In yesterday’s Financieel Dagblad-column Annet Aris – Fontainebleau professor of digital strategy – describes the imminent digital disruption’s impact on business-to-business. Sofar says Aris, digital impact in B2B has been much more limited than in B2C.
B2B companies in her opinion are slower to change their behavior than individuals. And due to patents and intimate buyer relationships, B2B products allegedly are better protected against newcomers.
Aris underestimates the role buyers themselves play in the shifting B2B landscape. With a staggering 50% or more of the buying cycle being completed autonomously i.e. not appreciating ‘help’ by a salesguy, vendors’ control of buyers’ behavior is evaporating. Much like a drop of water on a shiny hot back of a german sunbather on the Costa Del Sol in mid July.
Furthermore, our economy is increasingly driven by services, not just products. Let’s have a closer look at industries like transportation & logistics, the creative sector, energy and water. Their success depends more and more on the smart platforms of experts, content and service. In the B2B buying cycle, the product (or service for that matter) has always been just one element in the various steps that make up the buying path. A company’s reputation, listening skills and help provided to come to customer success are but three factors that are rapidly becoming at least just as important.
When it comes to B2B players’ incredible sluggishness to adapt to the fast changing digital world around them however, Aris hit the nail on the head. Yet it’s because of their current ‘intimate customer relationships’ so many B2B commercial directors and business owners prefer to send an armada of blond, tall-legged accountmanagers in Audi A4s to visit prospects and customers alike. Rather than building trust from a distance, leveraging social and digital channels to both better understand and serve the customer.
Aris then spends the remainder of her column to describe the Industry 4.0 era, the notion of SMART industry. Industry 4.0 – a term coined by the Germans – is driven by various factors including the internet of things (devices communicating autonomously with one another), AR (artificial intelligence), augmented reality as already seen by apps like Layar, 3D printing and a much closer collaboration between man and robot.
Aris’ column aptly describes how Production as a Service-platforms will far better connect demand and supply, ensuring production capacity is no longer ‘owned’ by individual companies yet organized over a network of companies.
Production itself may change, but what about the even bigger impact 3D printing will have on companies like DHL or UPS? What about surgeons being aided or sometimes even replaced by robots performing high precision surgical operations?
Or Artificial Intelligence solutions that will help B2B players to see and understand new patterns of information, previously hidden. Or Augmented Reality that will not only help to impressively shorten innovation cycles yet which will also far better help prospects to understand the value of a new service or product. Empowering prospects with new levels of insight whilst further reducing the need for salesmeetings and expensive demos by sales executives jumping on an airplane.
It’s this kind of digital disruption – shaking up your business model and commercial process – that no B2B player can deny will happen in his own industry. Rather than
thinking your B2B-business is immune to the impact of digital disruption, start by making small steps in your digital journey.
Asking yourselves these simple questions: do we serve our customers and prospects well enough in their digital channel-of-choice, 24/7/365? How can we better balance outbound and inbound marketing & sales in attracting, converting and enthusing the best prospects and customers? And finally: how can we come to a better digital, yet personal buying experience?
Want to assess how to master digital disruption rather than become its helpless slave? Drop us a line and we’ll be in touch at the moment of your convenience.