On June 20th, Magento held a webinar featuring guest speaker John Bruno (Senior Research Analyst, Forrester) to explore what it takes to be a leader in the B2B eCommerce sphere. Magento had noted unprecedented changes taking place in the B2B environment, which in turn were leading to confusion amongst businesses in terms of how to strategise and what to prioritise. Due to this trend, Magento commissioned Forrester (a world-leading research and advisory firm) to investigate this issue in order to provide evidence-based advice to B2B companies. Forrester surveyed 302 decision makers responsible for eCommerce across the world in order to assess the current state of successful B2B sellers. The webinar focused on the findings of this report, providing key insights into benchmarking your digital maturity, examples of best practice and advancing your digital offerings.

In case you missed it, let’s now dive into some of the key recaps and findings from the webinar: 

The B2B customer journey is changing

Over recent decades, there has been a marked shift in the customer/merchant dynamic. Just like their B2C counterparts, B2B buyers are looking for convenience above all else. They are seeking accessible purchasing experiences that can provide for them in their times and locations of need. All of these recent trends are part of a macro trend which Forrester has labelled ‘the age of the customer’. A seismic shift has taken place—and it is now the customer who holds the power in the customer/merchant relationship.

In line with a greater desire for convenience and ease, it’s no surprise that buyer journeys are moving online to digital self-service channels. Indeed, 68% of B2B buyers are reported to have conducted their own research online rather than speaking with a sales-rep and over 70% of buyers find purchasing online more convenient. These changing consumer-journeys clearly demonstrate that the writing’s on the wall. Businesses have to operate on their customers’ terms—not their own.

Get acquainted with your customers’ expectations

Companies with the highest levels of eCommerce maturity have prioritised these changing customer expectations in their strategies. They have done so because they understand that addressing these developing expectations is the only way to offer an improved customer experience. And a better customer experience translates into higher acquisitions, loyalty and customer lifetime value which all, ultimately, contribute in driving revenue.

You can learn more about improving your customer lifetime value here

With B2B customers demanding more autonomy in the way they make purchases, personalisation has a big role to play. But as was stressed in the webinar, company’s must be careful not to get caught up in the hype of algorithms, machine learning, AI and the next big technological development. It’s more important, in the first instance, to get the basics right. A B2B company new to the digital sphere cannot expect to copy the personalisation strategy of a B2C company, implement it, and expect it to work straight off the bat. You’re better off focusing on the basics of personalisation and nailing these, rather than rushing ahead.

Forrester developed an escalator of personalisation for B2B companies (shown below). As can be seen, personalisation should start with the foundations—your complex product catalogues and pricing. You should then look to progress through the various stages before thinking about the flashy heights of everything AI and machine-learning have to offer. And throughout the process, it’s imperative that you test your techniques and seek feedback from your customers to ensure that it’s providing them with the service they want.

B2B personalisation

Source: Magento/Forrester Webinar ‘What it Takes to be a Leader in B2B Ecommerce’

Deploy flexible technology solutions

In order to provide for the modern customer, B2B companies need an eCommerce solution which can handle the full spectrum of purchasing and engagement preferences. Based on Forrester’s research, B2B leaders most commonly look for the following characteristics when embarking on an eCommerce solution: reliability, completeness of solution, ease of integration with existing systems, flexibility to be customised and ability to serve both B2B and B2C customers.

The research points to the primary notion that buyers’ changing demands require a flexible technology stack—one that allows your organisation to make changes quickly and easily, to stay in line with your customers’ expectations, and to maintain an edge over your competitors.

Click here to learn about Vaimo’s comprehensive package of eCommerce solutions and how they can help you reach your digital commerce aspirations

You need a dedicated eCommerce Strategy

As with any area of your business, you want to be proactive as opposed to reactive. A reactive strategy can never drive the sort of growth that you’re aspiring for. And for this reason, eCommerce must become a fundamental part of your overall business strategy in its own right. No longer can it be tagged onto the end of another priority—now, it is the priority.

Mature B2B businesses allocate resources to build an eCommerce team with its own dedicated leadership structure and strategy. The goals of this team and other teams (such as sales) then need to be aligned to ensure a unified approach. And it’s important to note that these structures should be in place before you begin deploying technological solutions—this will ensure that you maximise the success of your eCommerce solution.

Fluidity, fluidity, fluidity!

A final takeaway from the webinar, and something for all B2B companies to keep in the back of their minds when embarking on a digitisation project—everything you do, do it fluidly. Strategies should not be either online or offline, they should be online and offline all the time! A paramount goal for B2B companies today is to allow customers to fluidly transition across channels so that they can meet their needs at whatever time they please. And so whilst it’s important to consider your different channels, from a customer standpoint you want to be as ‘channel-less’ as possible.

You can access the full webinar courtesy of Magento here and you can access the Forrester report here!

Cover Image: Magento.com

At Vaimo, we partner with our clients to drive forward their digital commerce success. As a Magento Global Elite Partner, we have worked with B2B and B2C brands across the globe and pride ourselves on providing transformative results. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you succeed in the digital sphere, then get in touch with an expert member of our team. Or if you’d like to learn more about where your business currently stands in terms of its digital maturity, then book a digital assessment with us today!