Succeeding in B2B eCommerce

B2B organizations in particular face a set of challenges that deviate from those of the retail realm.

In four easy-to-skim points on how a B2B brand should go about creating a digital ecosystem to drive sales, improve customer relationships, and differentiate itself from its competitors, a recent Internet Retailer article summarized the Forrester report Use the Power of B2B Digital Ecosystems. And while we couldn’t agree more, that the digital transformation is revolutionizing the ways in which we communicate with brands and each other, B2B organizations in particular face a set of challenges that deviate from those of the retail realm. The strategy and approach to product marketing, for example, is more complex due to bulk and tiered pricing, private sales, bundles, frequency, and even sometimes longstanding relationships. Content marketing requires an unprecedented amount of research (where’s the content) and development, as rich descriptions usually need to be written off of product specifications. It might seem as though these activities are monumental undertakings, but succeeding in B2B commerce is very attainable and well worth the investment in developing a digital ecosystem.

Here’s our take on the list, where we’ve included additional considerations that B2B brands should incorporate into digital commerce planning.

1. Understand your company's unique product/service values and communicate them clearly and consistently.

When developing a digital ecosystem, identify the ways in which your buyers want or need to learn more information – specifically working to enhance the channels through which inquiries arrive. In addition to making it easy for customers to find informative, relevant content, ensure that the brand message is cohesive – from online portals, to sales personnel, customer service representatives, email, and mobile. By simplifying the buyer’s research process, a B2B organization can build relationships and trust.

2. Create teams with breadth and depth of experiences.

The importance of a CIO is undeniable, as he or she will lead the planning and architecting of the digital ecosystem. However, executing the strategy will require adding talented, cross-functional teams and individuals with content development and management, technology, analytical, design, and commerce experience. A B2B brand should also look to include a CMT, or a chief marketing technologist, in order to create the B2C-like experience that customers desire.

3. Leverage digital properties as a means to improving the complete user experience and internal operations.

Rather than thinking of the commerce portal or the corporate site as separate from the call center or interactions with sales representatives, think about how digital sites and channels will enable sales teams as well as self-service.

4. Branch out internally and externally.

Go beyond what’s comfortable, expected, or standard. In a recent post to Get Elastic, we instructed readers to take risks. Partnering with an outside organization or building out a new competencies in-house can bring a new perspective to a B2B brand’s digital ecosystem and initiatives.

Speaking of branching out, ICF Olson is a full service digital marketing and technology agency. We can assist with any and all of the four aforementioned points and invite you to contact us to learn more.