Reassessing How Digitization Can Capture Revenue Growth
The fact that COVID-19 has reshaped how businesses of all sizes and sectors have embraced digitally enabled innovation is an understatement; those businesses that have neglected to do so have since perished. To reduce their own innovation timelines, B2B and CPG brands are looking outside their sectors to how the high-tech, pharma and automotive sectors can guide their digital transformation roadmap for automating sales, delivery and support.
More often than not, most companies look at competitors or industry-specific case studies to learn from their example or to simply try to replicate their success. This approach is made more challenging by how B2B customers are applying their consumer mindset by researching information and product reviews before they even reach out to the sales team.
As explained here, “Customers using B2B websites have been conditioned by their business-to-consumer (B2C) lives, and are now expecting similar experiences. In order to get to the next stage of digital transformation, B2B retailers need to borrow customer-centric strategies from B2C and bring them into their own user journeys.”
If the trend is moving more towards this hybrid customer/consumer mindset, shouldn’t B2B brands be looking outside their respective industries to learn how consumer brands are using digital innovation to create personalized experiences that inform, engage and convert?
“If the trend is moving more towards this hybrid customer/consumer mindset, shouldn’t B2B brands be looking outside their respective industries to learn how consumer brands are using digital innovation to create personalized experiences that inform, engage and convert?”
Rethinking the B2B Decision-Making Journey
Consider these two digital innovations being applied to the automotive and pharma categories:
As shared in this McKinsey study, to improve efficiencies, Mercedes-Benz Group digitized its entire product development system, from design and development to production, dramatically reducing its innovation cycle and enhancing its car-personalization capabilities, while increasing assembly efficiency by 25%.
To preempt demand for flu and allergy season, GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer healthcare unit is using artificial intelligence (AI) platforms and eye-tracking technology to interpret how shoppers look at products and to refine the consumer experience.
Think about how B2B brands and manufacturers can apply the above examples to shorten the purchase journey or curate experiences based on prospect insights. Perhaps it’s by digitizing all of the products on your website that allows the prospect to conduct their own product research, while also allowing for the opportunity to cross-sell or upsell related products. At any point in their purchase journey the prospect can request via a chat to engage with a sales agent to answer any questions and move them further down the purchase funnel. Concurrently, AI and machine-learning tools can be put in place to gain deeper insights as well as to:
• Improve product information and comparison
• Define bottlenecks in the path to purchase
• Increase the probability of cross-selling and upselling
• Learn where internal processes can be automated
• Gain increased granularity into products and reporting
“B2B Companies that have embraced digital are not only building customer confidence and seeing higher sales conversion, but are also improving sales support effectiveness by approximately 25%.”
The Digital Transformation of B2B Sales, Delivery and Support
Directing the B2B digital pathway of change is the power of digital and analytics (DnA) to strengthen sales, delivery and support services. These companies learned from the past several years of disruption by taking a proactive approach to innovation versus one that’s reactive to a shifting customer dynamic. As shared here, “in just the first few months of the pandemic, 96% of B2B organizations shifted their operating model to emphasize digitally enabled self-serve, remote and contactless operations.”
These digital tools include augmented and virtual reality, and data-based tools through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. In the section below, we detail how DnA created a competitive advantage by altering the traditional sales, delivery and support services.
Digitizing Sales: Virtual tools, such as video conferencing and virtual reality, are reimaging the traditional face-to-face sales call by placing the customer at the center of the product and sales experience. Digitizing sales can:
• Leverage virtual solutions to augment and prioritize customer interactions
• Create e-commerce sales opportunities driven by digital media
• Develop customized sales strategies focused on high-propensity-to-buy leads
• Deploy self-service features to proactively address customer requests
This McKinsey study supports this: “We find that companies that have embraced digital are not only building customer confidence and seeing higher sales conversion, but are also improving sales support effectiveness by approximately 25%.”
Digitizing Service Delivery: To offset safety concerns, many companies have adopted low-touch solutions such as text messaging, digital signatures and payments. However, with Internet of things (IoT) and the expanding implementation of sensors within locations and equipment, this technology is allowing companies to proactively address the problem before it escalates.
For example, let’s say a piece of equipment triggers an alert or is in the need of maintenance. The alert is immediately texted to a technician who can then remotely investigate the alert further and diagnose the best path of action or by sending an in-person team to address the issue. Think about how much time this saved, the efficiencies gained and how the technicians’ productivity increased. Digitizing service delivery can:
• Advance remote-working wherever possible
• Accelerate touchless applications to reduce physical contact
• Reprioritize customer requests into tiers based on urgency
Digitizing Support Services: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom, Microsoft and Slack became the de facto means of digital communications to improve collaboration and communication with individuals and businesses around the world. In 2020, the number of businesses using Slack grew by 42%. Live chat increased by 10% as companies responded to COVID-19, while the use of most traditional support solutions decreased by 20%.
As for digitizing Human Resources, it’s an end-to-end platform designed for the entire employee life cycle, i.e., from recruiting, to interviews and onboarding, through benefits and performance management. Digitizing support services allows for:
• Easily escalating on-demand IT support
• Deploying automative solutions to remove manual administrative tasks
• Eliminating time-consuming legacy processes
As I’ve shared in prior posts, while technology plays a significant role in advancing an organization, it’s useless without a strategy for what you are looking to solve and a culture that’s prepared to embrace the growing pains of adoption and change. It also takes the courage to look outside of the four walls of your organization to see how other industries or the brands you yourself are passionate about have addressed similar challenges. Think about that the next time you ask yourself, “Why can’t our (fill in the blank) be like (fill in the blank)?”