This is a guest post from Akeneo PIM partner BigCommerce.
In 1995, two soon-to-be internet giants made a modest foray into eCommerce. Amazon sold its first book, Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies, and eBay auctioned a broken laser pointer.
The digital landscape has evolved dramatically in the years since. Now, nearly 60% of the global population, or 4.57 billion people, have internet access, and more than 3 billion use smartphones. Digital shoppers are finding products through websites, mobile apps, marketplaces, and social media, and businesses of all sizes, including manufacturers, warehouses, and distributors, have eCommerce platforms.
B2B is expected to be the largest area of eCommerce growth over the next five years, making it essential for businesses to embrace digital transformation to boost competitiveness. Digital transformation is about more than incorporating innovations into the workflow to improve efficiency and productivity — it also positions companies to quickly respond to changing consumer expectations and opens new revenue streams.
Let’s take a closer look at trends driving digital transformation and how companies can prepare for future growth in an increasingly customer-centric environment.
Social Trends Driving Digital Transformation
The most significant push toward digital transformation is the shift of consumers online, with an estimated population of 230.5 million digital shoppers in the United States by 2021. Consumers are buying through a variety of channels, and purchasing decision-makers are carrying this buying trend to the workplace. Here’s why consumer behavior is making digital transformation critical for all businesses.
1. Customers are making more online purchases
Online sales are growing at a rapid pace. The global eCommerce market is projected to hit $24.2 trillion sales by 2025, a CAGR of 11.1% from 2018. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic altered consumer behavior and sent more shoppers online, B2B eCommerce in the United States was forecast to reach $1.8 trillion and account for 17% of all B2B sales by 2023.
B2B sales are, in part, driven by globalization and technology, but also a changing demographic, as 73% of millennials are involved in purchasing roles, according to one Merit study. This generation is accustomed to navigating an online environment in all aspects of life and is increasingly turning to digital channels to improve productivity and efficiency at work.
2. Omnichannel is becoming prevalent
While businesses may have multiple channels for reaching customers, there’s now an expectation that customers can navigate between them seamlessly. Known as omnichannel commerce, this customer-centric approach brings together traditional and digital channels to create a singular experience, no matter what touchpoint a client is using.
Whether a customer is interacting with a company through a website, smartphone, social media, physical storefront, chatbot, sales department, or customer care, the same information must be available and delivered consistently. Digital transformation sets the framework for this interaction.
3. Having an online presence is valuable
More than 8 out of 10 Americans are online every day. Pew Research reports that 28% are online almost constantly, and 45% are browsing several times a day. Not only is a digital presence essential, but savvy consumers expect sleek designs and functionality expect this experience whether they’re on a B2C website, like Camelbak and Natori, or a B2B eCommerce platform.
According to senior B2B executives, clients want a digital sales channel for the convenience of buying online (72%) and not waiting for a sales rep (52%). They also like to see inventory, delivery times, product information, and order history.
A robust digital presence extends beyond an eCommerce website. Bliss, for example, opens additional channels of communication with customers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. Businesses also need to build trust with consumers by providing social proof, which LARQ accomplishes by prominently displaying the 5-star rating for its LARQ bottles at the top of its product page and linking to reviews.
Digital Trends Shaping eCommerce
New digital technologies that can optimize efficiency and deliver rich user experiences are coming online every day. Before adding to your tech stack, consider what problems the technology solves and how it supports desired outcomes. Here are recent innovations that can improve eCommerce workflow and customer engagement.
1. Automation is essential for growth.
As more people turn to online and omnichannel shopping, automation is key to managing sales across platforms and boosting productivity. Basic tasks, like generating invoices, shipping labels, and tracking information, can be automated. Centrally storing product information lets you distribute consistent, up-to-date information through multiple channels.
Businesses can also integrate their PIM tools with inventory management software to track online and in-store purchases and automatically replenish low stock.
2. Customer engagement marketing.
Customer engagement marketing focuses on engaging customers across all channels in a way that’s relevant and satisfies their needs.
