Let’s start with an example. Alex uses supplier e-commerce channels to inform his decisions as a buyer. His boss sends an email Friday at 4 p.m. asking Alex to create a report for a Monday morning meeting. The meeting will look into historical purchasing and demand habits for Alex’s suppliers, and his report will help inform important decisions. Alex knows that charts and graphics are the best way to convey his information, so he spends the weekend manually inputting data, deciding which numbers to include, and creating charts to show various trends and insights so that the team can draw insights from past behavior.
Why is Alex’s story important? It reminds us that graphical data representation is the norm for communicating business outcomes or forecasting future demand, yet there are challenges with data access, identification of patterns, and the task can be laborious without advanced software.
It also tells us that there is an opportunity to solve Alex’s pain point. What if Alex’s supplier had an online portal with a dynamic experience for him to drag and drop various input points? Wouldn’t Alex be more likely to adopt the supplier’s online portal and build more loyalty?
B2B portals can differentiate themselves by serving customers their own data and allowing them to build custom dashboards and visualizations. This, in turn, helps them make sense of their business and create brand loyalty and technology adoption.
In the world of B2B digital commerce, charts, graphs, and other visual tools enable customers to support their business operations through meaningful interpretation of data. In Alex’s case, one of his main suppliers is a multinational oil and gas company with operations spanning the globe. They have a B2B commerce channel which allows the company to efficiently communicate information to Alex, who manages several gas stations and a regional distributor, about business operations.
Alex’s supplier invested in the creation of a graphical tool to display customers’ financial positions. The goal was to equip customers like Alex with a robust tool to understand the financial metrics of their business locations by month. Here are a few ways a tool like this can help B2B customers make informed decisions:
- Viewing various price points over time helps them make quick decisions about the financial allocations and meet business obligations.
- Viewing their purchase volume can help predict demands for specific products over a period of time. This helps them forecast their inventory needs and manage their cash flows appropriately.
- Viewing credit card sales, fees, and total cost equips customers with the full understanding of the ratio of sales versus fees along with the percentage of cost.
Due to the global nature of Alex’s business, localizing the information to specific regions using language, currency, and other internationalization settings adds an additional layer to the benefits derived by providing these system capabilities to your B2B customers.
There are several e-commerce packages in the market that offer outstanding solutions to cater to B2B companies and those use cases. However, none are equipped to leverage the data in a way that produces insights and more transparency for the buyers using the digital channel. Here are two ways to solve for data depiction and help derive insights:
- Business intelligence analytics packages: These packages have a much more robust set of visualizations and provide more flexibility to play with the data and create new dimensions in their visualizations and search for insights. However, this approach requires your team to feed all the data into a second platform in addition to the integration into your customer experience which may result in longer development cycles.
Achieving this vision is not hard but requires discipline and a clear approach. Adopting an agile mindset and a fail fast style can bring these new capabilities to market and get feedback directly from customers to deliver on what they need the most first. These are some of the considerations to succeed:
- Start small and add incremental improvements: There is a common challenge among businesses of where and how to start with many overengineering solutions and data points. In reality, it’s vital to initiate a simple start, learn, test, and adjust. Key learnings can be observed with enhancements incorporated throughout the journey.
- Identify acceptable data quality points: Most businesses face challenges with their data. One critical factor for representing data graphically is determining the state of data, cleansing efforts, and utilization points. A simple baseline can be established with cleansing efforts running in parallel as part of the overall optimization initiative.
- Avoid bias in understanding pain points: This can be achieved by conducting several levels of interviews and then forming a comprehensive evaluation instead of individual opinions.
- Focus on practicality: Data needs to be represented in a meaningful and insightful way. For example, a purchase history can be depicted graphically, allowing users to filter results at different levels: annually, monthly, weekly, and daily.
There are many benefits of offering these capabilities to customers in your digital channel:
- Create loyalty and stickiness: Your customers will love this added service and will be enticed to come back to your digital channel more frequently. When those insights start to help their own business operations, they will also become your brand advocates and develop bias towards your company.
- More digital orders: Having more people visiting your digital properties more frequently will naturally result in them migrating quicker to your online channel for ordering, instead of relying on your traditional sales operations. It’s well known that digital ordering provides an advantage over traditional methods as it reduces your cost to serve and allows your people to focus more on added value activities.
- Cross-sell and upsell: Now that you have their attention in the digital channel, you can adopt additional digital marketing and personalization capabilities to educate your customers about the full breadth of products and services, and offer cross- and upsells at any time during their digital experience.
Alex’s story and pain point feel familiar to many in the e-commerce world, but hopefully not for long. Over the past three years, Deloitte Digital has incorporated data visualization solutions into the e-commerce strategy at several companies across industries and sectors to help them create more value from their B2B e-commerce investments. We can help build one integrated journey which enables best-in-class ecommerce capabilities that are further enhanced by visual representation of data to extract insights. Reach out to us!
Antonio Caroprese, managing director at Deloitte Digital, is a leader in Digital Marketing and Commerce who brings years of experience implementing complex solutions for B2B and B2C companies.
Sami Bouz, senior manager at Deloitte Digital, is an experienced digital marketing, e-commerce, and web content management leader. He has extensive experience in providing customized, business-focused consulting and information technology solutions to multiple industry clients in the B2B and B2C domains.
Jake Zhao, senior manager at Deloitte Digital, is an e-commerce expert who has led and supervised some of the largest and most complex B2B and B2C commerce implementations in North America using both SDLC and SCRUM methodologies.