“We eliminate paper in [processes], which is the first and crucial step before you can leverage other technologies such as big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence,”
“Speed of implementation and getting results is crucial to overcoming the cultural resistance to change during any type of transformation.”
“These same principles that Krach outlined at Ariba were also applied at DocuSign, which means being a category kingmaker isn’t luck or fortune. It’s a playbook…. A combination of academic, professional, and personal experiences have made him realize that successful category creation is teachable, duplicative, and all about pattern recognition.”
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With the expectations of B2B buyers increasingly shaped by their consumer behavior in the B2C realm, it’s time for B2B businesses to take a closer look at the kind of user experience they’re delivering online. The fact is that B2B businesses can no longer afford to fall short when it comes to the user experience. Sophisticated B2B buyers will simply take their custom elsewhere if a B2B seller – or, more specifically, their online e-commerce platform – does not measure up to the customer-centric standards that major B2C sellers like Amazon have mastered.
So how can B2B businesses capitalize on this opportunity to better serve their customers by designing and delivering a quality user experience? Keeping these nine best practices in mind is a great place to start.
Ease of navigation
Businesses might be tempted to get fancy with a website’s appearance or features. However, it’s vital not to overlook the main reason why buyers have come to the site in the first place: to find or research a particular product or service. That means that the top priority for a B2B e-commerce site is to make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for. Navigation features like hierarchical product categories and product filters are obvious but essential elements here.
Intuitive search features
Another user-friendly element that makes it even easier for visitors to navigate a B2B website is the use of intuitive search features. Autocompletion can increase the power of a user’s search significantly. Incorporating common product synonyms in descriptions ensures that no search falls short because of language differences. Ranking results by popularity helps deliver the most relevant information quickly.
Superior product images
B2B buyers not only want to find what they’re looking for easily, they want to see it as well, preferably in a manner that’s as representative of real life as possible. This not only means ensuring that users can zoom in on product photos and view multiple images of the product from a variety of angles, it also means including images of the product in real-world settings to provide much-needed context.
A variety of shipping options
Despite the fact that shipping is a key determination in the success of a B2B transaction, it’s an element that many B2B businesses tend to overlook. The most important best practice here is to offer numerous options to satisfy different customer needs.
Some customers will prioritize discounted or free shipping (particularly once a certain spend threshold is reached). Others are prepared to pay extra if that means they will receive their product faster. Still others focus on shipping options that give the customer added control, like the possibility for deliveries after business hours.
Real-time product availability
Timing plays a major role in B2B e-commerce transactions. Seeing that product stock is down to its last few items increases the customer’s sense of urgency and reduces decision-making delays. Simultaneously, it helps manage customer expectations and increase communication and transparency.
Even when products are out of stock, it’s still possible to deliver a great user experience. For example, try allowing users to sign up for an automatic notification that will alert them when the desired product is back in stock.
Flexible payment options
B2B businesses can greatly increase their chances of making a sale – and help make things easier for their buyers – by offering numerous options for accepting payments. This is especially important in the B2B realm, as B2B buyers often require purchase approval from more than one source and may be making purchases from multiple accounts.
B2B e-commerce sites need to be able to easily provide invoices and purchase orders, and to accept payment via check, credit card, or third-party options like PayPal or Google Wallet. It can also be useful to provide regular clients with a corporate account.
Given the varying needs of B2B buyers, having a back-end that is optimized for transactions at both the retail and the wholesale level is an absolute must for B2B e-commerce platforms. Some of the most important features to include here are personalized pricing options according to sales volume as well as custom logins for buyers and pricing options based on those logins.
According to research from Bain & Company, pricing is the single most important factor in determining a B2B company’s profits. As a result, B2B businesses need to pay careful attention to the complex issue of how their products are priced for each customer.
Custom discounts can make an important contribution to a B2B business’ bottom line. Try including introductory pricing for new clients, volume discounts that incentivize large purchases, and legacy pricing to reward and retain long-term customers.
