B2B Next Speaker Spotlight: Marc Kermisch on B2B e‑commerce and organizational change

Instead of thinking about the enablement of B2B e-commerce as a threat to how you do business, think about how it can enable your organization to shift from processing orders to helping solve your customers’ problems.

Marc Kermisch, CIO and vice president, The Garage
Red Wing Shoe Company

Q:  What are some of the biggest challenges?

Kermisch:  Legacy systems and processes increase the costs and barriers to enabling B2B e-commerce. There is also the challenge of managing the organizational change and gaining the buy-in of the whole organization, from front-line sales and service employees to management. Each level has to embrace new ways of doing business with our customers.

Instead of thinking about the enablement of B2B e-commerce as a threat to how you do business, think about how it can enable your organization to shift from processing orders to helping solve your customers’ problems.

Q:  What is the biggest thing B2B companies still need to realize about e-commerce?

Kermisch:  B2B e-commerce isn’t about the technology or enabling the capability to purchase online. It is truly about changing how you interact and enable your customers to transact from end to end. Your sales, service and fulfillment organizations will have to change to provide the right level of service via the online channels as the more traditional sales channel. Ensuring your back-office capabilities are able to meet the demands of e-commerce is just as important as building a strong e-commerce storefront.
— Read on www.digitalcommerce360.com/2018/07/24/b2b-next-speaker-spotlight-marc-kermisch-on-b2b-r-commerce-and-organizational-change/

How CRM platforms are revolutionizing B2B selling

The age-old B2B sales problem

The problem most B2B brands face is the low profit margins that low-volume customers bring on an individual level. The sheer volume of orders generated from large business customers, such as Walmart, justifies sales teams dedicating a significant amount of time and resources servicing these businesses to meet their needs.

By contrast, low-volume customers generate very little revenue individually, yet most businesses still service them through costly channels like phone and in-person sales visits. It’s incredibly inefficient for B2B brands to continue servicing these businesses through such outdated channels.

What’s more, orders placed through phone or in-person meetings are often riddled with inaccuracies. Small business owners need to consider a handful of information before placing an order, such as inventory, cash flow or previous orders, but simply cannot do so when forced to make a decision on the spot through a siloed channel.

Despite these issues, the positives of servicing low-volume customers outweigh the negatives. When combined, low-volume customers can deliver up to 40% of a B2B brand’s revenue. This puts B2B sellers in a tricky situation. Small businesses are expensive to service, but even more expensive to ignore.

Why CRM technology is changing the game

— Read on www.digitalcommerce360.com/2017/06/07/crm-platforms-revolutionizing-b2b-selling/

Forward-Thinking B2B Marketers Partner With Influencers To Create Cross-Channel, Long-Term Campaigns

Risk aversion is becoming a top motivator for B2B buyers. Research shows 78% of buyers are dedicating more time to researching solutions and are increasingly turning to peers and thought leaders for relevant insights. Demand Gen Report’s 2018 B2B Buyers Survey demonstrates the growing influence of third-party sources and outside opinions on the buyer journey. According to the report:

65% rely on peer recommendations and review sites;
54% use social media to research vendors and solutions; and
36% connected with thought leaders to ask for their opinion.
As buyer behaviors continue to shift towards peers and thought leaders, forward-thinking marketers from companies such as SAP, the Content Marketing Institute and Oracle are looking beyond their internal resources to leverage industry influencers to drive engagement, enhance content and build trust with buyers.
— Read on www.demandgenreport.com/features/industry-insights/forward-thinking-b2b-marketers-partner-with-influencers-to-create-cross-channel-long-term-campaigns

The missing step in B2B e‑commerce conversions

If you look at global budget trends among chief marketing officers and compare that specifically to budgets for B2B e-commerce marketers, you’ll find some interesting overlaps and insights. For instance, in the 2017-18 Gartner CMO Spend Survey, which includes CMOs at both B2C and B2B enterprises, a full two thirds of respondents said they plan to increase spending in digital advertising. And on the B2B e-commerce side, a client survey by e-commerce platform Magento found that 91% of respondents said they plan on investing in “content and marketing.” Other popular budget categories for B2B e-commerce include personalization, platform upgrades and selection, data cleansing and understanding, and internationalization.

When we match these types of findings up to a typical marketing funnel, though, there’s a key area that’s completely missing from the budget: Conversion optimization. In fact, almost all these investment areas focus on top, or near top of the marketing funnel.

Eric Allen, senior vice president, Credit Key

Why is this?

A key answer is how B2B e-commerce business units and companies are structured. In most B2B firms, marketing is mainly responsible for lead generation, but it’s the responsibility of the sales team to convert the lead into a paying client. That means marketing spends its budget on things like social media and other digital marketing, but they’re not responsible for top-line revenue. However, neither is the sales team, at least not directly; senior executives are. And when it comes to calculating ROI, it’s tracked solely in terms of lead generation, but not conversion.

Generating leads without converting them is like constantly refilling a leaky bucket; by fixing the hole the bucket, you usually find the biggest area of opportunity for companies to drive revenue.

Even when firms add in an e-commerce component to the sales process, marketing departments often don’t adjust their purview to accommodate for digital sales. They’re not paying enough attention to what happens at the end of the funnel. If the Magento survey respondents are representative of the larger industry (which we think they are), many firms are satisfied with building a platform and filling the top of their sales funnel, without much or any accountability for revenue.

In other words: They’re ignoring an essential revenue source. This is why more B2B e-commerce companies need to incorporate conversion optimization into their marketing.

What is conversion optimization?

In the B2B e-commerce setting, conversion optimization is a methodology for increasing the percentage of leads that become paying customers. It is the systematic use of variant testing methodologies to identify the best possible solution.

In other contexts a “conversion” is often counted as having a website visitor complete a goal, which may be a purchase, but it may also be signing up for a newsletter or simply requesting more information. But in e-commerce, companies need to be extremely focused on turning visitors into paying customers. This is where the real revenue comes from: optimizing the bottom of the funnel activities, specifically the checkout process.

Why conversion optimization is needed

We’ve previously discussed the cold, hard truth about B2B e-commerce, and it’s worth repeating: The checkout process is the most vital part of e-commerce. Without it, you don’t have a transaction. If visitors leave your site without making a purchase, you’ve wasted your money on getting them there. Understanding the ins and outs of conversion optimization will amplify the ROI spent on top of funnel traffic.

There are many reasons why customers may not complete a purchase. One survey found that the top reasons included:

Extra costs (shipping, taxes, etc.)
Need to create an account
Too long/complicated checkout process
In other words, e-commerce businesses lose sales when the checkout process is too hard. Unfortunately, many B2B e-commerce companies like to make it hard for their customers. Despite offering a 21st century digital shopping solution, they’re following a 20th century business model that isn’t flexible, doesn’t offer options, and doesn’t have room for testing. Too often, the process is the process is the process. And the old processes simply don’t have a built-in place for modern conversion optimization.

And that’s why it’s so vital to success. Using conversion optimization, you can find out exactly how many different steps customers are willing to go through before abandoning their purchase. You can learn, for example, the most popular payment methods for different types and sizes of purchases.

Ultimately, if you’re not doing conversion optimization, you’re leaving money on the table. What’s worse is that you’re also not seizing the opportunity to learn what your customers really want. And if you’re not listening to your customers are you really living up to your brand promise?

Probably not.

But if you make it easier for them to quickly find what they need and check out, your brand will better resonate with them to gain their loyalty.

Eric Allen is senior vice president of Credit Key, a provider of B2B financing services.

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— Read on www.digitalcommerce360.com/2018/02/26/missing-step-b2b-ecommerce-conversions/