If you are a B2B business owner, you know how important the time in front of you is. Sales tours, trade shows and demonstrations provide opportunities to engage with customers and showcase your knowledge, experience and ability to solve large-scale problems – key differentiators that can make or break your growth chart. But COVID-19 has put an end to these kinds of interactions. To respond effectively, you will need to accelerate your digital investments in ever-active virtual models to engage customers and evolve your operating model to realize the full potential of those investments.
Some investments can add value quickly, without too much difficulty, and others will take longer. Launching or strengthening e-commerce, virtual trade shows and innovation center demonstrations, and digital setup tools can be done in a matter of months. For example, the timeframe for setting up e-commerce channels has dropped from over 20 weeks to less than 10 weeks due to advancements in available technology platforms, combined with the ability to design and create new customer experiences. via agile working methods. Investments can also be deployed in a series of sprints, starting with a minimum viable product.
By focusing on these types of quick wins first, you will be able to advance in value creation alongside your slower, multi-year technology investments, such as enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, or systems. of content management, which often take a year and a half to three years to produce returns. For example, real-time supply chain visibility is likely to appear later on the roadmap, given the complexity of its implementation.
However, to take full advantage of any of these changes, and to do it quickly, you will need to reconfigure your operating model, and you can do that by focusing on the following six building blocks.
Apply design thinking to meet the needs of specific customer personalities. Find out what works and what doesn’t for purchasing managers, design engineers, production planners, and the other types of customers you try to engage throughout the buying process. At the same time, consider the needs of your own internal personalities, such as sales reps, service operations staff, or solution engineers. By seeking to understand and challenge assumptions, you can determine which specific experience items will generate the most value with the least confidence in heroic efforts to
overcome back-end limitations or inefficient business processes.
Drive the automation of work activities by redesigning business tasks and processes. Our own work and several studies have shown that a large portion of activities, in some cases over 40%, can be automated or eliminated, thereby reducing costs while significantly improving the customer experience. For example, calls to a contact center can be reduced through digital experiences that offer advanced search, access to the right content, and the use of chatbots.
Take advantage of a more flexible and modular infrastructure, digital tools and ways of working. Low-code platforms such as Salesforce and Mendix can be used to develop new digital experiences, including e-commerce storefronts, collaboration portals, and virtual trade shows, in much less time and at a lower cost. than through existing approaches. And dividing your digital engagement roadmap into a set of short sprints helps accelerate the time to value, driving adoption by customers and internal teams. Taken together, these steps focus beyond the basic implementation of the technology, to ensure that investments in experiments are effective and efficient.
Consider changes in the sales and distribution chain to better leverage digitization, respond to omnichannel models, and differentiate your customer experience. To do this, you will need to ask yourself several questions: What is the role of channel partners as online sales increase in proportion to all sales? How can value be created and delivered using different channels? What pricing policies can implement the envisaged strategy? Your responses will cause many changes that will take time to implement, especially if they require contract changes and negotiations, but some can still be put in place in weeks and months.
Even after the restrictions are completely lifted, businesses will continue to look for more virtual ways to engage with their suppliers.
Link marketing and sales to the supply chain. Enterprise systems now have the ability to connect the demand side to the supply side. Think about how your organization can differentiate customer experiences and more effectively deliver what customers need by leveraging supply chain visibility and responsiveness. You must have the ability to dynamically manage orders, products, prices, and fulfillment options. A static sales and order planning process that struggles to deliver the basics is simply not sustainable.
Measure the impact of your efforts on the customer and employee experience. You can do this through a holistic approach that we call experience feedback (ROX). A ROX metrics system brings together two different types of data to create a fast loop of information to action. The first type of data is experience data (“X data”), which includes impulse polls, text analytics, and social sentiment analysis. The second type is operational KPIs and results (“O data”), which come from your systems and can be analyzed with your X data. For example, a customer requesting a sample, accessing the content of a virtual trade fair, or placing an order can trigger a survey, and this survey-derived X data can be examined in conjunction with O data, such as call center volumes, order conversion rates, or realized prices. ROX gives business leaders and employees access to information for decision-making, fueling a virtuous circle of continuous improvement throughout your agile sprints, while providing greater confidence in the value your investments generate.
Securing these six foundational elements of digital engagement with your B2B customers will generate immediate value for your business during the current COVID-19 crisis, and will also help you come out stronger once the pandemic is over. Even after the restrictions are completely lifted, businesses will continue to look for more virtual ways to engage with their suppliers. Plus, by effectively leveraging these virtual models to project your expertise into the marketplace and engage with your contacts, you’ll be able to reach more customers throughout the year and optimize your content throughout their buying journey.
PwC US Managing Director Naveen Jain also contributed to this report.