B2B sites weren’t performing well or able to adapt to this approach because they lacked the specific resources and knowledge needed to be successful and even felt hesitant to adopt new digital methods because of previous ecommerce site failures. Some may do onboarding to encourage existing customers to use a new platform, but it requires more investment and strategy than just that. Adopting a digital commerce mindset is different in comparison to ecommerce and how it impacts your organization overall.
What Makes Digital Commerce Different?
Digital commerce means looking at your business holistically to determine what you should change and address to benefit your customers. For B2B organizations, this means rethinking the way you buy, sell, market, and service your products and examining your go-to-market channels. These channels typically rely on a direct exchange rather than digital, but as customers continue to adopt a digital mindset, you will see a need for internal organizational change. Here is how to implement that change.
Giving Your Customers Digital Insights
You may wonder how you can make the sales journey more personalized for the customer. The way you improve the buying journey is by understanding your customers, as well as how and why they interact with your business. Do you really know and understand your customers? Have you interviewed them to get their point of view on interacting with your organization? Is your current go-to-market strategy really working for your customers, or are you forcing them to do business the way you want them to do business? All these questions are critical to ask and understand.
Let’s say a sales representative gathers all the information needed from the buyer to configure a quote. Although your business has fulfilled that personal engagement with the consumer and your internal teams have insight into the quoting process, where does that leave the customer? Adding a digital touchpoint to your website, such as a customer portal, not only provides the opportunity to manage your margins, but gives the consumer direct insight into the quoting process, any changes that may occur, and what quotes will look like with future orders.
It is our experience that getting the voice of the customer information is a critical area to invest in and best served by working with a partner. Customers are more open to telling you the truth when they are talking to an independent interviewer as opposed to one of your employees. This is an area that companies skip or underinvest in when looking at digital commerce as a new channel, being that they may still look at this as a website rather than as a process that will uncover areas of improvement for the company and require a shift in thinking.
Having the Right Technology
It’s challenging to meet the expectations of a B2B buyer without all the right technologies and systems supporting the experience. Digital commerce requires the appropriate investment and the understanding that, like your traditional business, this is ever-growing and changing. Many companies rely on their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to be the source of truth for all data that drives the digital experience. Still, the reality is that an ERP is not intended to be customer-facing, and the data is not optimized for commerce. Having a digital commerce solution requires a commerce platform to manage the ordering process, including process workflows and complex B2B rules.
Another critical technology is a product information management (PIM) system designed to manage your product data and optimized content to support multiple channels. The PIM allows for bringing in inbound data from other internal systems like the ERP, as well as connecting to other product data sources like manufacturer’s data feeds and integrates with your digital commerce platform to drive the user experience through product content.). Though your ERP confirms product availability at the present time, an OMS will provide a 360-degree view of your inventory and fulfillment options. Your OM system will also provide your customer service team with a clearer idea of which products are available, out-of-stock, or even discontinued, allowing quicker customer service when there is an error or supply chain disruption.
The People Matter
Last but not least, the people within your organization are the most important to building a digital commerce organization. You will need to get buy-in from key stakeholders and those in leadership positions to understand the values and concerns of those who want to restructure the business model as opposed to those who do not. Those who are actively trying to meet the demands of the customer and incorporating new methods of sales, marketing, and service are key to the success of your digital commerce platform. By aligning the right people with the best technology and processes, your business is better positioned to become a digital powerhouse and surpass your competition.
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