The gap in digital maturity between B2B and B2C companies is narrowing, according to the 2017 Digital Trends in B2B report, which found that the B2B sector is showing maturity in terms of prioritising digital strategy. The research, conducted by Econsultancy in partnership with Adobe, highlights the progress being made in B2B marketing as digital experiences in the consumer world continue to bleed into B2B journeys.
According to the report, most B2B companies view themselves as digital first, so why the gap? The research suggests that consumer-facing companies are more in tune with customer expectations and the technologies and tools they use to market to them are often superior to those used in the B2B world. Despite a lack of capabilities holding them back, B2B is getting the message. And customer experience (CX) and digital transformation are taking a more prominent role in digital strategy. Here are some key findings from the report.
B2B is overcoming culture hurdles to make digital a priority. B2B priorities and strategies remain offline-focused and the challenge is in transforming the customer experience to reflect customer behavior. For example, why are websites functioning like shop windows when they could be a shopping mall of information with digital integrated through the entire journey? Technology aids the transformation of the digital culture. Yet, 38 percent of B2B marketers find culture (a cross-team approach with the customer at the heart of all initiatives) as difficult to master.
Digital strategy is important for success according to 76 percent of B2B respondents, yet 43 percent don’t have one clearly defined. Without a comprehensive strategy, the components of the customer experience are unlikely to come together successfully.
Mobile is still not a strategic focus. B2B companies are 29 percent less likely than B2C companies to rank mobile as a top three strategic priority for 2017, and only 12 percent are making mobile optimisation a tactical priority. While some progress has been made, investment in mobile remains low.
The report cites a lack of confidence in measuring mobile and offline mindsets as contributing factors, but it’s important to note that B2B companies often use mobile channels primarily for support and education rather than strictly for marketing.
The personalisation mandate has arrived. Data is a key strength and priority of B2B, and most organisations are more likely to use online data this year to optimise the offline experience and vice versa. Investment in data remains high with 50 percent of respondents planning to increase budgets for marketing analytics in 2017. Data analysis capabilities are seen as the most important factor in delivering a great customer experience.
Highly targeted campaigns are producing strong results for leaders, suggesting that personalisation is likely to be an area of growth in B2B over the coming year. A fifth of respondents said they are placing their highest CX emphasis on improving personalisation in 2017, second only to increasing the value of the experience. True value comes from delivering what customers need at the moment they need it, and a large part of this will be achieved through personalisation.
There’s help building the CX of the future. The majority of B2B marketers are focused on CX as a strategic priority (91 percent), even as they are less likely to use CX as a key differentiator. Not surprisingly, content is cited as the biggest opportunity for improving digital experiences in B2B. A top priority, it’s likely we’ll see increased budgets in content marketing this year. How do B2B companies plan to use content to optimise CX? Many will try to replicate the experience customers have in the B2C world. The challenge, of course, will be in successfully responding to the pain points felt by several actors, not just one individual.
Looking ahead, the Internet of Things (IoT), connected devices, and artificial intelligence (AI) are set to enhance personalisation of marketing through increased data collection this year. AI is automating the collection process, identification, targeting, and servicing of prospects and clients—a sure way to align marketing and sales—always a challenge for B2B. Marketers are excited about the prospects, but few understand how to integrate them into their strategy. The good news? It won’t be long before this provision comes standard with a marketing suite.
Digital transformation is taking shape in B2B. Are you ready? Learn more and grab a few actionable tips to help future-proof your business in our latest report.