Digital transformation, the reshaping of business activities and processes based on digital tools and technologies, is creating sweeping changes in many areas of life. Startups have introduced disruptive approaches to such simple activities as how to buy a cup of coffee or how to find a tango dance partner while waiting on a flight in the airport.
While consumer sales have been the leading edge of digital transformation, we are now seeing similar innovation in business-to-business marketing. In part, this is caused by new customer expectations which derive consumer goods to business purchasing. Young people today are digital natives who are accustomed to access to digital information and communication. If I can reserve a rental car from my smartphone, why can't I issue a solicitation to buy a new machine for my factory or medical office from a mobile device? Why can't I get an instant estimate for my commercial office move emailed from the estimator's tablet?
A few years ago, it was common for websites to ask you to call a sales person to get further information such as pricing. This is no longer acceptable because buyers want self-service access to technical specifications, training and even pricing information. By the time that they call on the phone or send a request for a quote, they are already well informed and know what to expect from the vendor.
Here is a sample of the old customer engagement process:
- Customer searches online for products and vendors.
- Vendor websites contain brochures with fluffy product descriptions.
- Customer goes to convention center for industry trade show to see products.
- Sales representative gets business card from customer and calls to schedule meeting and demonstration.
- Customer issues purchase order and delivery is scheduled.
Here is a sample of a new customer engagement process:
- Customer goes to an online forum on LinkedIn and asks for product recommendations.
- Web searches for product reviews connect the customer to blogs of thought leaders and product comparisons by third parties as well as to the vendor websites.
- Experts may be consulted online such as reading Gartner or Forrester reports on technology.
- Instead of arranging an in-person sales call, the customer watches YouTube video demos anonymously.
- When the customer downloads a whitepaper from the vendor website, they opt to be added to an email mailing list.
- Product pricing is shown on the vendor's website.
- The vendor invites the customer to a webinar based on their download of the white paper.
- At the webinar, the customer gets answers to their technical questions.
- Customer signs up for free 30-day trial and after 30 days becomes paying customer.
Many of these steps in the customer engagement process are digital and can be personalized, measured, metered, and automated.
For instance, a bank could personalize its website, so that only the most relevant options and promotions are visible based on the behavior of the website visitor. If you click on commercial banking on the top menu, you are likely to be searching for business rather than consumer services, so offers can be tailored appropriately. Businesses such as insurance companies whose prices and products are different depending on your location can show and hide web elements to tailor them to the visitor.
Digital transformation produces benefits for the customer such as quickly finding suitable products at a lower price 24 hours a day, and benefits the seller because they can reduce the cost of sales and end up with customers more likely to be satisfied because they are better informed.
In future blog posts, we will take a closer look at how digital transformation is implemented, using specific tools and technologies.