- Video is in demand
In the United States, 85% of internet users consume online video content on YouTube, social media, websites, and other platforms. Millennials who are involved in purchasing decisions rate video as a preferred channel for learning about B2B products and vendors.
Businesses use video testimonials, tutorials, and product demos in a variety of ways. Skullcandy, for instance, places a video highlighting features of Sesh Evo earbuds directly on its product page, while Bliss has demonstrations of its skincare line on YouTube and TikTok.
Chatbots offer immediate support 24/7 to customers who have questions or problems on a website, helping to remove friction and offering an alternative to emailing or calling customer service. More than one-third of consumers prefer an instant response from a bot to waiting for a delayed reply from a person.
Bots can also seamlessly prioritize and direct inquiries to humans.
3. Measurements across all devices
Consumers expect personalization during their shopping journey, but 34% of marketers don’t have access to relevant data, while 40% struggle to link data to marketing efforts. Digital transformation can offer the tools to pull this information instantly and put it to work to conduct targeted advertising, improve decision-making, and convert sales.
- Data-driven targeting
Businesses can leverage data from an eCommerce platform to customize marketing. Consider offering discounts to customers with low average order values or providing product announcements to frequent customers based on transaction history. Sales teams can also identify inactive customers and begin re-establishing relationships.
- Smarter retargeting
Retargeting involves serving up an ad campaign that appears on social media, search page results, and websites to re-engage consumers that interacted with your business. Smarter retargeting focuses on specific segments. For example, instead of randomly serving a generic ad to all users who visited a website, improve conversion by tracking which pages a consumer visited and delivering relevant content.
As the digital world changes at a blistering pace, eCommerce platforms must keep up with customer expectations. Traditional eCommerce sites connect the front and back ends, meaning that updates to the look and feel of a site also require changes to the technical engine, which runs the platform. Headless commerce separates the two components, allowing updates to be made independently.
- Customization and personalization
As marketers develop new ways of engaging customers, headless commerce enables front-end customized features to be introduced much faster than in a traditional eCommerce system. The ability to quickly change what a customer sees or how they interact is critical considering 67% of consumers say content must be personalized according to context.
- Increased flexibility
Headless commerce also facilitates the move to omnichannel, opening up consumer interaction from endless entry points. The front end can be set up for easy access from social media platforms, mobile apps, and kiosks. Data in the back end related to inventory, pricing, customer information, and checkout, can be called using an API and made available without overhauling the entire site.
Headless commerce offers significant potential for future growth as channels evolve. Businesses can also integrate their systems using cloud computing, which provides further flexibility and scalability.
Rise of the use of PWAs
Some businesses maintain a website and separate native mobile apps for Android and iOS. Progressive web apps (PWAs) are a relatively new application type that offers the navigation, appearance, and features of a native app — including push notifications — while also boasting the accessibility of a website.
- Speed and accessibility
A one-second delay in loading a web page can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. Smartphone users encounter additional friction with websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. PWAs eliminate these challenges with fast, reliable performance even without an internet connection. They take little disk space on mobile and are extremely responsive, allowing for a smooth customer experience.
- Reach a wider audience
PWAs make the rich experience of a native app available to a wider audience on mobile devices. Consumers add the PWA to the home screen of their phones with a click, eliminating the need to download a separate app. The application works on all devices and browsers, freeing developer resources. PWAs also appear in search engines and can be ranked high based on fast load times and reduced bounce rates.
The promise of digital transformation
Customer standards and expectations in B2C and B2B transactions are rapidly evolving as consumers shift online, onto smartphones, and toward omnichannel.
With all signs pointing to continued digital growth, it’s critical for businesses to embrace digital transformation. Tools like automation, video, chatbots, customer data, headless commerce, and progressive web apps can be effectively leveraged to improve productivity and efficiency. More importantly, digital transformation positions businesses to meet changing customer needs and scalability for future growth.
For more information on BigCommerce, visit their website.