At the beginning of the month, the Zaelab team packed up and made their way to Chicago. We kicked off May by attending B2B Online with some of our key partners and clients. We exhibited, tuned in to great discussions and sessions, hosted an off-site networking event, and closed out B2B Online 2023 with my keynote for the delegation.
Our conversations at the event confirmed what we talk about at Zaelab constantly: B2B digital commerce is moving beyond foundations. In my presentation, I posed this question: Once you have the essential elements of B2B commerce in place — what's next?
My sense was that the audience was ready to answer the question, but didn’t quite know where to start.
What's next is innovation, where stakeholders remove the customer lens and reflect on how B2B commerce impacts the business at large. "How can innovation drive this B2B business further ahead?”
Critical Elements of a B2B Commerce Experience
A strong commerce foundation is essential to any B2B digital experience. Understanding commerce components, how to bring them together, and what mixes well together to make an exceptional user experience is key to the initial implementation.
From account management and order management to order automation and self-service, many critical elements are required to deliver a digital experience. Without proper visualization and/or benchmarking, this phase one of B2B commerce can become a holding pattern, where businesses spend time adjusting, tweaking, integrating, or reimplementing basic commerce components.
At B2B Online, I shared the importance of getting the foundation right and implemented rapidly. It is building on this foundation that primes a B2B business to win. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing widely our tool for visualizing what B2B commerce components are required, not required, or advanced, and what comes out of the box with commerce platforms, versus what should be adapted, enhanced, or eliminated. Stay tuned.
The point is this: the importance of establishing a foundation is imperative. But it is not the end game. And how a B2B business innovates beyond the foundation is where we should be applying focus.
Unifying Sales, Dealers, and Service Processes
One glaring area of B2B commerce innovation is experience unification. So many B2B companies are plagued with disjointed experiences, all attempting to accomplish selling activities. This high friction to conduct business results in a poor and inconsistent customer experience, an inability to trust data, user inefficiencies, and complexities in driving the bottom line.
In my keynote, I pointed out that unifying sales, dealers, and service processes by delivering persona-based digital experiences can create new and meaningful opportunities for collaboration. Think about it:
- Sales: Enable field sales with a digital customer experience that allows them to quickly support their customers on the go through customer order history or order entry.
- Dealers: Provide customers with a personalized digital experience to quickly self-service, research products, manage carts, order tracking, and place orders.
- Service: Provide customer service with better tooling and AI that evolves their work from order entry to enhancing relationships and upselling customers.
By breaking through organizational silos and embracing new tools like immersive technology to streamline complex sales, B2B can realize objectives and win in the market.
Breaking the Mold, Embracing Innovation
We need to move past the days of “you get what you get” and ask critical questions about the experience delivered to the market. For example, commerce typically starts with the product, which completely overlooks the fact that in B2B, the experience nearly always starts with the customer or account.
How about manual order entry processes? Organizations still process billions of orders via legacy channels like email, phone, and fax. That just seems ridiculous considering the AI and automation options at our disposal today.
Immersive commerce experiences are key for complex product sales. And in B2B, selling is complex. What comes out of the box with your commerce engine may not — and in fact, likely won’t — suffice. We need to embrace innovation, with elements like:
- Composable Commerce
Encapsulating headless and MACH practices, composable commerce solves problems at the business use case level, by enabling flexibility on the frontend.
- Visual Commerce
B2B visual commerce solutions close the gap between complex selling and enhanced buying experiences through interactive 3D product experiences that enhance the overall customer experience.
- Guided Selling
B2B guided selling is next-generation solution selling. Instead of relying on subjective research, intuition, and basic content, sales playbooks have been replaced by an AI selling strategy.
Innovation isn’t just a solution. It’s a mindset, commitment, and evolution beyond the foundation to deliver leading B2B commerce experiences to market. I enjoyed sharing my perspective at B2B Online this year, and look forward to seeing where the conversation goes from here.
Zaelab is the premier B2B commerce consultancy. Talk to us about implementing a winning digital strategy today.