May 19, 2020

The shift in B2B buying expectations is real: addressing omnichannel challenges

Stefan Schmidt
digital channel
Stefan Schmidt, VP of Product ...
3 min
The shift in B2B buying expectations is real: addressing omnichannel challenges

The shift in B2B buying expectations is real: addressing omnichannel challenges

According to a recent Forrester report, evolving consumer customer experiences are resulting in a shift in B2B buying expectations. The research reveals that while B2B buying journeys are traditionally offline and linear, there is a growing demand for digital channels more in line with those provided by B2C organisations. Over half of the B2B customers surveyed stated that they anticipate making 50 percent of purchases online in the next three years.

B2B buying expectations already mirror consumer demand for omnichannel options and flexibility. While B2B customers have specific needs for their businesses, their need for convenience is just as important as in the B2C world. For example, almost 78 percent of B2B customers say fulfilment options such as next-day delivery, are important or very important. Almost three quarters of respondents would value self-service access to accounts and orders.

The majority of B2B suppliers surveyed understand that omnichannel investment is crucial to serve the customers of today (87 percent), to be successful in the longer term (86 percent), and to drive sales and profit (83 percent). Equally, some B2B businesses are making omnichannel technology investments in line with these needs.

However, some common challenges emerged, particularly in terms of process and organisational structure: 

•             The top barrier to omnichannel implementation is back-office integration across channels (44 percent)

•             42 percent of B2B companies point to difficulty sharing customer data and analytics between channels, countries, or locations

•             40 percent say they are limited by distribution partners, franchises or wholesale customers

•             More than a third (36 percent) report a conflict between different channel organisations

•             Other challenges include implementation difficulty (or lack of business incentives, 33 percent), limited staff skills (32 percent), and employee or management resistance (31 percent)

What does this mean for B2B businesses, and how can they start to rise to these challenges?

1.            Use customer behaviour to inform organisational structure

Organisational and structural problems come up time and again – and can be seen clearly in this study, through the conflict between channel organisations, limited staff skills and internal resistance from employees and management.

B2B companies that can take their lead from customer requirements, rather than internal structures, will be better equipped to overcome organisational challenges.

2.            Break down business process obstacles

B2B businesses need to break down the siloes between existing channels, in order to deliver the omnichannel features their buyers have come to expect – such as personalisation and cross-channel visibility.

3.            Anticipate customers’ needs

Nearly two thirds of B2B businesses (62 percent) have identified automated price optimisation and personal recommendations as high on their investment agenda. Savvy B2B suppliers are looking to the future, today.

The Forrester research confirms that the shift in B2B buying expectations is real and well underway. As B2C omnichannel approaches become more sophisticated, we should expect to see the B2B world follow. While investment in omnichannel technology will be integral for building successful cross-channel customer relationships, the reality is that B2B organisations may have to fundamentally rethink strategies for engagement. As siloes break down, it won’t just be organisations’ technology that needs to become more integrated, their people and processes will have to follow suit.

You can download a copy of the ‘Building the B2B Omnichannel Commerce Platform of the Future’ report here. The paper explores how B2B buyer expectations are transforming how suppliers sell and deliver products and services. Forrester surveyed 526 B2B companies and 930 B2B buyers across Canada, France, Germany, the US, and the UK at organisations with at least 1,000 employees.

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Jun 16, 2021

SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data

British Army
3 min
Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM, explains the important role that SAS is playing in the British Army’s digital transformation

SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation. 

“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.

In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”

Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.

Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”

SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”

With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.

“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”

Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.

“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”


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