Digitization has been on the agenda for some time, but the corona crisis has brought a spectacular acceleration. The importance of digital channels and services is considered to be of great importance, as we read in a research report by McKinsey & Company.
At the top of most frustrating problems with supplier websites, we see 1. the length of the ordering process, 2. the difficulty of finding products, and 3. technical difficulties in ordering. Other common problems included confusing websites, a lack of delivery and technical support information, and problems setting up payments. What about your website and all digital processes?
McKinsey hopes that insights from this research will help in an adequate follow-up. First, come through the crisis with resilience, plan for recovery, and then think normally about the next. There is clearly a lot of uncertainty, but there are signs that previous trends are accelerating.
The transition to digital
Digital channels for B2B companies have grown significantly in recent years and increased dramatically since the COVID-19 crisis. Sales leaders now rate digital channels about twice as important on average as before. This shift in the importance of digital interactions is reflected in customer behavior. In researching products, customer preference for digitally enabled sales interactions has risen significantly, with the mobile apps from vendors and social media or online communities showing their strongest increase since 2019. Mobile apps are twice as important for researching products among Chinese buyers as for those in the UK or Germany. Interestingly, the importance of a supplier's webpage didn't change much, probably because customers were already actively using supplier websites for this leg of their journey. When making a purchase, buyers cited a strong preference for self-service, with vendor mobile apps more than doubling since last year.
"Getting it right" means three things that buyers value most: Speed, transparency and expertise. Those priorities apply to all channels, and they are more relevant now than ever. For example, 33 percent of buyers surveyed rated the option of live chat during the research phase of their buying journey as one of the top three requirements for a best-in-class supplier. For example, live chat is an option that offers speed, transparency and expertise - things that customers value most. To provide excellent digital experiences and encourage loyalty, B2B companies need to address at the very least the most pressing customer pain points and frustrations. The three most frustrating problems with suppliers' websites were (36 percent) the duration of the ordering process, (34 percent) the difficulty of finding products and (33 percent) the technical difficulties in ordering. Other common problems included confusing websites, a lack of delivery and technical support information, and problems setting up payments.
How marketing and sales can shape the new normal
The sudden and massive shift to remote working as a result of the corona pandemic has profoundly affected the way companies sell and buy from each other.
While most sales leaders accept the need to move to greater use of digital channels (many have, in fact, made significant adjustments since the inception of quarantines), it is not as simple as just 'moving to digital'. The surge in the use of digital channels means that companies need to think hard not only about how to enable effective digital interactions, but also about how to best use their salespeople. Re-orchestrating the customer experience and associated sales processes across channels should be at the top of the list.
In this digital world, there is still a crucial role for the human dimension.