Although no one could have predicted the events of 2020, it changed everything, including how consumers—both B2B and B2C—research, purchase, and connect with companies. Forrester® Senior Analyst Joe Cicman and Ray Grady, president & CEO at Conexiom®, recently presented on how traditional distribution models have changed as a result of the pandemic. Topics in this webinar included:

  • How buying preferences are changing
  • How to operationalize new digital channels to attract buyers
  • How to digitize and scale tough-to-automate channels
  • Why the customer experience is the new competitive battleground

Changing Buyer Preferences

According to a recent Forrester survey, approximately 40% of customers have increased their online shopping habits as a result of the pandemic.* In fact, due to the COVID-19, businesses experienced 10 years’ worth of eCommerce growth in just three months.

Businesses that had invested in digital were serving customers with Black Friday-level peaks each day. But businesses that hadn’t invested in digital failed to immediately adapt to these sudden changes.

B2B buyers have evolved to resemble more of a B2C customer, preferring to buy goods directly from a brand, researching reviews from peers, and seeking ongoing, connected experiences.

In Q4 2020, we reached a tipping point, where expectations that govern the entire customer lifecycle are driving seemingly disconnected actions. B2B buyers now demand an entirely different relationship with organizations. They expect to be treated as partners through open, intuitive, and immediate experiences.

Operationalizing Digital Channels to Attract Buyers

With this surge in online activity, combined with a reluctance to return to physical shopping, as a B2B business, are you ready to modernize and embrace digital channels?

You need to be.

If you rely on traditional distribution, and you don’t have data quality, you’re adding friction. Friction that deters customers, because it does not provide a digital experience that delivers an open way of connecting and doing business.

But what’s stopping manufacturers from turning on these new channels?

Data lives in silos and wasn’t designed to support selling through multiple digital channels.

The solution: Strategize your product data feeds. Aggregate and enrich siloed product data to strengthen relationships with distribution partners while increasing sell-through.

This approach enables you to adapt product attributes for changing market conditions. Product data feeds help your brand speak to the ever-evolving needs of specific online markets.

The right data feed strategy increases traffic to your website, because it takes into account the relationship between data feeds and search engine indexing. Therefore, it’ll turbocharge ROI and online marketing.

According to Forrester, into 2021 and beyond, you can expect to see massive consolidation in multi-tier distribution and inefficiencies slashed by automation, embedded services, and rising pricing power.

An integral part of optimizing all your channels holistically involves automating manual business operations to better enable a seamless, digitized customer experience.

Digitizing and Scaling Channels

In 2019, B2B eCommerce sales skyrocketed to $9 trillion—and this is a pre-pandemic number. Yet, 50% of U.S. manufacturing and distribution B2B sales are still manually processed.

This manual work strains companies in terms of errors and inefficiencies, costs, constrained growth, and a poor customer experience.

To compete and scale in this changing climate, businesses must become agile, resilient, and obsessed with delighting customers. But what’s the most effective way to achieve this goal?

Automate every process that can be automated.

“Automation of an order—in concert with eCommerce, better experience, and better product information—is really the entire picture that modern businesses need to look at,” said Ray Grady, president and CEO at Conexiom.

Enhancing the Customer Experience to Gain a Competitive Advantage

Transactions are just one piece of the customer lifecycle of your entire brand experience. As the pandemic asserts massive pressure on sales teams and branch-based distribution partners, and as B2B consumers hesitate to have sales visit facilities, you must deliver your brand presence digitally.

Perfecting the customer experience leads to customer loyalty, which then leads to retention, enrichment, and advocacy. That’s what drives eCommerce growth.

“More often than not, our [Conexiom] customers are delivering a better customer experience by reallocating labor to have more informed and engaged conversations with customers. At Conexiom, our clients get products to their customers faster and more accurately,” said Ray Grady.

Moving into 2021, modern businesses must use automation to deliver goods seamlessly, quickly, and accurately, all while enhancing the customer experience.

Watch the on-demand webinar in its entirety.

* Source: Forrester Analytics Consumer Technographics ® COVID-19 Survey (Wave 2)