To remain competitive and stand out moving forward, business-to-business (B2B) organizations must continue to evolve — even in areas of the business where they’ve recently advanced in leaps and bounds. As advancements occur, however, keeping sight of foundational elements like a digital roadmap matters even more to ensure B2B organizations can make good on their new ambitions.
Prioritizing one area of the B2B buying experience should never mean deprioritizing other areas. Your B2B digital marketing strategy has to be built with a broad perspective and a commitment to continuous evolution. Read on to learn why digital strategy is so important in B2B, what goes into a leading B2B digital strategy, and key trends to keep in mind.
Why is digital strategy important for the B2B industry?
B2B buyer expectations are evolving – and rising – daily. Yet, some companies still haven’t met even the most basic of digital expectations from their buyers. According to our 2022 B2B Buyer Report, 72% of B2B buyers have experienced frustration over a vendor or supplier’s resistance to changing their operations to better fit buyer needs.
B2B suppliers today are being challenged to build a customer-centric digital marketing strategy while feeling the pressure of shrinking resources.
It starts with understanding your buyers’ needs and expectations. 94% of B2B buyers agree their company prefers to work with suppliers that continuously evolve their digital capabilities and experiment with offerings.
The cost of not evolving is significant: 85% of B2B buyers would turn to a competitor if their supplier’s digital channel can’t keep up with their desires as a buyer — holding steady from 90% in 2021 and 88% in 2020. This is why digital strategy is so important in B2B.
What is a B2B digital strategy?
Creating a B2B digital strategy is like building a roadmap from where you are today to where you want to be in the future. With your customer-centric goals in mind, you’ll map out the path (or paths) to get you to those goals — the foundation of your digital strategy.
What marketing strategies work for digital in B2B? Our 2022 Buyer Report gives insight into how you can shape the key elements of your digital strategy: your people, processes, and technology.
This year’s survey responses showcase the impact of external pressures like the Great Resignation on B2B buyers’ headspaces. Two of the top three priorities shared for 2022 relate to workforce capabilities, and decision-makers are honing in on internal factors they can control — namely elements making life easier for workers and automating rote tasks — to supplement talent shortages and retention hurdles.
Internal alignment is essential for successful digital evolution. This alignment requires a clear vision and common goals that are communicated across the organization. It requires strategies that truly support digital transformation – not just change for the sake of change.
To create and carry out that strategy, companies need to involve the right people in decisions, and then do the work to get internal stakeholders on board. Everyone in the company has to have an understanding of the importance of digital transformation and what that uniquely looks like for their business.
B2B buyers’ top priority for the next 12 months is increasing efficiency in their processes. There’s growing concern among B2B buyers about efficiencies, not only within their own organizations but across partners and suppliers as well. Productivity, convenience, and efficiency are words we hear more and more often in our line of work.
To improve processes, B2B companies need to focus on collaboration across teams and integration across technology systems. All three elements — people, process, and technology — work together. Integration and automation will boost efficiency and consistency, both internally and externally.
Buyers want vendor or supplier technology solutions that center on efficiency, innovation, and ease-of-use. Unfortunately, 97% of online buyers experience some sort of pain point during the eCommerce purchasing process as a result of suppliers’ tech solutions.
Buyers note these top challenges when it comes to supplier technology,:
- Difficult to integrate with our own solutions or processes (46%)
- Not evolving as fast as my industry and customer needs (e.g., new capabilities and applications that make doing business easier/more convenient) (41%)
- Difficult to connect with support teams knowledgeable about my issues (38%)
- Aren’t sufficient on their own for the tasks I need to perform, so I end up going through other channels (34%)
- Add extra steps to the sales process (e.g., requiring multiple logins to different systems) (25%)
To retain customer loyalty in 2022 and beyond, a vendor or supplier must effectively use technology to improve the customer experience across every step of the buyer’s journey. Automated tech capabilities can help resolve both external pressures as well as internal stressors, like difficulties working with sales teams and accessing customer service support.
Biggest digital trends impacting the B2B industry
When shopping online, B2B buyers continue to embrace digital solutions and turn to tried-and-true options like Google and suppliers’ own interfaces. That’s how B2B buyers begin the process of making purchases for their company, too. These trends indicate that findability and consistent experiences across channels remain key factors in keeping buyers happy and earning long-term loyalty.
B2B buyers’ biggest challenges when researching purchases include:
- Understanding product specifications/configurations
- Inconsistent product or service information across channels
- (tie) Understanding how products would fit my business & Finding product or service information that is up-to-date
These challenges mean there is plenty of opportunity to improve the digital buying experience. Based on our survey results, we know buyers want vendors and suppliers to ensure online product information is up-to-date and accurate (51%), make eCommerce websites and/or apps more user-friendly (38%), and make it easier to contact a human for technical support (37%).
Often, working with a supplier that offers digital solutions like online purchasing, order management, customer service, and configure, price, quote (CPQ) will make B2B buyers’ experiences smoother. B2B buyers probably won’t know if a supplier has a product information management (PIM) solution that enables product listing, but they will likely have a better experience due to more robust, consistent information available.
For global companies, keeping the train on the tracks requires an additional layer of oversight and strategy. B2B buyers at global companies feel the most important capabilities suppliers can provide are: a consistent global brand experience, automatic calculation of local taxes, and regionally-appropriate content.
Suppliers must provide personalized experiences to global buyers no matter where they log on from — or which business unit they’re interested in exploring. At their core, B2B buyers are looking for suppliers capable of proactive personalization, centered around a complete localization of digital services via a branded and consistent experience across all touchpoints.
To stay competitive in 2023, organizations need to focus on digital initiatives that support long-term strategy. Now is not the time for makeshift solutions and short-term workarounds. It’s about taking a fresh look at the customer experience – from start to finish – and developing digital capabilities that meet customers’ heightened expectations and build ongoing relationships.
If you’re looking for more guidance as you create your digital strategy, contact an Avionos digital transformation team member or download our “Continuous Evolution: The New Normal” white paper or our 2022 B2B Report.