The future of B2B customer experience can be summed up in two words: digital transformation. The move to digital has been a long time coming in the B2B space, and it has the power to completely change how clients interact with brands and run their businesses.
Research has found that B2B companies that successful master digital transformation have 8% more shareholder returns and five times more revenue growth than their peers. Those staggering numbers show the power of digital transformation in creating successful, future-proof B2B companies.
What Is B2B Digital Transformation?
Simply put, B2B digital transformation involves using digital solutions to streamline processes and improve the customer experience. While earlier B2B digital transformations were focused on improving efficiency, recent transformations have shifted to improving the buyer experience. B2B digital transformation looks different for each company but often involves updating systems, finding digital solutions and creating a cohesive omni-channel experience both internally and externally. B2B digital transformations are unique from B2C transformations because they often include reorganizing the selling channels. Instead of going through middle-men, some B2B companies choose to restructure to sell directly to the customer through e-commerce channels. No matter how the digital transformation is applied, it always requires a strong culture and a mindset shift.
GE’s digital transformation was a radical restructuring of the company. GE invested more than $1 billion and created a new market for the industrial internet. It also consolidated each business unit under a chief digital officer. Each CDO reports to their business unit’s CEO. GE also hired thousands of new software engineers and data scientists to bring a fresh perspective. The radical transformation allowed the company to help customers with a digital-first approach and made digital the focus of the company. GE’s example shows that true digital transformation requires a mindset shift for the entire organization.
What Does Success Look Like?
In order to be successful, digital transformation must strategically be based on customer needs. Applying digital solutions merely to use new technology isn’t effective and can end up being a waste of money and resources.
The best B2B digital transformations consider customer needs and how they can be met with technology for a seamless experience. B2B customers at ING used to have to access their various accounts and financial information from different channels and log-ins, which was frustrating and inefficient. The company overhauled its customer data processes through digital transformation, and now customers can access their accounts in real time from a single digital access point. The external change to make life simpler for customers is also reflected in internal changes that streamline data analytics and allow employees to digitally track where each customer is in their decision-making journey. These digital solutions facilitate more personalized product recommendations. As a result of the digital transformation, ING’s profit grew by 23%, and it was named Best Bank by EuroMoney.
ING shows that true digital transformation takes place internally and externally. Customers need to be able to easily find information digitally, and employees need to have access to the right information in one place. A true digital transformation allows customers to have a consistent experience no matter how they interact with a brand.
Why Is B2B Slower to Transform?
The majority of B2C companies have already undertaken digital transformation to some degree or plan to do so in the next 12 months. Conversely, B2B companies tend to be much slower to adopt new trends, including digital transformation. One of the main reasons for this is the complex B2B environment with myriad moving parts. B2B companies have longer deal cycles, involved RFP processes and often have to negotiate with other vendors and influencers. It just isn’t as simple for B2B companies to transform.
However, there are also other issues at hand. B2B companies tend to not see the need to change and are often unmotivated for a large restructuring, especially if they can’t see the potential financial gains.
In order for B2B companies to fully leverage digital transformation, there must be buy-in from top leadership. Digital transformation is only successful if everyone in the company is on board. In many organizations, it requires a complete culture shift to find customer-facing digital solutions. Focusing on the financial benefits of digital transformation can help get many leaders on board. Digital transformation is the future of B2B customer experience. Companies that don’t join the transformation run the very real risk of getting left behind. Customers want simple, digital solutions and will move to companies that provide those seamless experiences.
Digital transformation looks different at every B2B company, but the principles are the same: find digital solutions to streamline internal and external processes, get rid of red tape and create a powerful, frictionless experience.