To be effective today in B2B ecommerce, companies must go far beyond the online shopping cart to digitally interact with customers throughout their buying journey, Forrester Research says.

As ecommerce directors face pressure from top executives to show performance results for online operations, they need to think in terms of a broad-based digital strategy and adopt a “customer-obsessed operating mindset,” Forrester Research Inc. says in a report released this week.

“Today, digital is about much more than just ecommerce,” Forrester says in the report, “Gauge Your B2B eCommerce Digital Maturity,” by Joe Cicman, senior analyst for digital transformation, along with other analysts. “Digital means leveraging new models for direct and channel-selling with a 360-degree view of the customer journey.”

Forrester, in an update of prior reports on digital maturity, asserts that B2B companies today need to evolve with changing demands from customers regarding how they want to research and purchase products. “In the age of the customer, B2B buyers simply defect to sites where the friction is the lowest, searching is the easiest, and the selection is the broadest and deepest,” it says.

Four core competencies

To become effective in interacting with customers through digital operations, Forrester advises companies to develop four core competencies:

  • A culture that drives digital innovation and empowers employees to use digital tools to serve customers;
  • The use of emerging technologies, such as software APIs, along with proven home-grown applications to quickly build customized ways to serve customers;
  • The participation and backing of top executives along with talented employees to operate with cross-functional teams blending expertise in business strategy, customer experience and technology deployment;
  • The use of customer and business operations data to learn more about customers’ interests, develop more effective ways to engage customers, and measure the results.

Forrester also provides a method to assess a company’s levels of competency in these areas.

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“Leaders have found success when they measure everything and use those measurements to create a closed-loop process to optimize every customer engagement and every facet of their business,” the report says. “Democratize the data so that you help your people align against bigger objectives—like acquisition or incremental revenue regardless of channel.”

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