This post was contributed by Alvin Wiseman from DataCaptive.
B2B businesses are clamoring to enter the online marketplace to showcase their products and services. One of the main reasons for this change is the global pandemic that brought in mandated closings and slowed down many businesses. This period was difficult for the B2B industry as it relied heavily on in-person interactions. However, the current B2B customers are shifting their focus online because of the wide availability of options.
Conducting business on the Internet can offer entrepreneurs a variety of advantages, including the flexibility of doing business at their convenience. The pivot has also positively changed the B2B sales and marketing landscape, where more technology is being implemented to generate more sales and ROI. Going digital has aided B2B companies in making their business process easier, faster, and more cost-efficient to connect with prospective customers and get measurable results.
However, moving your brick-and-mortar business online is no walk in the park. It is not just about setting up social media accounts; you must find a place to showcase your products and services and reach them online as effectively as before. Some of the biggest challenges that B2B companies face during this transition is developing a plan to advance their businesses. As you develop a plan, figuring out your buyer persona and company priorities is vital.
No matter how well you plan, every change comes with its challenges. This blog will discuss the challenges that arise to help you overcome them and thrive in the industry.
The Modern B2B Buyer
There has recently been much to catch up on in the B2B world, especially regarding technologies, marketing strategies, and customer care. The B2B buyers now want all basic information at their fingertips without the help of any gatekeepers. Since 65% of the workforce are millennials and Gen Z, who grew up with social media, Google, and review sites. This makes them digital-first buyers who are tech-savvy and want to conduct their research and conduct the majority of their journey anonymously.
A report by Accenture concluded that most buyers are about 57% of the way through the buying journey by the time they speak with a sales representative. The B2B audience wants marketing and sales claims validated with customer proof. They also collect third-party information from different sites to support their decision-making process. If you are going to connect with B2B decision makers, provide them with a high-quality, data-driven report that makes their decision-making easier.
The information must provide value and discuss how your offering can solve their pain points without sounding salesy. B2B buyers are now highly demanding and have certain expectations impacted by their personal buying experiences. Due to the success of sites like Amazon, customers now expect fast page load times, easy-to-use interfaces, advanced search options, detailed product images, and self-service options.
Benefits of Shifting a B2B Business Online
1. Reach Prospects Worldwide
Traditional B2B companies were confined to a local market extending to a city or state. However, moving the business online allows them to reach out to an audience within their country and worldwide. Meaning your B2B company can tap into new markets and potentially expand its customer base.
With a good website, you can have thousands, even tens of thousands, of leads visiting your online store at once. Setting up a website allows a company to operate its business 24/7, where a chatbot can be included to guide customers toward the end of the sales cycle. This itself can significantly increase the sales and revenue of a business.
2. Better Customer Support
New CX tools and applications coming up in recent years have made it easier for B2B companies to provide enhanced customer experience. Being available on different online platforms will allow your customer support team to understand the customers’ queries and solve them at the earliest.
Excellent customer support allows a company to access feedback from its audience. A FAQ page can answer all the vital questions that your audience may have regarding your products or services. Implementing good live chat and customer management software can improve company credibility and bring in more customers through referrals.
3. Making Services Accessible to the Customer
An online platform and an easy interface will aid the company in providing its customers with a good customer experience. This way, the customers can easily access product and service information. By making your services more accessible online, it can strengthen your brand, boost brand awareness, reach a wider audience, and reduce the risk of legal complications.
4. Lower the Administrative Costs
Online business requires a lesser budget than traditional marketing methods such as newspaper and other print ads, billboards, and TV as well as radio advertisements. A well-prepared good sales video, letter, or online webinar presentation can replace a full-time salesperson. Online B2B businesses reduce costs of storage spaces as they can arrange to have the products sent directly from the supplier to the customer. Creating a website can also be done from a free platform like WordPress.
5. Utilize the Internet to Your Advantage
The Internet was made for business, as prospective clients can be just one click away from your online store. Your team can use the Internet to educate prospects about your products and services and solve clients’ problems. Accepting orders and receiving payments directly to your inbox is also easier and safer. Ranking on SERPs can drive traffic to your website and generate qualified leads or sales.
6. Work From Anywhere
Having an online business gives you the leeway to work from anywhere. It allows a company to work from home or an office, as you will not be tied to one physical location. All you will require is a solid internet connection to live virtually anywhere. A company can also hire employees worldwide and work as efficiently as before.
7. Low Operating Costs
Unlike a physical business, an online business is more economical and requires less investment, as no rent, utilities, or maintenance costs are associated. Operating online can be much cheaper than running a physical store or office. The direct delivery of products from suppliers to customers also reduces the shipping time. This results in happy customers and less paperwork, making operations hassle-free.
Challenges of Shifting a B2B Company Online
1. Employees Resisting Digital Transformation
In this era, digital technologies are key to reshaping the future success of many industries, from business management to customer experiences. However, research tells us that 70% of these initiatives will fail to reach their goals due to a lack of digital capabilities to improve efficiencies, increase customer value and create new monetization opportunities. Large companies with extensive histories and operations could struggle to adapt quickly to a digital transformation.
