In today’s digital economy, B2B and B2C brands alike are wrestling with the question of how to continuously adapt their e-commerce activities in order to satisfy the constantly changing needs and expectations of buyers. As we’ve seen, this can be a particular challenge for B2B brands, whose buyers are increasingly demanding a purchasing approach that provides the same customized, content-rich, and user-friendly experience that B2C transactions offer.
In order to help B2B and B2C brands better navigate this complex market, e-commerce software leader CloudCraze and cloud sales platform Salesforce conducted a comprehensive survey of more than 300 marketing and IT professionals with the goal of identifying which challenges and opportunities are of foremost importance in the world of digital commerce. The resulting report, “A New Era of Commerce,” reveals important new insights about what e-commerce looks like for digital brands in 2016.
Key findings from the survey include:
Greater investment does not necessarily translate to greater return on investment
Awareness is high among both B2B and B2C brands that a sophisticated digital presence and a high-quality online platform are at the heart of e-commerce success. Consequently, more companies are making significant financial and time-based investments in their digital presence. However, not all are striking a successful balance between the amount of time and money spent and the ability to deliver on the customer experience. While 70% of survey respondents reported spending over $1 million for their current e-commerce site (with 30% spending more than $2 million), a little more than half (53%) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that their site helped their business to be as profitable as possible.
In addition, the average length of time that it currently takes to launch and generate sales from an e-commerce site is far too long for the overwhelming majority of respondents. Only 11% of respondents reported that their current e-commerce site was implemented in less than six months. For 41%, the implementation process took longer than a year.
Revenue stream is the top e-commerce priority
One-third of survey respondents (33%) named driving revenue as their top priority and the top indicator of success for their digital channels. Fulfilling customer preferences and increasing speed-to-market also ranked high as factors influencing company decision-making about technology systems. Competitor systems ranked lowest, with 37% of respondents choosing it as the least important of the four options.
In terms of technological capabilities, the majority of respondents (86%) stated that real-time analytics were either an important or an extremely important capability for digital commerce technology, revealing that in-the-moment customer responsiveness is something that B2B and B2C brands are increasingly prioritizing. In addition, CRM-based systems, which tend to offer centralized databases and thus greater customer visibility, were preferred by 48% of respondents (compared with 43% who preferred back-office, on-premises ERP systems).
An inability to understand customers’ needs and respond quickly are the major e-commerce pain points.
If revenue is the biggest priority for e-commerce today, the customer experience is the biggest pain point. B2B and B2C businesses alike are struggling to adjust to the rapidly changing role of the customer and the incredible speed with which customer expectations can change. Nearly half of survey respondents (49%) stated that a significant challenge with their current e-commerce platform was not being able to update their commerce operations quickly enough based on the changing needs of their customers or their organization. Similarly, scaling activities quickly to the market’s changing demands was identified as a challenge by 45% of respondents. Rounding out the top three was the challenge of gaining a holistic view of customers, which 40% of respondents say they are struggling with.
Mobile is increasingly prioritized, but it doesn’t always come first
There’s no question that mobile capabilities are a must-have capacity in today’s e-commerce landscape for brands of any size and in any field. Fortunately, most brands are on top of this area, with 84% of survey respondents reporting that customers could use mobile devices to access their e-commerce site. However, not all brands have grasped the idea that mobile-first design is a critical feature of today’s hyper-connected age. Simply providing mobile access is only the first step. Ultimately, mobile offerings must be designed with as much sophistication and capability as the desktop experience currently provides.
Pain points are magnified for major brands
The survey revealed an interesting relationship between a brand’s size and the degree to which it experiences the challenges described above. Survey respondents from companies generating over $25 billion in revenue typically rely on legacy e-commerce systems, which seem to be significantly more costly and time consuming to implement. Of the companies surveyed that achieved revenue of more than $25 billion, 37% paid more than $3 million to implement their current e-commerce site, and the process took longer than a year for nearly three-quarters of the respondents (74%). Both of these numbers are significantly higher than the industry average. In addition, the sheer size of these organizations makes rapid customer response particularly difficult: 56% of the companies that exceeded $25 billion in revenue cited scaling activities quickly to the market’s changing demands as their top challenge, compared with the industry average of 45%.