B2B firms’ commerce goals outpacing their digital capabilities, study finds

Those pesky legacy systems could be costing you a big business deal.

CloudCraze’s recently released 2017 B2B Digital Commerce Imperative Report found that for many B2B brands, legacy commerce systems are proving to be a barrier to digital transformation, preventing organizations from providing the agile, flexible buying experience customers demand.

In fact, the report found that as many as 70 per cent of companies have lost a business deal because of an ordering-specific pain point, and 31 per cent say they’ve missed out on at least $2 million in sales. According to CloudCraze, these numbers reflect an inability to accommodate the complex needs of today’s buyer because as a B2B business, they are relying on outdated commerce systems: More than 65 per cent last updated their systems more than two years ago, before Software-as-Service (SaaS) had matured.

Although many B2B companies have made investment in commerce a priority – B2B commerce is expected to grow at a annual rate of nearly eight per cent over the next three years – CloudCraze said many of them continue to rely on outdated and largely manual processes, as well as siloed solutions that limit the benefits of digital technology.

To build the report, CloudCraze surveyed nearly 200 B2B and B2C businesses within the retail, manufacturing, software, healthcare and government industries with an online presence about their pain points, investments, and priorities when it comes to digital commerce. While the findings indicate that B2B commerce companies feel increased pressure to succeed via digital channels, there is a disconnect in investment priorities.

For example, the report found many companies are still not integrating customer data with commerce technology. Only 27 per cent of B2B businesses currently support integration between CRM and commerce, which means there’s a gap between what they’re able to offer and what today’s business buyer demands.

Depending on the industry, the effect can be more pronounced. CloudCraze said that retailers servicing the B2B industry tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to mobile and user-friendly offerings, but fail to keep up with more complex capabilities such as guided selling and multiple store orders. Manufacturing respondents, meanwhile, are best at accommodating B2B complexities, but are struggling to keep costs down.

Other key findings from the CloudCraze report include:

  • B2B businesses struggle with age-old pain points: Respondents reported cost-efficiency (37 per cent) and the inability to provide a seamless, omnichannel customer experience (35 per cent) as their biggest pain points. Only 18 per cent still treat commerce as a separate channel, but market leaders are taking a more integrated approach and seeing gains as a result.
  • Top business buyers’ expectations centre around convenience: Respondents reported that most customers demand mobile access to their commerce platform (55 per cent), convenient payment processes (52 per cent) and advanced payment features (50 per cent).
  • Top business customer pain points reflect an inability to accommodate complex needs: Respondents say that limited payment options are their customers’ biggest obstacle (37 per cent) followed by a lack of order replenish capabilities (30 per cent).

Ultimately, CloudCraze concludes that B2B businesses are at a digital roadblock. Those that are currently offering basic digital commerce channels are unable to move on with more complex features due to outdated, product-focused systems.

The report makes four key recommendations that should be followed if B2B brands are to meet the needs of today’s business buyer and not miss out on a crucial sale that leaves money on the table:

  • Streamline ordering: On-premise systems can require customers to complete up to 13 steps before completing an order. This can be addressed with a flexible, SaaS-based solution that can easily adapt to changing ordering needs.
  • Improve order accuracy: By connecting commerce to CRM, order history, current inventory and budget information can be automatically integrated, which provides sales reps with more information and helps buyers make more informed purchase decisions.
  • Consolidate data: When using a platform that integrates customer data with commerce functionalities, businesses can offer personalized promotions and customized pricing features based on each business’s basic demographics and its order and browsing history.
  • Cut costs: Cloud-based commerce systems carry a lower total cost of ownership and require less technical labor and maintenance to implement and operate. Overall, self-serve transactions require less human interaction, which means it costs less to enhance customer engagement and reduces errors.

In addition, CloudCraze said B2B companies not yet online or are considering replatforming can learn from the mistakes of early adopters.

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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