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Justifying a Digital Commerce Investment

B2B Experts Share Key Drivers to Support Digital Commerce Buy-in and Bring ROI

Today’s B2B buying process is now digitized, and the proof is in the latest industry statistics. With 90% of B2B buyers currently using online search to research products and 55% expected to make at least half of their work purchases online by 2020, a digital commerce channel is essential to survival.

To help B2B professionals understand the impact of a digital presence and, more importantly, learn how to justify and support a return on their investment, Unilog hosted an exclusive online webinar featuring two industry authorities: eCommerce expert and author Brian Beck, and Michael Eichinger, COO of Bay Fastening Systems, a mid-market industrial supply company that has taken digital commerce by storm. Together, they broke down the key drivers for ROI, and reinforced the efficacy of digital commerce by highlighting case study examples and Bay Fastening’s own eCommerce achievements.

B2B buyers are driving suppliers to a digital experience

In an age when people are forced to do more with less, employees are looking for ways to work smarter, not harder. It’s not a surprise, then, that Forrester Research found the top two reasons B2B professionals make purchases online versus offline are convenience and speed. In fact, Beck explained, a faster, more convenient way to shop trumped a lower price shopping experience. “Buyers are putting more priority on making their jobs easier than getting the lowest price,” he said. “That’s a really important takeaway because if you can make the buyers’ job easier and faster, they are going to order from you more often.”

For those businesses worried that an eCommerce site will impact their traditional sales model, Eichinger said traditional sales won’t go away, but there will be a bit of a trade-off. When – the eCommerce site Bay Fastening implemented with Unilog in 2014 – went live, they saw a shift from traditional sales to digital sales as more customers started buying online. But, as their transition to digital continued, they noticed their digital channel was also feeding into their traditional sales. They acquired new customers in people who found them online but wanted to do business in a traditional fashion through a representative. “What started out as a bit of a trade-off actually turned into growth in both sales sectors and, as a result, we’re trending towards 125% of our entire sales revenue since we started our digital transformation,” said Eichinger.

Beck stressed to webinar attendees that digital commerce does not replace account management; it only enhances its effectiveness. A self-service site with a customer portal, up-to-date product information and pricing, and multiple transactional methods opens the doors to greater opportunities for sales staff to:

  • Focus on building customer relationships and new customer acquisition
  • Develop more strategic goals for greater sales impact
  • Profitably service smaller customers that they normally can’t get to
  • Spend more time on complicated selling activities

Consider an eCommerce site as an incremental addition to your sales channels; it provides more convenience for your customers, and allows sales staff to better serve them. These efficiencies and benefits translate to tangible ROI for your company.

Three core elements of digital commerce ROI

Many B2B professionals find themselves in the same boat. They realize the importance of a digital commerce presence, but don’t know how to build a proper business case and provide anticipated ROI to their leadership team. Beck explained that successful ROI models for B2B eCommerce are built around increased revenue, increased profit, and organizational efficiency. Ultimately, he said these returns – which he refers to as lift, shift, and enablement – lead to higher enterprise valuation. He added, “What that means is your owners will be happy because the business is worth more. So whether you’re public or private, that’s a good outcome.”

Beck and Eichinger delved into these three ROI elements, providing solid use case examples and actionable tips for attendees. Here are just a few nuggets they shared:

  1. Increased sales (lift)

    There are multiple ways you can build sales through eCommerce. When you make a buyer’s job more efficient, the opportunity for reorders increases, as does the average ticket price. Digital commerce allows you to expose more of your catalog to a wider audience and new markets, so invest in digital marketing, SEO, and selling in additional marketplaces like Amazon Business to build visibility and incremental revenue. Eichinger said they developed a strong SEO strategy for their website, which has helped them rank high in online search results, and acquire 25 to 35 new customers every week. “Our quality content is driving everything for us; it drives Amazon, it drives Google, it drives our customers,” said Eichinger. “We think of our website as our ultimate salesman in the electronic space.”

  2. Higher profits (shift)

    Another way to increase ROI is by shifting routine transactions to more efficient channels. As Beck relayed from Forrester’s study, customers are willing to pay a premium for convenience. Self-service shopping is an important option for buyers, especially for reorders and quick purchases. When you shift more buyers to transact on your eCommerce site, not only will you experience a higher gross margin from your website, but you’ll also see increased overall revenue at a higher profit margin. For Bay Fastening, their site helped them double their business, and the ROI from their digital sales gave them the resources to invest in other areas of their business.

  3. Organizational efficiencies (enablement)

    Self-service is a great way to improve the customer experience and grow digital sales, but it also drives a number of internal efficiencies. When your customers have the ability to manage their standard service-related needs on your website, it frees up your resources to focus on higher-value work. Beck said organizations can expect efficiencies across many different functions in the organization – from sales and marketing to customer support and fulfillment. Bay Fastening continues to experience major time and cost savings due to their self-service site, including 81% time savings in order entering, and an 83% reduction in warehouse order processing times.

Research and case studies unequivocally show a trend toward digital. According to Beck, selling online is a win-win proposition for everyone because it’s more cost-effective for distributors and manufacturers, and more convenient for buyers. He also stressed that the B2B professionals in buying roles today are younger, digital natives with higher expectations shaped by their experiences on retail sites. “These new buyers just want to get in, get their work done, and move on,” stated Beck. “That’s why digital transformation is necessary for you to survive as a business.”

Beck and Eichinger shared a lot more great insight during the hour-long webinar, including ways to gain executive buy-in, how to take a customer-centric approach, lessons learned during Bay Fastening’s digital journey, and the benefits of a B2B-specific eCommerce platform like Unilog’s.

If you missed this Unilog online event, you can click here to watch the webinar in its entirety.

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