Winning over B2B customers today means anticipating their needs and making it easy to purchase those products and services. It’s why many companies are setting out on a digital transformation course.
But while many B2B companies recognize digital transformation as critical to their success, many are missing out on the full benefits it offers, digital agency and consultancy Deloitte Digital says in a new report based on an April 2023 survey of 530 executives at B2B companies with 1,000 or more employees.
While 77% of respondents cited digital transformation as critical to their company’s success, a nearly equal percentage, 71%, described their company’s business processes as “moderately to extremely manual,” and only 17% said their online purchasing was “very easy.”
Paul do Forno, a managing director at Deloitte Digital covering ecommerce strategy, said companies have come to realize they must figure better ways to provide a complete customer experience that addresses all the needs of their customers.
“What actually drives the adoption of B2B ecommerce is not just the ordering — it’s about the ease of doing business,” he says, adding, “A lot of the calls companies get are ‘Where’s my order?’”
Do Forno adds that, to answer that and other questions instantly and accurately, companies need to effectively integrate their customer-facing interfaces — including self-service ecommerce sites, digital marketing applications and customer service agents — with their back-office systems for managing such things as product data, customer activity and order fulfillment and delivery.
Ideally, companies should provide all that information on a single web screen or mobile app page, allowing customers to instantly access information from multiple departments, including sales, service and marketing, do Forno says.
Moving ahead with ERP and ecommerce integration
The good news is that many companies are moving ahead with projects to integrate their customer-facing systems with their back-office applications, Deloitte says. It notes that 45% of survey respondents said they were integrating their B2B ecommerce technology with cloud-based enterprise resource planning systems this year; another 35% said they planned to upgrade their ERP systems in 2024, with nearly all respondents saying their ERP upgrades were part of broader digital transformation projects tied to front-office applications.
The report notes that, historically, when companies have decided to modernize their ERP and other back-office technology, they would not see an advantage in simultaneously upgrading their front-office systems for ecommerce, customer service and marketing. They simply didn’t expect a good return on investment in coordinating those two projects, Deloitte says.
“But that’s changing,” Deloitte says in the report. “Customers today prioritize sellers who offer digital tools — and they’re spending more with those sellers. The increased revenue from B2B commerce is bolstering the business case for doing both front- and back-office digital transformation at once.”
Ram Chandel, Deloitte Digital’s principal commerce domain lead, adds that today’s ERP and B2B ecommerce technology systems are easier to integrate and more often than in the past come with out-of-the-box integration.
The report notes that companies Deloitte classified in the survey as “front runners,” or those identified as offering the most consistent customer-friendly and helpful digital commerce experience, said their customers spent 62% more on products and services when they experienced consistently positive purchasing experiences across the seller’s sales channels.
In contrast, the report also noted that respondents cited an estimated 13% average loss of sales tied to the absence of helpful digital commerce.
Deloitte said front runners — which accounted for about 85, or 16% of respondents — also cited the following performance metrics:
- A 70% customer retention rate, compared with 49% for other respondents.
- 2x higher year-over-year growth in B2B ecommerce revenue.
- 1.8x more likely to experience improved customer satisfaction.
- 1.4x more likely to report increased customer trust.
“Today, customers want real-time access to inventory data and interactive product images,” the report says. “They expect transparent and personalized pricing quotes within minutes, not hours or days. And they prefer to track product delivery status on their own timetables, rather than relying on contacting a service representative during specific working hours.”
Deloitte commissioned Lawless Research to conduct the survey of 530 U.S. B2B company executives in April 2023.
Paul Demery is a Digital Commerce 360 contributing editor covering B2B digital commerce technology and strategy. [email protected].
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