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How to diversify your B2B digital sales channels part 2
October 12, 2021
In the first part of our mini-series on digital sales channels we outlined what these were, and how to avoid them taking market share from each other. In this article we highlight the importance of brand, which must remain consistent across all your channels.
Brand, Brand, Brand
A measure of successful transformations is having total control of your brand, its digital representation and by extension, your branded product communication. You need to be able to disseminate and deliver them through a multiplicity of channels without ever squandering or diluting them. Building a consistent brand is a cornerstone of your digitalization strategy.
If you are not quite yet there, then this is obviously an area of focus. This means concentrating your digital effort in building a digital content hub and mastering the different workflows of your content operation. The key domains here are around content management, content strategy, content operation and workflow.
If your brand equity is strong and you are on top of your digital branding operation, then you can consider almost every possibility.
Your product: high or low consideration? Simple or complex?
If your product is a commodity, selling it online is nothing out of the ordinary. If your brand equity is such that all potential customers would go to you first, there’s a high chance that you should consider marketplaces.
On the other side of the spectrum, if your product is very complex, and highly considered as something unique, your prospect probably doesn’t go looking for it at a marketplace or go to a seller with no expertise. Customers will want a close dialog with you, whether it is through humans or self-service, they want to ask you the question and get your answer as the authority on the product.
Your current sales channel: what is it and how is it performing?
You should factor in your current way of selling; this will help you decide on the right strategy. For instance, if you are selling indirect, via a network of distributors and resellers (maybe even because this is enforced by regulation), you can’t easily disrupt that. What you’ll have to consider is bringing automation and performance through digital tools that will complement and progressively take over from the sales team, without necessarily changing the channel.
On the other hand, if you don’t have strong constraints dictated by regulation or your supply chain, and your sales performance is too poor or showing some limits, then there’s nothing stopping you from re-inventing your sales channel(s) by selling directly through the cloud and considering at the same time to change your business model. An amazing example here would be Adobe pivoting from selling desktop software through traditional software sellers to moving it into a direct sales channel on the cloud via its “creative cloud” business model.
Here are some insights on how product and channel can best complement each other:
An iterative transformation driven by innovation and business value
The table above shows that different channels can play a different role at different stages of your digitalization. They all can bring tremendous value.
For instance, pushing inventory on a marketplace presents probably the fastest route to market for those companies that are not yet ready to operate their own e-commerce operation or do not have a strong online reseller in their given market.
In that sense, a first phase could be to publish a company’s entire product catalogue on a marketplace, ensuring there is a digital route to customers, and in parallel, develop a direct digital commerce program. Once the required capabilities are owned and the program is launched, a natural evolution would be to give exclusivity to this direct channel (or to a value-added reseller) for some premium or companion products that could be promoted to customers coming from the marketplace.
This strategy of capturing customers by transferring them from one channel to another is obviously not easy to pull off, and the marketplace operator – whether it’s a giant such as Amazon or Alibaba, or a niche marketplace – will certainly not facilitate it. However, it is still possible through interaction with the product and through increased branding effort.
For those companies that already have solid sales channels, digital or physical, it might be wiser to first focus on mastering digital branding and digital marketing before launching a true e-commerce channel directly.
With each company having its own unique way of doing things there just isn’t one single way to approach this. Ultimately, when it comes to digital transformation in general, it is first and foremost about mastering innovation, both from a business model perspective and from a technological perspective.
Truly innovative companies will experiment across different options to identify which one is the best to take and if all of them should be in play. And assessing this should be purely based on customer value and customer experience.
The bottom line: just as much as owning and controlling your brand, mastering innovation is key. This encompasses speedy time-to-market for new product initiatives, having control of costs and being able to progressively invest in experiments, being agile both from a business and from a digital perspective to adapt to ever-changing conditions and finally, having the comfort of relying on future-proofed organizations and technology.
We provide a Digital Experience Platform to help companies digitalize their sales strategy. Among other capabilities, Ibexa DXP offers the option to explore all possible channels combining integration with key solutions and services with built-in capabilities.
Relying on a modern composable software architecture, it allows modularity and flexibility to be used to deliver the best time-to-market for every project you will launch on the platform.
If you are interested in exploring more about our offering, please contact us.