The digital experience is a key element of all marketing activities, but that doesn't mean real challenges don't exist for organizations.
In a recent Accenture Interactive report titled "Organizing for Success," a key finding showed that across the board, organizations are having issues with customer retention (37%), processes (37%), customer acquisition (36%), and governance and control (36%). Breaking the response down to just digital market leaders, defined as earning more than half of revenue online, governance and control let the list of challenges at 42%.
"Having conquered the topline challenge of converting digital into increased revenue, these organizations are now focused on improving internal processes that impact their companies’ bottom lines," Bob Barr, managing director of Accenture Interactive, said about the findings.
Accenture Interactive surveyed more than 200 digital executives from a range of B2B companies with job titles including CMO, CDO, CIO, SVP, and VP.
Barr added that, "The identification of governance and control as a leading challenge may indicate that market leaders are becoming more sophisticated in their approach to digital."
Behind the digital sales rise
Another finding the report shed light on was that although B2B companies are generating digital revenue – 25% reported half or more of sales happen digitally – 40% of B2B companies reported earning 10% or less in digital sales. These figures are compared to the 18% of B2C companies and 22% of B2B/B2C hybrid companies that reported earning under 10% in digital sales. At the same time, the most cited key performance indicator by a large margin was revenue at 61%, followed by digital traffic at 40%.
All that being said, B2B marketers can expect digital sales to continue to increase. Compared to previous years, Accenture research shows that in 2013, 57% of B2B buyers made online purchases and the figure rose to 68% in 2014.
Two factors are driving increases in digital B2B sales. First, more Millennials are moving into B2B buying roles and as digital natives they are simply more comfortable with e-commerce than older B2B buyers. And second, there has been a rapid rise in the mobile marketing channel becoming integrated as part of B2B sales.
In fact, Google teamed with Millward Brown Digital for a survey that found 42% of researchers used a mobile device during a B2B purchase in 2014. That marks a 91% increase in the use of mobile devices throughout the B2B buying cycle, and not just during the initial research phase of a B2B purchase.
Chris Dalton, CEO at CloudCraze, an enterprise e-commerce software solution, told Marketing Dive in February that professionals of all ages are becoming more likely to order and interact digitally, but millennials are the main reason B2B digital sales is on the rise. Because younger cohorts have grown up using technology to shop on line, B2B e-commerce is a natural step to take.
He said, "Younger generations have been faster to adopt e-commerce, and in many cases, they are driving adoption of B2B e-commerce."
As digital sales rise, friction in the B2B buying process is reduced – making it that much more appealing for companies to refine their digital strategies as a whole.
Creating a successful digital organization
In terms of structuring successful digital organizations, several methods popped up among respondents, but the most common model cited by respondents was the Digital Center of Excellence (DCoE) at 31%.
The DCoE model provides expertise and standards, and it supports strategy development, but it also requires a long-term approach by making sure digital standards become a core aspect of the business.
The second-most common structural model was Centralized, cited by 28%, and the least used model was Fully Integrated, only cited by 8% of respondents.
As silos continue to break down in marketing departments and more broadly across organizations, digital strategies can help unite teams from sales to IT and marketing.
The Accenture survey showed B2B companies overall have been late to the digital organization game with a quarter of digital organization structures in place for a year or less. Meanwhile, only 3% of B2C companies have had digital structures in place for such a short period of time. Not surprisingly, market leaders have had a digital structure in place the longest with 39% reporting five or more years.
The report points out that digital organizations that are able to transition from the DCoE to fully integrated allows them to have digital thought expertise and also achieve execution excellence.
"A transition from DCoE to fully integrated is not dependent on digital skill-sets alone, it requires digital skill-sets at scale," Saty Chawla, managing director of digital strategy at Accenture Interactive, said.
To meet these challenges, the Accenture research shows that market leaders have "an acute awareness" about the need to invest in digital strategy. They also have areas within their companies that help resolve governance and process issues along with customer-facing concerns. All of which points to a more unified company where teams interact and support each other.
"Our experience shows that this is a steep hill most organizations are unable to climb on their own," Chawla said.