“There’s always opportunity in a downturn, you just need to identify it and go for it,” said a wise uncle who lived through many a recession and kept his business afloat by adapting to market conditions.
Is this sound advice for any business wanting to mitigate the effects of pandemic-induced lockdowns, revenue losses, and customer churn? Well, many of the past year’s success stories are companies that accelerated their digital transformation and evolved online business models.
What do the experts say?
- McKinsey Digital: “Those companies that move early and decisively in a crisis do best.”
- Gartner: “By the end of 2021, digital commerce is expected to overtake direct sales as the most used channel for B2B selling.”
- Gartner: “Because of the convenience and lower cost of buying from websites, 80% of organizations have a formal target for increasing purchases through the digital commerce channel.”
- McKinsey B2B Decision Maker Pulse Survey shows digital interaction with B2B customers is now twice as important as traditional channels – more than 30 percent up since before the outbreak of the pandemic.
- This isn’t equally true across industries. A report from Digital Commerce 360 Research indicates that this depends largely upon the impact Covid-19 had on specific markets.
That said, 2021 will see companies continue with their digital transformation efforts with digital channels handling increasing levels of purchasing and sales. This trend is amplified since the majority of today’s B2B buyers are millennials who expect personalized digital buying experiences. They want a seamless shift from finding a product online to purchasing it via whatever device they are using at a time of their choosing.
Embrace omnichannel sales
The disruptions to business over the past year have led many organizations to develop new business models, adapt business practices and reach out to new markets – for instance to consumers or new geographies.
Even ‘road warrior’ CEOs have adopted video conferencing and allowed their teams to become highly efficient, geographically dispersed digital natives. Some of them expect minimal travel will be part of the new normal.
A good example of new business practices is an English textiles company which was hit hard early in the pandemic as one of its main markets is Milan, among the first areas in Europe to experience a significant Covid-19 outbreak.
In the past, one of their sales reps would visit a buyer with a swatch book used to ‘red sticker’ all the interesting items. Then a sales exec would follow up with fabric samples. This process is now replicated online, with the entire collection of fabric swatches, some 10,000 different SKUs, in a digitized catalogue.
Buyers can easily get a global view, zoom into product details and mark a check box to request samples. Then a sales rep checks the order and adds value by suggesting sample/ color/ material options and sending extra samples.
The company has done fantastic business by digitizing its samples and sales processes, in addition to huge savings made on travel and hotels. In fact, it diverted much of its travel budget to the digitalization project. The buyer-seller relationship is still very much alive, despite the sales team cutting its travel from seasonal trips to yearly ones.
Overcome the challenges
Let’s look at two common digital transformation challenges and how Ibexa customer Dörken has solved them. The company manufactures industrial coatings and sells to wholesalers in a fairly ‘analog’ sector.
In digitalizing its sales processes the company also had to reimagine its customer relationships:
Presenting complex product lines and pricing online;
Going ‘phygital’ – sales via phone, email and video, using social networks for customer relationships and minimal face-to-face meetings.
Daniel Hölper, Dörken online sales consultant, offers some tips.
Make digital processes as recognizable as possible, e.g. an online trade fair with interactive live demos and Q&As.
Hold digital breakfast meetings using gamification and prizes to draw participants into offers and news.
Create a TV studio to host digital events.
Dörken’s success has led wholesalers to ask it for help in digitalizing their own processes, providing the next step in digitalizing its ecosystem.
DXP + eCommerce
While Covid-19 has been an unmitigated tragedy for many, it also prompted business changes that were necessary and long overdue.
“The pandemic hasn’t really changed our digital transformation plans but it has accelerated them,” says Fabien Appert, CIO at Carrefour Assurances. “We had already started to increase the share of sales to digital. Where salespeople add value is where customers need bespoke quotations.”
Today it’s clear; to be a future-fit business you need a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) that delivers a seamless digital journey for your customers:
- Multi-channel transactions, discounting and complex pricing,
- Full inventory and shipping visibility.
And if your DXP is fully integrated with business systems such as CRM, PIM and ERP, you’ll be able to grow revenue by diversifying your sales channels and exploiting the power of B2B E-commerce.
As businesses in Europe and North America emerge from Covid-19, the way they work has changed – and for the better. The successful ones will continue to find new, imaginative ways to connect people and processes digitally.
Wherever you are on this path, Ibexa is there to help you on your way. If you'd like to discover more, save your seat at Ibexa Engage 2021 - Future-proof Your B2B Sales Strategies: Mastering New Business Channels and Driving Growth into the Next Normal. Join us to see how Ibexa and our local partners can help you evolve your sales channels to serve your buyers' new needs.