Expert: How to create a digital B2B strategy

Kristina: Why are companies moving away from traditional buying habits and turning to digital channels?

Sharon Ruddock, Head, SAP Digital Commerce Group: There are several strategic initiatives we see driving organizations to digital buying, with the top three being moving to the cloud, cost-cutting in IT, and improving operational velocity.

Digital transformation is what ties all of this together. A common component of this is a move to the cloud, which creates the need for quicker, more simple procurement in the enterprise to help brands keep pace with the rapid rate of change across the business landscape. Cost-cutting strategies, particularly those focused on the IT function of a business, are also fueled by enterprise demand to modernize existing business processes with digital technologies. Additionally, improving operational velocity through agile, powerful and user-friendly solutions (many of which are often cloud-based) are typically the result of IT-centric actions within larger digital-transformation initiatives.

Based on these business imperatives, we’re seeing more and more B2B companies seeking out faster and easier ways to buy, with an increased focus on experiencing a buyer journey that is transparent all the way from discovery to purchase and beyond.

Kristina: Why is it critical for the B2B buying experience to be just as convenient and frictionless as the B2C buying experience?

Sharon: When we look at the B2C shopper journey, there are key elements that drive customer satisfaction the most. Look at Amazon or other large retailers with online/mobile shopping options, like Walmart. Convenience, amount of resources and items to buy, speed of purchase and time spent shopping all factor into how consumers engage with various brands.

On the B2B side, digital transformation again plays a large role. The internet, followed by smart, mobile devices, made it possible for buyers to purchase with a single click. It was never a matter of if the easy, quick B2C buyer nature would spill over into B2B transactions, but when. As companies continue to transform their processes in the modern era, they require instant, convenient digital access to the solutions they need to achieve transformation success. It has become the number one commodity. Many organizations no longer have weeks or months to shop around and test solutions. They need them fast. Today’s businesses demand a buying experience that comes without delays, so they can get access to their solutions within days, or even within hours (and sometimes even minutes) if needed.

Kristina: What are the benefits of digital B2B buying?

Sharon: Our recent B2B commerce survey with Futurum Research uncovered time and resource efficiency, price transparency, speed and simplicity as key benefits for digital B2B buying. To us, this isn’t surprising. These benefits align closely with the value expectations of B2C shoppers and are the same values organizations look for when adopting a digital buying model.

Specifically, the data shows 9 in 10 organizations are already engaged in digital buying of enterprise software. Of these, over 89 percent cite time and resource efficiency as a top benefit with price transparency coming in second at 87 percent. Additionally, 84 percent noted speed and over 83 percent noted simplicity as other value benefits.

Kristina: How do you expect the consumerization of B2B to extend into 2020?

Sharon: More than 80 percent of organizations are no longer following calendarized buying cycles when procuring solutions for their businesses. It’s a large percentage and marks an important industry shift when it comes to how businesses are choosing to make enterprise software purchases. The 2019 U.S. B2B Ecommerce Market Report showed that, for the first time, U.S. companies completed more sales electronically than through traditional means such as by phone or via paper forms.

This has a lot to do with who currently makes up a majority of the workforce – Millennials – and how they prefer to buy. Looking ahead to 2020, we’ll see more B2B enterprises taking a page from the playbook of their B2C counterparts – investing more time and resources into knowing and understanding their customers, personalizing each experience and delivering the tools and solutions these customers need in the space, time and capacity they want.

Jan 13, 2020 | 12:01 pm


Kristina Knight is a freelance writer based in Ohio, United States. She began her career in radio and television broadcasting, focusing her energies on health and business reporting. After six years in the industry, Kristina branched out on her own. Since 2001, her articles have appeared in Family Delegate, Credit Union Business, and with Threshold Media.