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B2B Marketing Digital Marketing Accenture

B2B marketers face roadblocks as the digital pace of change continues, study suggests


By Laurie Fullerton, Freelance Writer

April 25, 2016 | 7 min read

One of the most compelling reasons that B2B organizations have invested in digital marketing strategies is they increasingly see the potential for revenue growth. However, a series of reports published by Accenture conclude that the most successful digital organizations are new companies that are four years old or less (64 per cent).

Further, mature corporations with more than $25bn are moving more quickly than middle-to-small B2B organizations with programs such as marketplaces and EDI (electronic data interchange) in their digital numbers. While the younger, innovative companies and corporations with deeper pockets see more revenue coming from digital sales and marketing, the average B2B company still lags behind and needs to consider their key performance indicators (KPI).

Revenue remains the leading digital KPI metric for market leaders and clearly emphasizes the influence digital has on business outcomes. In fact, the majority of B2B organizations who track KPI focus on their revenue generating strategies (64 per cent), followed by digital traffic (40 per cent).

Although the implementation of digital strategies has resulted in net benefits to businesses of all shapes and sizes, organizations continue to face an array of challenges. The survey suggests that customer retention (37 per cent) and acquisition (36 per cent) have been reported as the most critical challenges, suggesting that many organizations struggle with high customer turnover rates.

Internal staffing is also a roadblock for organizations, particularly when it comes to skills sets. In the survey, 27 per cent responded that staff skills were a problem, including understaffing.

Yet, nearly all organizations surveyed believe their digital strategies are 'competitive.' When asked to indicate what made them competitive, the majority of organizations said that they were on a par with sector leaders (42 per cent) or were sector leaders (27 per cent) while 7 per cent said they had fallen behind the leaders in their sectors.

Governance and control are also key challenges with 42 per cent stating a need to focus on improved internal processes that impact their companies bottom line, along with customer's digital understanding (41 per cent) and customer retention (39 per cent).

Operating models appear to have a long-range appeal to successful digital marketers with one third of marketers surveyed using the Digital Center of Excellence (DCoE) model that supports strategy development. Secondly, the Centralized model (28 per cent) offers a single, centralized unit that is often under the umbrella of marketing, shared services, IT or corporate communications.

The least used models include fully integrated (8 per cent) where all functions are digitally enabled and the experience is managed holistically across touch points. The low adoption rate for this model is likely because many organizations lack the structure and management abilities to fully integrate.

It is increasingly evident that B2B organizations have arrived later to the digital game than their B2C counterparts. In fact, a quarter of all B2B digital organizations have existed less than a year, while in both B2B and B2C digital organizations have existed for only five years (24 per cent) while a third (33 per cent) have been in place one to two years and 31 per cent have been in place three to five years.

While the DCoE model has done its job in establishing standards and providing expertise, transitioning to a model in which the digital center not only provides thought expertise but also delivers execution excellence.

"A transition from DCoE to fully integrated is not dependent on digital skill-sets alone, it requires digital skill-sets at scale. Our experience shows that this is a steep hill most organizations are unable to climb on their own, " Saty Chawla, managing director of digital strategy at Accenture Interactive.

When companies consider growth of the digital component to their organization, it appears that 24 per cent of those surveyed say digital responsibility rests on the shoulders of the chief marketing officer (CMO), followed by the chief digital officer (15 per cent). Commonly, digital responsibility is still split among a wide range of job titles, suggesting a lack of common structure.

When it comes to decision-making, 48 per cent of those surveyed said that the digital decisions are hierarchical compared to 37 per cent of organizations who earn more than half of their revenue through digital. The study does indicate a lack of clear consensus on digital leadership and highlights the need for more clarity on leadership roles and decision-making in their digital programs.

One of the most compelling results in the study is the lack of faith many organizations have in the skill sets of employees in their digital organizations. Nearly one third of respondents (31 per cent) say they are not satisfied with the skill sets of their employees in their digital organizations and reported a preference for hiring new employees (44 per cent) with the right skill sets over training existing employees (41 per cent).

Commonly, organizations say they are looking to hire for digital marketing (28 per cent) and digital strategy (27 per cent) with only 17 per cent saying they need to hire for IT. Finally, 13 per cent plan to hire for content development. When it comes to near-term hiring, more than a quarter of all respondents (28 per cent) say they plan to add marketing roles in the next year, followed by digital strategy (28 per cent), analytics (26 per cent) and customer experience (24 per cent).

Those companies who are currently market leaders in digital say that they are inclined to add roles in digital strategy (40 per cent), digital marketing (37 per cent) and customer experience (33 per cent). The slightly higher weighting towards digital strategy may illustrate that the market leaders are starting to shift focus to long-term, as opposed to more short-term and transactional parts of their digital orchestration.

Additionally, the study suggests that hiring the right talent may not be as straightforward as it seems. In many cases, the available talent pool and fluctuations in regional job markets can present serious challenges for digital recruiting and retention.

The survey indicates that 45 per cent of marketers surveyed do work with vendors and agencies and external partners, which may mean that their are greater inefficiencies and inconsistencies across the organization. Additionally, although most survey respondent’s work with vendors and agencies for at least a portion of their digital work in part because of a need for sophistication and tapping into specialized digital skill sets.

Further, as companies become more comfortable with the idea of a digital strategy, priorities are already shifting as leaders look to invest in organizational growth and expansion. The survey indicates that digital organizations are growing in areas like content-based marketing (51 per cent), developing an eCommerce/digital strategy (50 per cent), ecommerce re-platforming (44 per cent), mobile commerce (41 per cent), enabling new digital customer self-service capabilities (38 per cent) social commerce (38 per cent) and content cu ration and enrichment (38 per cent).

Over the next 12 months, look to growth and investment in digital organization expansion (30 per cent, new digital customer self service (30 per cent), content curation (30 per cent) and personalized experience and offers (28 per cent). Finally, the survey states that market leaders over the next 12 months will push for increased sophistication in mobile and other channels with 39 per cent focused on the Omni-channel approach, 37 per cent on digital expansion, 31 per cent on mobile commerce, and 29 per cent on personalized experience and offers.

In conclusion, it is quite clear that digital expansion, strategies and investment are ever increasing, and those organizations already on solid ground with digital are looking to next level strategies. Market leaders are acutely aware of the need for investments in digital strategy while looking to resolve governance, process issues and customer facing concerns. Those who are facing internal and external challenges continue to purse additional investments to overcome obstacles.

B2B Marketing Digital Marketing Accenture

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