My favorite part of marketing is listening to customers talk about their business and digital strategies. HCL Commerce recently hosted a roundtable with Joe Cicman from Forrester Research and 4 of our clients. The discussion was fascinating and in the words of one of the attendees ‘eye-opening!’ I learnt a lot from the discussion, but since the conversation was private, I can share only 3 major take-aways without breaking the confidence of our clients.

1. Customer Journey Mapping

The importance of understanding your customer has never been higher. As more and more companies invest in B2B initiatives to support their digital strategies, mapping the customer journey and understanding the priorities and wants of your customer are paramount. This topic came up so many times throughout the 90 min discussion, whether we were talking about change in buyer behavior, or digital adoption, or even the opportunity or threat from Amazon, it always came back to this fundamental. Understand your key touchpoints, prioritize those that will make the biggest impact on your customers and prepare for the next big wave of change!

Key Take-Away: Do the research to truly understand your buyers, by role, by persona. Don’t try to short-cut the process by relying on your sales team or primary sales channel for input, it will just re-enforce any bias you may already have and slow down adoption of your digital strategy.

2. Change is Accelerating

OK Captain Obvious! Let’s dig a little deeper on what is driving the pace of change. Our clients are not necessarily seeing a shift in digital, just an acceleration and realization of their digital transformations, which they attribute to a number of factors:

  1. It’s a generational change, often mentioned, but the Millennial buyer really wants to engage differently and prefer self-service than having to talk with someone.
  2. The pandemic forced organizations to find ways to engage with customers when they couldn’t sell face to face. Interestingly Gartner is forecasting that by 2024, 15% of B2B organizations will use digital commerce platforms to support both their customers and sales reps in all sales activities.
  3. B2B organizations are using Amazon as inspiration for change. Amazon is pushing them on innovation and performance. The way that B2B organizations can differentiate themselves from Amazon is by selling solutions and not products.

Key Take-Away: Millennial buyers want to buy quickly and move on to the next task, making cross-sell and up-sell challenging. Think about making short-form content, that quickly engages and drives conversions based on the device that your personas typically use – mobile, tablet or desktop.

3. B2B is Complex – Clients Want to Learn From Each Other

Listening to the 4 clients talk about their business, each one was unique but in the challenges they faced there were some common threads. Growing their business through touchpoints; Reducing the cost of sale; Collecting signals for personalization, from data before and after login (self-identifying customers). Ideas shared by one client were clearly adaptable enough to help another. Perhaps that’s why one participant in his closing comments said it had been ‘eye-opening’.

Key Take-Away: Not so much a take-away but expect more than just software (commerce platform) from your vendor. A true partner will provide the opportunities to network with your peers, hear best practices from industry experts like Forrester Research, expand your thinking with innovative approaches (a couple come to mind from the discussion that are ready for launch, but my lips are sealed!)

Not all our roundtables are behind closed doors – join us to hear HP, DFS and Coppel clients talk live with Gary Schoch in our next CommerceConnect roundtable on Oct 5.


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Further Reading
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