Digitalization is changing the B2B buying experience, with customers looking for seamless transactions, quick responses from sellers, and personalized products and pricing. As buyers shift to e-commerce, businesses must ensure they are making the necessary changes to keep themselves current to meet those evolving customer needs.
Change is not a bad thing. On the contrary, transforming to meet the requirements of the new digital economy can help guarantee long-term success.
In fact, lots of companies are already working to stay current, and businesses that fail to keep pace will find themselves lagging behind.
A recent survey PROS conducted with Hanover Research found that 62% of businesses believe more than half of their sales will come from e-commerce within the next five years, tripling the current 20% coming from e-commerce.
B2B is definitely feeling the digital shift, and business leaders should not hesitate to move along with those changes.
The artificial intelligence surge
Artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming a necessity for B2B businesses, as it can help deliver data-driven and actionable insights to organizations. When AI is utilized with e-commerce, the benefits that can be gained are significant.
In fact, in the survey PROS conducted with Hanover Research, respondents indicated that AI could help their business in a wide variety of ways, including improving customer service (45%), meeting customer demands (44%), increasing revenue (42%), achieving cost savings (41%), gaining an advantage over competitors (39%), and enhancing operational efficiency (39%), to name just a few of the top responses.
Additionally, 73% said AI would be essential or high priority for sales and marketing in two years, with 48% saying it is already essential or high priority to stay competitive.
Sales and marketing departments are also helping to lead AI adoption. The IT department leads the way with 45% of respondents citing that as the area where AI adoption begins, but sales (35%), marketing (29%) and customer support (29%) were also departments leading the decision process.
The adoption of AI by sales and marketing may well be driven by the fact that B2B businesses can use AI to apply machine learning techniques to customer decisions. By creating more personalized product and price recommendations, organizations can further enhance the overall customer experience, while still maintaining competitive price offerings that help your business stay profitable.
Having the ability to personalize options to meet buyer needs and buying behaviors helps organizations create loyalty, as satisfied customers will be more likely to return time and time again over the long-term.
Offering the right products at the right price
The digital economy has helped to put more power back in the customer’s hands, and that can work to the advantage of B2B businesses as well. Organizations have access to a wealth of data related to customer needs, and can use that information to create personalized offers and make accurate suggestions for future purchases.
While the promise of personalization is compelling, businesses might not be sure how to ensure personalized prices for their customers.
One-third of respondents in the survey voiced concern over their ability to direct customers to products they need. E-commerce can help address that challenge by ensuring businesses are able to offer the right product every time. For example, a business could track previous purchases or even see which products or pages customers have viewed, and then use that information to offer related products.
Organizations can even find future business with the power of e-commerce. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said e-commerce is beneficial because it creates the potential to reach more customers. Businesses can reach customers worldwide through e-commerce, which can help companies create and cultivate a diverse marketplace with sustainable growth.
Once customers are acquired, it is important to nurture that relationship and meet customer needs. For example, customers prefer self-serve buying to access product information and pricing, the survey found. Additionally, about half of the survey respondents said e-commerce can help satisfy customer expectations for self-serve buying.
Thirty-seven percent of respondents added that e-commerce is helpful when it comes to offering dynamic pricing options. Dynamic pricing is key for fostering customer relationships because it ensures that customers are shown accurate prices in real time, while ensuring that companies can optimize pricing to maximize the value exchange.
Companies do, however, have their doubts about the shift to e-commerce. Survey respondents cited concern over their ability to maintain competitive pricing and to protect price attainment. However, utilizing dynamic pricing can help businesses achieve both of these goals. Companies can find prices that keep customers happy, which will be good for the bottom line.
Having the ability to quickly implement personalized prices can also help organizations increase margins and cut their pricing request turnaround time. E-commerce options help businesses price, configure, and sell products in a way that gives customers a seamless experience. All are key ways to keep business booming.
Smart businesses work to better connect with their customers by keeping them informed and offering personalized prices for products and services. Companies that refuse to acknowledge e-commerce trends will fail to keep up with competitors and will likely lose customers in the process.
The B2B transformation is underway—are you willing to take the plunge and make changes?
Celia Fleischaker is chief marketing officer of PROS Inc., a provider of technology and services designed to help companies sell their products. She formerly served as chief marketing officer and executive vice president of Epicor Software Corp., a provider of industry-specific enterprise resource planning software and e-commerce technology.