It is easier for younger companies to digitize products and services or use technology to operate more efficiently. Another reason why employees may resist change is because they may need help understanding how the online transformation will benefit them or the company. Therefore, many employees may view an online transformation as an unnecessary disruption to their work processes. To avoid problems like this, a company can involve employees in the decision-making process and seek their input and feedback to ensure they feel valued and engaged.
2. Fear of Losing Status or Job Security
New AI technologies like ChatGPT are now so advanced that they can displace jobs such as coders, computer programmers, software engineers, data analysts, content creators, and technical writers. Employees may fear that the online transformation will lead to their jobs being automated or outsourced. The fear that new technologies will threaten their jobs causes them to consciously or unconsciously resist the changes.
The B2B companies need to take time and address employee concerns about job security and other issues to help alleviate fears and build trust. Furthermore, they can create a culture of collaboration and innovation where employees feel empowered to embrace digital transformation and drive company success.
3. Lack of Technical Expertise or Skills
It is beneficial if your company has expertise in cybersecurity to ensure that its online platforms are secure from any cyber threats, such as hacking and data breaches. Your company must have a team dedicated to digital marketing, SEO, PPC advertising, email marketing, and social media marketing are essential for attracting new customers. Therefore, the company is required to hire new staff or provide better training programs to upgrade the skills of their existing employees.
This is because the existing employees may need more digital skills to adapt to the new online environment, so they feel pressured to perform with a new tool they do not know how to control. This problem can be resolved if the company leaders lead by example. The heads of the teams can demonstrate their commitment to online transformation by using the new systems and tools themselves and encouraging their peers to do the same.
4. B2B Clients Resisting the Change
Over 89% of B2B buyers seek to make more purchases through robust online eCommerce offerings, whereas 11% are still reluctant to shift online. According to the Accenture Digital study, the biggest barrier to getting B2B customers to transition to online buying is their resistance to change.
One of the main reasons is that they might be concerned about the security of their data and transactions on an online platform. At the same time, it is also that they might need more technical expertise to use or prefer traditional methods of communication. Some B2B customers may feel that online platforms need more personal touch and individual attention than they receive from their current suppliers.
Your team can convince customers to shop online by establishing solid relationships, providing excellent customer service, and demonstrating your commitment to security and privacy. You can also provide them a customized online experience and pay more attention to their unique needs.
5. New Customer Behavior
A B2B business must adapt to new customers’ behavior online, such as the need for quicker response, easy navigation, and streamlined ordering processes. A majority of B2B customers prefer to find information and complete tasks independently without needing to contact customer support. Therefore, ensure your company’s platforms are easy to navigate and all the necessary information is easily accessible to the audience.
B2B companies must also quickly respond to customer inquiries and be available through multiple channels like email, chat, or social media. Customers now tend to use their mobile devices to browse and make purchases. Therefore, your online platform should be mobile-friendly to provide a seamless user experience.
6. Integration with Existing Systems
A B2B business may have existing inventory management, supply chain management, and billing systems that must be integrated with the new digital systems. This can be challenging as different systems have other data structures, and integrations may require custom development. The new online systems may require different data structures or protocols, and the team must ensure that the data can flow seamlessly between the systems.
One tip that makes the integration process smoother is choosing the right integration tools to connect the existing systems with the new online systems. Various integration tools are available in the market, including middleware, APIs, and webhooks. Also, thoroughly test the integration before deploying it in the live environment. Testing will help identify issues or bugs in the integration process and ensure data flows accurately between the systems.
7. Tough Competition in the Marketplace
Since many B2B businesses have already moved online, customer competition is intense. Not only should you compete with local competitors but also rivals across the world. Some industries may already have competitors with a foothold in the market, which may have loyal online customers. This is why your team needs to devise a plan to ensure your brand remains on your customer radar. Therefore, it is vital to find the right market and do a competitor analysis to understand the market’s leading players.
Look into what products and services they offer, find out what makes your offer unique, review their price points and learn about the marketing strategies they are implementing. Research the promotions, discounts, and benefits competitors offer and devise a plan based on the data. When you become an expert on your competitors, it is easier to find the gap in the market and use it to your advantage. It also helps your company to identify its market and stand out from the crowd.
For a long time, the B2B industry has lagged behind the B2C sector in the online marketplace. However, advanced digital and data tools have helped B2B companies evolve and develop online. The B2B digital advertising is projected to jump from $4.28 billion in 2017 to $14.57 billion in 2023. In today’s world, with evolving buyer demands and technologies, you will be able to find more tactics to bring in successful B2B sales. Some online marketing strategies have also helped online B2B sellers to overcome these challenges and help drive more revenue. Therefore, if you are a B2B company looking to shift online, we hope this blog helps your team understand and prevent challenges in your journey.