Construct Your Pathway to Digital Maturity Through Proven B2B Ecommerce Strategies

We receive many questions regarding what Gorilla’s recent inclusion in the Forrester Wave™: Commerce Specialists Service Providers, Q4 2018 means for our clients, especially related to organizational readiness, preparing for change, and creating a roadmap to deliver value. Our experience as the provider with the highest strategy ranking enables us to serve as a trusted advisor at all points in the journey to digital maturity.

The journey to digital maturity for B2B sellers does not have a single starting point, and typically doesn’t start with a new platform or replatforming decision. The difference between making progress in the journey and ending the day at the same campsite is having a vision of where you want to go, why to make the journey, and recognizing the key milestones along the path. In this trending post, we provide recommendations for your roadmap, your business case, and your data as you start or continue your journey to digital maturity.

Align Your Program Roadmap To Capabilities That Create Value

Many B2B manufacturers have extensive marketing assets, compelling brand stories, and product content accumulated from years of having a website built to serve as a digital brochure. But few B2B manufacturers provide compelling B2B buying experiences and most struggle with the question of “what can we do right now to reuse existing digital content to get closer to the transaction?”.

In this situation, the B2B seller can provide compelling content journeys and calls-to-action to encourage B2B buyers to request a quote. If the manufacturer doesn’t have quoting capabilities, a simple landing page form can be used to capture the initial request supported by a plan to implement marketing automation for lead scoring, automated emails, and CRM updates. Success can be measured through a number of KPIs such as:

  • Number of digital quotes generated
  • Offline-to-digital quote ratio
  • Time from digital quote-to-close
  • Digital quote-to close-ratio
  • Revenue from digital quotes

B2B sellers typically learn that a narrow segment of products are the most frequently quoted, the majority of quoting activity is the result of a few customers, and that a small number of sellers have noticeably higher quote-to-close rates. Those data points would become key inputs to defining the digital catalog of sellable products, associated pricing, and personalized adoption experiences based on what a seller knows about a buyer. Transactional commerce can be introduced after buyers and sellers become comfortable interacting digitally through quoting and after the manufacturer has developed insights from buyer-digital channel interaction. Creating a roadmap with a high-level journey of catalog to quoting to transactional commerce is valid for many B2B sellers, and can be supported out of the box by leading B2B platform providers.

Proving Internally That Digital is an Asset, Not a Competitor

A minimally viable financial case merely qualifies an idea to be considered among many other potential enterprise initiatives. A truly compelling business case goes further by demonstrating how ecommerce is an asset that will be used to deliver sustained results over the long-term. For a distributor getting started with eCommerce strategy, the B2B seller’s field sales team helped create the business case for improved quoting efficiency to free up time for larger deals requiring highly skilled, consultative selling. The sales team believes that digital quoting is the first step on the journey to ecommerce maturity, and the sales team is leading the charge to socialize the value of ecommerce within the larger organization.

Comparative examples of how other companies are using ecommerce as an asset and what your company can learn from them will bolster the credibility of your business case. For distributors creating a business case based on quoting efficiency, consider sharing an example of an award winning Magento B2B site such as Transcat that delivers compelling buyer experiences for quoting from the home page, product pages, account management pages, and contact us page.

Preparing Your Organization for Change

As the organization realizes that change is real – or real this time – the same leadership required in previous steps will be needed to help the organization prepare for and sustain change. You will need to communicate consistently – some say repetitively – regarding the reason to change, the path to success, and the many enablers the organization will provide throughout the journey.

An effective communication plan is table stakes. Similar to how buyer journeys are used to design buying experiences, change journeys can be helpful as your organization evolves. Executives will want to network with experts that have navigated similar changes to learn about successes to consider and pitfalls to avoid. Managers will want to recruit new talent with skills to create, manage, and grow digital solutions. Existing staff will need training to serve in changing roles or new roles. Everything will be moving fast. Pause frequently and assess if your organization is staying aligned to the vision and roadmap for change. If the program is lagging behind expectations, the reason is likely due to resistance to change. You may need to invest more in proving the value of digital solutions or carefully examine whether the roadmap needs to be changed to overcome internal resistance.

Prepare Your Data to Serve Digital Buyers

Accessible and accurate data is a strategic enabler for all types of sellers – from a first time digital seller with a new storefront to a mature digital leader that is upgrading or implementing a new ecommerce platform. As a force multiplier, data enables 24×7 access to digital catalogs and selling without a 24×7 workforce. Your organization’s digital sellers will need comprehensive data to present products and pricing; data to sell, ship and invoice; and data to provide service after the sale. Understanding the current state of your data and executing a plan to address data-specific gaps can begin now – potentially well in advance of your ecommerce platform implementation or platform upgrade. Data types to consider include:

  • Customer: accounts, buyers, locations
  • Catalog: products, categories, restrictions
  • Price: tiers, levels, contract
  • Users: profiles, roles, permissions, catalogs, products, pricing, analytics

Your ERP or point of sale (POS) most likely is the system of record at the heart of your organization, outside of your employees’ mindshare of the real account structures and buying relationships. The real account structures, contracts, and unique product information that needs to be included in the data preparation. Our recommendations are to start now and separate data preparation from most data integrations, depending on your organization’s data readiness.

Operating at the Speed of B2B

As a B2B seller, you understand that the expectations of B2B buyers are changing every day and that the pace of change is increasing rapidly. Your challenge is to balance delivering what is required now while future-proofing against changes in customer expectations. We understand that digital maturity isn’t one-size fits all. However, there are proven steps and best practices to help accelerate the process. The key is influencing your organization to take the first step.