In the thick of lockdown, what is saving the global economy are the digital structures which have been built up over the past two or three decades. Millions working from home are using technologies that were described as “disruptive” before the coronavirus tragedy showed us the true meaning of disruption.
And as the crisis has deepened, so the pandemic has accelerated digital adoption, and no more so than in the B2B sector which has always relied on one-to-one contacts for sales and branding. Without the possibility of trade shows and with travel minimized only to essential outings, B2Bs have had to aggressively push forward with their digital transformation or face extinction.
Thinking holistically, acting digitally
Digital transformation encompasses several activities: from the adoption of new technologies to strategy, from culture to organization, from business models to go-to-market approaches; it’s all about change.
Companies need to embrace new ways that they do business with each other. How they buy, sell, partner, and collaborate as well as how they reach their end users.
B2B digital transformation means diversifying their sales strategy, up to the point that might even impact the product or business model, be it manufacturing goods, intellectual services, financial services or others.
To embrace these changes, companies need to examine their internal existing processes as well as identify new opportunities and understand which technology choices make the most sense for them in their digital transformation.
A common misconception is to equate digital transformation with e-commerce: an online catalog, a procedure for ordering online – and the business is transformed.
E-commerce alone is not systematically the first answer to digital transformation, there are many more appropriate approaches to tackle this challenge. In particular, B2Bs who operate on tight margins and complex sales models with purchasing scenarios that may vary between industries and geographies are likely to find e-commerce tools unable to fulfill their requirements.
So just how can B2Bs prosper and transform? Here are three key considerations:
- Look to diversify and explore how you sell. Do your supporting technologies and processes enable you to implement new sales channels and optimize existing ones?
- Put your customer experience at the heart of your strategy (how they buy). For experience to be disruptive, it has first to be frictionless. Can you enable seamless transactions by giving your customers rich, memorable, and frictionless online experiences from brand awareness to purchase and beyond? Also, can you make it personal? Your customers will be more ‘sticky’ to your brand if you ‘recognize’ them and give them relevant content and quick ‘buy again’ options.
- Innovation is no longer optional. Digital Transformation of course involves innovation – exploring new approaches, be it go-to-market models, new digital experiences, new pricing strategy or even new business models. Do you have the necessary agility and flexibility in the tools you use to innovate and quickly adapt? Can you what works and what doesn’t, do you have the ability to fail as well as succeed? You’ll need to be ready to explore and fail, many times, and change and adapt an offering, before finding the best setup or strategy.
The rise of the digital experience platform
A new generation of systems called digital experience platforms (DXP) has emerged to give B2Bs the performance and agility to manage their digital strategy. The definition of what a DXP should do and look like is not fixed, which is why Gartner’s description of it is very broad. To the analyst, a DXP is: “An integrated set of technologies, based on a common platform, that provides a broad range of audiences with consistent, secure and personalized access to information and applications across many digital touchpoints”.
Today, there is no well-defined functional scope for a DXP, and there is a mix of approaches on the market. Some vendors offer comprehensive platforms with a huge range of built-in functionalities, others opt for a modular approach with a single interface and architecture.
And then some businesses regard the ambiguity of what a DXP should do natively as an invitation to build one from scratch. But it can quickly become very costly not to mention technologically difficult. B2B requires complex integrations as many processes and business partners intersect with its activities.
Other businesses make the opposite mistake and throw in their lot with “big name” vendors offering ambitious all-in-one solutions. These suppliers are capable, but this is seldom the decisive factor. The cost of monolithic all-in-one DXP can certainly be prohibitive, but that is not even their main disadvantage. Typically, monoliths are too inflexible to deliver innovation. It’s also worth mentioning they generally require a lot of consultancy hours on top of the implementation.
The third route for such platforms is to adopt a modular approach. A single architecture manages and orchestrates the experience, and a single interaction layer unifies the UX across a range of functionalities which may not necessarily be native to the platform. Interoperability and extensibility are key components of a DXP, ones that are often overlooked because they do not directly affect business users. However, what is at stake is critical: how to interoperate with existing business systems in a fast, sustainable, cost-efficient way, without having to build everything every time.
Every digital professional knows the pain and the obstacles that come with business system integrations. It is crucial for a DXP to help remove this complexity and enable smart, reliable service and business integrations. A modular DXP is relatively straightforward to implement, and agile in its response to market and technological change. When that change – such as the one we are all experiencing now – comes knocking, you need to respond to it.
At Ibexa, we opted for the third route, which we see as far more agile and responsive to the three challenges mentioned above. We also know how, beyond our technology’s core features, the way you approach, understand and govern your digital strategy is just as important. As a result, we decided to work exclusively with an expert network of certified partners that our customers can trust and relate to as of course, any good working relationship has to start with trust and people. Interested in discussing your digital challenges and opportunities in these highly disrupted days? Please contact us now.