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Many manufacturers and distributors have been slow to realize the benefits of digital transformation. Despite massive investments in new systems like eCommerce, metrics fail to show a strong return on investment for these technological changes. Over the past few years this has resulted in a growing sense of frustration, bottom lines that are decreasing rather than increasing, and even loss of business.

What many companies fail to realize is that the customer experience has changed in profound ways. In the past, an organization would determine the manner in which their buyers and other partners would interact with them. Manufacturers created the rules for distributors, and distributors determined the playbook for the ways in which customers could engage. This wasn’t based on a dictatorship of course; most traditional buying processes have been created to satisfy the needs of the customers. However, as organizations try to realize the gains from digital transformation, they are missing some massively important points.

Customers are buying differently.

Despite an honest emphasis on customer experiences, and valiant attempts to correctly map the buyer’s journey, companies continue selling the same way they always have. They continue to apply technology to the same, outdated processes. And this is creating failure on a massive scale.

Companies are ignoring customers’ desire to self-serve.  

We’ve all experienced the efficiency from a self-service environment in our personal lives. (Cue the Amazon reference.) Statistics from Forrester and others show that B2B professionals desire the ability to engage in a self-service fashion with manufacturers and distributors as well. It’s not that companies aren’t attempting to provide eCommerce capabilities. It’s that they aren’t building commerce systems that understand the complexity of B2B processes.

B2B roles are not fully supported within the new digital paradigm.

Transactional intensity is a real problem when the roles that are required for complex B2B transactions – from CSR’s, to sales, to technicians in the field– are not recognized and supported by technology. Because B2B commerce can never be entirely self-serve, each and every person involved in the transaction must have a real-time view into customer activity. Commerce is an ecosystem within B2B and everyone involved has to have the right information to do their jobs efficiently.

Buyers don’t have the information they need.

Distributors and manufacturers may be refusing to accept new practices like pricing transparency, and others that provide customers (new ones in particular) with the information they need to do their jobs.  As we said before, their buying practices are changing. Rarely do companies embark on a customer survey endeavor prior to re-tooling their commerce systems (or others for that matter.) And yet understanding how things have changed – not only due to technology, but also because of changes in generational behaviors and other factors – is key to providing systems that can not only be launched efficiently, but enjoy strong and rapid adoption from both employees and buyers.

Organizations are going after the wrong goals.

Unfortunately, the same influences that are driving buyers’ desires for more self-service scenarios are impacting the objectives placed upon the digital transformation of B2B commerce. Manufacturers and distributors need to open their eyes to the true benefits of a hybrid commerce system – the efficiencies that arrive from automating low-value tasks, the decrease in cost of sales as full-service scenarios become more strategically-focused, and the increase in revenues and share-of-wallet from implementing digital tactics that are relevant and transactionally translated for B2B.

A successful, hybrid commerce ecosystem is the key to an effective digital transformation.

Beyond meeting the transformed needs of the customer, organizations must face the fact that to achieve real gains in terms of digital transformation, they must also meet the needs of every role involved in the complex B2B commerce cycle.  At Insite, we call them The People of B2B. This next blog series is dedicated to those people, not merely buyers and sales, but the researchers, the CSR’s, the field technicians, the managers, and everyone who is impacted by this complicated, customized, and continuously evolving business practice we call B2B commerce.

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Manufacturing and distribution companies know that the true value of digital commerce is the ability to make it easier for your customers to do business with you. The B2B buyer is often responsible for purchasing products from one to many vendors or product types

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