Digital transformation through platform adoption isn’t easy, but it helps when you have a strong partner to help with the heavy lifting.
Digitized B2B platforms fail all the time. An investigation of 252 platforms in the US showed that more than 80% failed within 5 years of launch. There are many reasons for this, including discounted relationships, disintermediation, failed pricing models, and cultural resistance.
Digital commerce exists to augment the sales organization.
Phil Bird writing for Perfect Channel suggests that sales veterans accustomed to negotiating purchases over the phone may be reluctant to transition to digitized customer platforms. They may even feel that their role in the sales process might be made redundant. This apprehension is intricately linked with another challenge – the potential failure to bridge technology with human interaction. Yet the high-touch, relationship-driven side of the business doesn’t have to take a backseat particularly when developing complex customer solutions. Digital commerce exists to augment the sales organization.
Change management as part of the digital transformation journey cannot be underestimated and in the ICT space, resellers and SI’s need not go it alone. Your digital platform partner can provide a steady pair of hands as you prepare to navigate a two-speed world.
Start with strategy…
One of the main reasons businesses fail at digital commerce is because they didn’t make it a strategic priority. Digitization should not be a transient ambition. It requires strategic vision and long-term investment. Senior stakeholders need to be aligned and take collective responsibility for that digital vision, and the CEO needs to be its most passionate advocate.
Legacy processes are built around people. How do you then automate these?
In a 2019 article on digitalcommerce360.com, Karie Daudt made an important point. She said that part of laying the strategic groundwork is about looking at your internal processes. Legacy processes are built around people. How do you then automate these? For example, on-boarding needs to be timely and frictionless. Staying on the topic of people, foresight is required in understanding what results a digital platform can and should deliver for the business in order to manage stakeholder expectations. How many existing customers can you immediately on-board? How much revenue will pass through the platform to begin with and then in the longer term? Your platform partner is integral to this part of the journey. Not only does this create shared ownership for platform success, it also allows you to draw from the platform partner’s previous implementation experience. Targets, project resources and platform requirements need to be collaboratively workshopped and captured in a project flight plan.
Then move onto what a digital platform needs to deliver technically.
Although B2B platforms need to mirror B2C platforms experientially, they tend to be more complex technically. A good B2B digital marketplace needs to be able to handle inter alia complex catalogs and multi-tier pricing. Deep functionality imbues the platform with utility and maximises the buying experience. If this there is a disconnect between the customer experience and their expectations of the buying experience, they will circumvent the online platform and revert to contacting your sales team directly.
Once the technical requirements are confirmed, it’s time to begin operationalizing the implementation.
Once again, your platform partner can be a valuable resource in getting the sales organization on-board. I’ll draw again from key points mentioned by Karie Daudt. She correctly suggests that change management within the sales organization is essential to digital commerce adoption.
… the experience that a client has in the platform matches or even surpasses the level of service they receive face to face.
Armed with a deep understanding of the platforms benefits and functionality, your platform partner can assist in building the critical bridge between technology and human interaction.
Sales team are not just the face of the business. Their institutional knowledge and deep understanding of their clients’ requirements is vital to the on-boarding process. Sales and account managers need to be confident that the experience that a client has in the platform matches or even surpasses the level of service they receive face to face. Irrespective of the depth of the platform’s functionality, engaging the sales team in training interventions is a good idea. They need to be as versed in the features and benefits of the platform as the platform vendor. Most often, digital platforms help to remove some of the more repetitive or low value tasks from the sales team’s plate.
Your platform partner is a valuable resource in helping to workshop these solutions.
To help drive stickiness, platforms also need to allow for more complex, productized solutions. After all, these are the solutions that provide your business with a key point of differentiation. Sales teams hold an immense amount of knowledge about individual customer requirements and what solutions need to be built for specific verticals or business’s within these verticals. Your platform partner is a valuable resource in helping to workshop these solutions. They can assist in articulating customer facing features and benefits, value equations and implications. In summary, your platform partner can help you package solutions and load these onto the platform for your customers to buy.
Now focus on getting your customers onboarded.
Successful onboarding achieves 3 things: reduces customer churn, decreases support inquiries, and helps the customer achieve their use case as quickly as possible. If your customer has a suboptimal onboarding experience, they are likely to churn in the first 30 – 90 days. The causes for churn arise during the onboarding process. If the onboarding process is played loose and fast, it’s unlikely that your customer will wait around to realise any platform value. Customer onboarding is measured entirely by the value delivered. Value might mean different things for different customers as they may have divergent goals and needs. So, it becomes important to tailor the onboarding process accordingly and find the shortest path to help the achieve their goals (a short path = a low churn rate).
Customer onboarding is measured entirely by the value delivered. Value might mean different things for different customers…
Your platform partner should definitely assist with this last mile of the journey. The onboarding process can be aided by a number of partner support mechanisms including, marketing, sales, and technical support. If your platform partner is as passionate about successfully onboarding your customers as you, they will assist in developing customer specific collateral and ensure that platform integration is frictionless.
About the author:
Dave Smythe is Head of Marketing at ChannelCenter. ChannelCenter’s fully digitised customer platform is uniquely positioned to help ICT resellers and customers engage and transact. Although we believe in the plug and play nature of our platform, we partner with you and do much of the heavy lifting to ensure hassle-free integration and successful platform adoption.