As companies operate with tighter technology spending budgets while also seeking to further digitally transform their operations, technology suppliers need to expand offerings like product trials, giving customers greater insight into exactly how a new product will integrate with existing infrastructure, Sharon Ruddock of SAP Digital Commerce writes.

SharonRuddock-SAPDigitalCommerce

Sharon Ruddock

The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses everywhere to rethink every aspect of their operations. And while some of the changes we’ve experienced might not necessarily be here for the long term, many are not likely to be leaving us anytime soon.

For companies looking to keep up with their digital transformation journey, ecommerce tools have become a primary necessity to help conduct research on and identify enterprise solutions that meet their unique needs. On the opposite side, this faster pivot to ecommerce has meant organizations need to realign their business models to offer just that. While originally these changes may have been seen as temporary to address the early needs brought on by the pandemic, clear benefits have resulted in making these tactics ones for the long haul.

Ecommerce Leads the Way

Just as much of the consumer world has embraced ecommerce for more and more purchases, the B2B world has closely followed suit. Remote work forced a large portion of sales interactions to go online, and many B2B buyers are turning to ecommerce tools more than ever before to ensure they have the right solutions to keep up with their digital transformation needs.

These companies need even more autonomy to do their own research online to find the right supplier and solutions for their organization. This approach has brought a host of added benefits for buyers in the B2B market. Just like the consumer world—where buying something online is often quicker than going into the store—the same can be said for choosing and implementing an enterprise solution. At a time where the B2B landscape is changing quickly, this approach gives companies much needed flexibility to adapt and adjust whenever necessary.

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New Go-to-Market Strategies

As B2B customers continue to shift toward digital buying in response to COVID-19, nearly every company has had to adapt and revise their original go-to-market strategies. In fact recent data from McKinsey shows that 96% of surveyed businesses report having made changes to their go-to-market approach. The same research also found that buyers identified supplier websites, online materials, and live chats as the most important factors for making decisions around enterprise software solutions.

Since the onset of COVID-19, many B2B organizations have shifted their emphasis away from in-person meetings and turned their attention toward those exact channels. 62% of those surveyed identified online support and chats as a primary way of reaching customers since the onset of the pandemic, compared with 52% beforehand.

The shift to a more digital-oriented go-to-market strategy resulted in various benefits to enterprise strategies. This kind of strong digital approach helps businesses draw in a broader customer base, reduce the cost of sales, and stimulate greater interaction with their customers that make them more likely to return in the future. When asked about the effectiveness of their new approach, 65% of companies said their new strategy was as effective or more effective when compared to pre-COVID operations.

Prioritizing Proven, Cost-Effective Solutions

One of the biggest ramifications to organizations during COVID-19 has been budgetary restrictions. As these companies sought out alternative working models, the need to tighten budgets and scrutinize costs grew. This mindset could be seen particularly in the ecommerce habits of B2B buyers. As noted earlier, these companies are conducting more and more online research when considering enterprise solutions to purchase. With budgets taking top priority, technology solutions need to have easily identifiable benefits and limit potential downsides as much as possible.

The focus has shifted toward offerings like product trials, giving customers greater insight into exactly how a solution will integrate with existing infrastructure. Additionally, partner offerings have become increasingly important. With B2B buyers wanting more ways to quickly and easily extend their solutions and existing investments, relying on partners can help provide a more tailored offering from recognizable, and trusted names. As time goes on, the emphasis on reducing costs will likely remain. Companies are seeing the benefits of digital transformation and becoming more agile in the process. In the years to come, the demand for solutions to readily prove their ability to save time and money will continue to be top of mind.

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Digital is Here to Stay

As we move into 2021 and as more time goes on, the underlying benefits of a digital approach to procuring enterprise solutions have become more quickly and readily apparent. Online sales are becoming more cost-effective, and organizations can reach even wider markets, while buyers are tailoring their software acquisition to accelerate digital transformation and cut out excess costs. And according to McKinsey, business leaders are catching on quickly—80% of respondents were considering keeping their digital and remote sales tactics in place indefinitely. While the seismic shifts we experienced this year certainly weren’t planned or easy, several new tactics and strategies that really work emerged as a result and are part of what’s rebuilding and reinventing how we do operate for the foreseeable future.

Sharon Ruddock is head of SAP Digital Commerce at business software company SAP SE, where she oversees digital customer strategy for SAP across sales, customer success, support and marketing. She has also enabled and exemplified SAP’s digital transformation. Previously, Sharon was responsible for all learning in the Global Customer Operations organization within SAP and served as chief operating officer, Mobility.

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