The human touch
B2B buyers don’t want to make purchases from a faceless corporation, they want to feel like they are buying products from real people. To bring this element of human connection to the B2B space, B2B businesses need to be very deliberate in how they communicate with their customers. Reducing the use of jargon and replacing it with genuine messaging can go a long way in helping B2B buyers feel like they’re dealing with people and not a robot.
Our exploration of how the rules of HR are changing in the digital age continues with six more trends from Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report and survey.
What’s it about?—It’s a simple truth that as the nature of work shifts, so should the way we measure and evaluate it. In recent years, companies have been experimenting more with performance management approaches that turn away from simple appraisals in favor of continuous feedback and coaching. This year, according to the Deloitte survey, companies are finishing their experiments and moving toward the deployment of new performance management models on a wide scale. So far, these changes are greatly helping to increase productivity and shift corporate culture.
Where can businesses start?—Though more and more businesses are changing how they measure, evaluate, and recognize employee performance, new tools are not yet in place at every organization. Companies looking to capitalize on this trend should clearly designate a strategy and philosophy for performance management; look to their peers to see new techniques in action; and focus on providing training to managers in coaching and continuous feedback.
Pushing the boundaries of leadership.
What’s it about?—Today’s rapidly transforming companies need strong leaders more than ever, and yet most organizations are having difficulty moving quickly enough to develop digital leaders with the necessary skills and expertise, let alone build completely new leadership models. As a result, the boundaries of traditional leadership hierarchies are being dramatically disrupted, and more agile, diverse, and younger leaders are emerging—sometimes from unexpected places—to take the reins at their companies.
Where can businesses start?—Challenges to the leadership model can be stressful for long-established organizations, but it’s important for companies to embrace this new direction in order to move forward. Businesses should be bold in coming up with a new vision for the organization’s leadership model. In addition, they should not be afraid of identifying prospective digital leaders within the company and promoting younger or newer workers into leadership positions quickly.
What’s it about?—No longer a siloed support function focused on delivering employee services, HR is, in many organizations, at the forefront of digital transformation. The push to “be digital” rather than just to “do digital” is driving the development of a new digital workforce, a more effectively designed digital workplace, and a digital HR function that not only delivers solutions, but continuously experiments and innovates. In other words, it’s not simply a question of digitizing HR platforms—rather, it’s about helping change how people work and how they interact with each other in the workplace.
Where can businesses start?—Fortunately, the path to digital HR is rapidly becoming clearer as expanded options and new platforms and tools gain a greater hold in the business world. Organizations can start down this path by upgrading core technology; developing a multi-year HR technology strategy and building a dedicated digital HR team; and prioritizing innovation as a core strategy within HR.
What’s it about?—Data about people at work is of vital importance today, and not just to specialized technical data scientists, but as a step to achieving broad business objectives and efficiencies. When used properly, people analytics can impact everything from operations and management to financial performance. However, many businesses lack the readiness and expertise to optimize the use of this data and transform it into actionable insights.
Where can businesses start?—Clear leadership and targeted investment can help businesses make a successful people analytics program part of their operations. Making a two- to three-year roadmap for analytics program investment is a good place to start, as is the establishment of a multidisciplinary group from across the organization to outline and understand the broadest possible uses of people data.
Diversity and inclusion.
What’s it about?—All around the world, diversity and inclusion are now CEO-level issues. No longer a “check the box” initiative driven by HR, diversity is an essential element to the digital organization of today, which thrives on open dialogue, collaboration, and complementary working styles. To be most effective, diversity and inclusion should be a comprehensive strategy woven into the very fabric of the talent life cycle, where it can enhance employee engagement, boost the brand, and drive performance improvements.
Where can businesses start?—There is still a “reality gap” between the importance that organizations place on diversity and inclusion, and what’s happening on the ground. Businesses can shrink this gap by leveraging data to look at the facts, identify problems, and measure progress, as well as by providing education initiatives like unconscious bias training. The goal is to build an awareness of diversity into the entire workforce, including management.
The augmented workforce.
What’s it about?—AI systems, robotics, and other cognitive tools and technology are reinventing almost every job, a process that is leading to something that has been dubbed the “augmented workforce.” As this trend picks up speed, organizations must consider how they will design jobs and organize work in the future with people and robots working side by side. The days of considering the workforce to be only those employees on the balance sheet are over.
