The 3 Key Objectives of an eCommerce Strategy
eCommerce drives profitable growth by expanding customer reach, reducing cost-to-serve, and creating differentiated customer experiences. Utilizing this powerful tool wisely has become eminently important for business-to-business (B2B) companies. Looking at the current B2B environment, eCommerce has proven to be a disruptive force. More and more B2B companies are moving a significant portion of the buying journey online, and these buyers are increasingly expecting a similar eCommerce experience as consumers.
In order to capture this customer need, companies should first raise the bar on their expectations from their digital channel, repositioning it from merely a transactional sales channel to an engine of growth and setting goals accordingly. Secondly, they must examine the buying journey. eCommerce has evolved into digital commerce, which facilitates an online experience that spans the entire buying journey, from discovery to evaluation through purchase, delivery, and support. This means that sales are enabled or driven digitally—even if the transaction itself is not ultimately conducted online. Finally, B2B companies should allocate eCommerce roles and responsibilities across the customer chain to offer the best customer experience.
What is the Goal(s)?
B2B companies should set clear goals on how their digital capabilities will drive growth. The first goal is to reach new customers, especially those that may have been difficult to access, too costly to serve, or not valuable enough to pursue within a firm’s existing business model.
The second goal is to take costs out of serving customers. Some components of the digital experience—such as discovery, evaluation and support—can be more cost-effective and deliver better results than traditional delivery mechanisms.
The third goal is to create a differentiated customer experience to capture market share. In B2B, a differentiated customer experience typically revolves around three elements of how quickly and easily the customer can:
- Find the best solution for their needs
- Make a purchase, and
- Get information/answers to their questions
What elements of the buying journey will be enabled digitally?
The buying journey consists of five main elements: discovery, evaluation, purchase, delivery, and support. For an effective eCommerce strategy, B2B companies should explore which elements to enable digitally.
To make this decision, they should consider multiple factors including the goal of their eCommerce strategy, how eCommerce friendly the element of the buying journey is, the impact of digitally enabling the element, and, finally, customer and channel partner expectations.
The goal for the eCommerce strategy is a key consideration in determining which elements of the buying journey should be targeted. For example, a strategy built around reducing costs to serve will focus on elements of the buying journey that are costly and low value-add, and a strategy that focuses on creating a differentiated customer experience will target the elements with the greatest influence on the experience.
Who Will Take the Lead?
Once the elements of the buying journey are determined, the question shifts to who should take the lead on delivering these elements: the suppliers themselves or their channel partners. Key questions pertaining to content, sales, fulfillment, and post-sale support—depending on the goals of the eCommerce strategy—need to be answered. To make these decisions, a supplier needs to consider several factors: the value of controlling the eCommerce experience, their capabilities versus those of their channel partners, the extra value-add channel partners provide, and investment and costs.
Putting it All Together
Combining decisions on what elements of the buying journey will be enabled digitally and who will take the lead sets the foundation for the model a B2B supplier will deploy as its eCommerce strategy. At its highest level there are four models, but with many variations within them.
The Path Forward
It’s time for B2B suppliers to move from reactive to proactive when it comes to eCommerce. By setting clear goals, deciding which elements of the buying journey will be enabled digitally, and determining who will take the lead, a B2B supplier will have the foundation for an effective eCommerce strategy.