Where can businesses start?—To understand how new cognitive technologies could change the fabric of their workforce, companies must have a clear and comprehensive understanding of what the picture looks like now. Essential tasks for companies to complete include closely examining how core work actually gets done; identifying all human workforce segments within the company; looking at all types of nonhuman workforces currently in play; and determining what human skills will be critical for the future workforce.
It won’t come as a surprise to today’s business and HR leaders that the title of Deloitte’s recently released, fifth annual Global Human Capital Trends report and survey is “Rewriting the Rules for the Digital Age.” As the report highlights, the present-day workforce is undergoing a seismic shift as a result of dramatic advances in digital technology. This shift has called into question the hows and whys of almost every organizational practice. As a result, business and HR leaders all over the world are having to look beyond old operational paradigms and embrace bold new ways of thinking about their organizations, their people, and their role in the global economy.
For HR leaders struggling with how best to adapt to this dramatically changing landscape, the Deloitte report is an instructive read. Full of insights gathered from more than 10,000 survey respondents in 140 countries, the report presents 10 of the most important trends impacting HR in the digital age, and offers helpful suggestions for leaders on how to incorporate these trends into their workplaces. Read on for a look at the top four of these trends.
Building the organization of the future.
What’s it about?—The question of how to build the organization of the future has topped Deloitte’s list of trends for the past two years. This year, nearly 90% of all survey respondents rated this issue as “important” or “very important.” It’s easy to understand why this is such a priority when we consider not only that today’s high-performing organizations operate very differently than they did even just a decade earlier, but also that many organizations still operate based on industrial-age models that were developed a century or more ago. Consequently, abandoning cumbersome legacy systems and practices is a pressing concern for most businesses today, especially given the rapid pace of transformation and adaptation in the digital change.
Where can businesses start?—There are a number of early steps that businesses can take to start down the road of building the organization of the future. These include making talent mobility a core value, which can be accomplished by moving executives from function to function so that they gain a deeper understanding of a more agile career model. Other strategies involve forming an organizational performance group to interview and study how high-performing teams and programs work, and leveraging new workplace communication tools like Slack or Basecamp to foster greater collaboration and exchange.
Careers and learning.
What’s it about?—The very notion of what a “career” is has changed significantly in recent years. Today, the career of the average worker could span up to 60 years, with the average stay in a single job or role lasting between four and five years. In other words, today’s workers will be looking to continually reinvent themselves, move from role to role, and find or transform their calling over time. If businesses want to make the most of their employees’ skills, they are going to have to support them through this ongoing process by delivering continuous learning opportunities and a business culture that deeply values long-term development.
Where can businesses start?—HR leaders looking to revamp learning and development (L&D) within their organizations have a challenging task ahead, but small initial actions can help pave the way. First, it’s helpful to evaluate internal mobility to ensure that employees have frequent access to new opportunities. Hiring from within is also important, as is bringing back the idea of the “corporate university” where people can come together for cross-functional, interdisciplinary programs and learning experiences.
What’s it about?—Identified as an important or very important issue by 81% of Deloitte survey respondents, talent acquisition is a challenging and contentious area in this age of talent and skill shortages. Interestingly, it has become so important for companies to find the right people for the job that attracting skilled resources is no longer the responsibility of HR alone. Instead, all managers and C-level executives are now realizing the importance of, and their role in, sourcing top talent.
Where can businesses start?—One of the most important ways that businesses can change their approach to talent acquisition is by changing the tools they use to find and connect with candidates. Recruiting today is a sophisticated digital experience, requiring businesses to explore a range of approaches, including social networks, cognitive tools, and video and gaming, in their hunt for great people.
The employee experience.
What’s it about?—Just as digital-age customers have come to expect a different level of experience from the organizations they buy products and services from, employees have come to expect a different kind of workplace experience during their tenure with a company. As a result, more and more businesses are focusing on long-term employee journeys, looking at the needs of their workforce from the first pre-interview contact through retirement and beyond. These companies are finding new ways to reshape the employee experience through broad culture and engagement initiatives.
Where can businesses start?—A holistic approach is needed when it comes to revamping the employee experience. Businesses can start by recognizing that the employee experience is as valuable and can make as much of an impact as the customer experience. Then, they can move on to specific strategies like finding ways to simplify work and improve productivity; visiting peer companies to gain inspiration and discover successful and unsuccessful techniques; and gaining critical buy-in from the C-suite.
Leading research and advisory company Gartner recently wrapped up its 2017 Security and Risk Management Summit. A premier gathering of leaders and executives in the fields of security, risk management, and business continuity management, the annual summit focuses on helping businesses reinvent and refine their thinking on how to handle security and risk in the digital age.
In this era of ransomware attacks and privacy breaches, the issue of cybersecurity was unsurprisingly one of the defining themes of this year’s summit. In a presentation given on the summit’s first day, Gartner analyst and research vice president Earl Perkins outlined five key trends that are expected to shape the cybersecurity landscape in 2017 and 2018.
Changing skills and organizational requirements
Cybersecurity already has a zero percent unemployment rate, and that talent shortage is only expected to grow as the field evolves and the need for new skill sets arises. Data management in particular will become a significant challenge. The next three to five years alone will see organizations generating more data than they ever have before, and that unprecedented volume of information will require highly specialized handling. The need for new skills in data science and analytics will continue to grow, and the industry’s major concerns will include areas like data classes, data governance, and artificial security intelligence. To keep pace with this next phase of cybersecurity, adaptability will be essential, both for organizations and for individuals.
Cloud security as a top priority
Now that cloud computing has become a mainstream activity and the cloud environment is reaching maturity, the cloud is becoming a valuable—and potentially vulnerable—security target. The entire industry will need to work together to prevent a tragedy of the commons in which the stability and security of a shared cloud service is threatened by too many demands from too many different companies, without the corresponding sharing of responsibility for its upkeep. In addition, to keep data safe in the cloud environment, companies will need to make difficult decisions about who they can and cannot trust. Therefore, they should develop rigorous security guidelines for both private and public cloud use, and put in place a model to drive informed decisions concerning cloud risk.
Shifting focus away from protection and prevention
One of the biggest cybersecurity trends discussed at the Gartner summit is one that may be the most difficult for security professionals to accept: the idea that it simply isn’t possible to stop every threat. Executives need to accept that fact and focus their resources on what they can actually accomplish. As Earl Perkins argued in his presentation, it is very difficult to stop a dedicated, well-financed actor who is after something specific in an organization from getting what they want, especially as they can always resort to a company’s weakest link: people. Instead, enterprises should adapt their security setup to focus not on protection, but on detection, response, and remediation, which Perkins described as the new frontier for today’s cybersecurity fight. Indeed, as technology evolves further, we can even expect to see the focus shift yet again from detection and response to prediction, i.e., heading off threats before they even happen.
The development operations center as the leader of application and data security
Despite the fact that there is a new window of opportunity in application security, the associated expense makes most enterprises reluctant to take advantage of it. However, there’s never been a better time to bring together development and operations, and to figure out the best way not only of evaluating the value of security, but of explaining that value to the business. The anticipated result is a necessary shift from DevOps to DevSecOps. Now that an almost endless connection between development and operations is possible due to the drastically shortened time to market, focusing on security within the DevOps context, rather than running each element as an isolated unit, is the essential next step. If enterprises are not working with an internal DevOps team, it’s critical to have a conversation with their service provider about the kind of security they offer.
Digital ecosystems and next-generation security
Safety, reliability, and privacy are the key tenets of cybersecurity, but the interesting thing happening now is that these issues are no longer confined solely to the digital realm. As a result of the rapid rise of the Internet of Things and its millions of connected devices, cybersecurity is now directly linked to the physical safety of people and environments. Bluntly put, when you’re talking about things like self-driving cars or sensors that monitor health conditions and give alerts when it’s time to take medication, enterprises that don’t have a sufficient handle on cybersecurity may be putting people’s lives at risk. Therefore, the next generation of cybersecurity won’t just be about the digital world, but the physical one as well.