Digital Experience

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Digital Experience

Digital transformation is driving the B2B experience

For years, you’ve been hearing “The future of marketing is digital.” Well …

Welcome to the future.

The digital transformation has arrived — with accelerated speed in 2020 due to COVID-19 — and B2B companies and marketers are racing to adapt to the changing landscape. The digital transformation is forcing companies to adapt their business models and marketing strategies to the new reality of an “always connected” audience.

Your digital experience is essentially your company’s ability to tell a cohesive story about your brand, products, and solutions across all online channels. Today’s customers expect you to deliver the right content at the right time, and in the place, format, and device of their choosing. It’s their journey that informs your strategy. To keep up with your customers, your business must put customer experience at the center of your strategy.

That means it’s more important than ever for marketing to join forces with customer service, sales, and operations to ensure an optimal experience at every stage of the customer journey, from awareness and consideration to post-purchase and loyalty. With this comes the opportunity to give marketing a more prominent seat at the table as a driver of digital transformation at your organization.

Fortunately, many organizations are putting their customers first. In fact,

90%

of B2B leaders say customer experience is crucial to their companies’ strategic priorities.

According to research from IDC, two-thirds of the CEOs of Global 2000 companies will shift their focus from traditional offline strategies to more modern digital strategies to improve their customer experience — with 34% of companies believing they’ll fully adopt the benefits of digital transformation within 12 months or less, which explains the increase in digital spending.

In 2018, the net global spending on digital transformation was nearly $1 trillion. This number is expected to increase to $2.3 trillion by 2023.

Furthermore, 97% of enterprise decision-makers believe the pandemic sped up their company’s digital transformation, 95% are seeking new ways of engaging customers as a result of COVID-19, and 92% claim that transforming digital communications is extremely or very critical to address current business challenges.

B2B customers want great experiences, too.

B2B Customers Experiences

Putting your customers at the center of your strategy means making sure your online experience is up to par. This experience is the connection between your website and all of your digital experiences, including search, email, and social media. The people who interact with your brand online bring with them the same expectations that they have in engaging with consumer brands, and part of this expectation is that they’ll have a consistent brand experience online and offline. 

Consumers are accustomed to seamless, personalized experiences that anticipate their needs. B2C companies like Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, Target, and many more have changed the way we experience brands online and through our mobile devices. 

Uber Logo
Airbnb Logo
Netflix Logo
Target Corporation Logo

But this experience doesn’t just apply to B2C — B2B companies are taking note, and companies like Salesforce, HubSpot, Slack, and Zendesk are leading the way by providing connected, human-to-human experiences that stack up to those of leading B2C brands. The B2B customer experience includes creating a personalized omnichannel experience and building lasting relationships while providing convenient digital solutions.

Salesforce Logo
Hubspot Logo
Slack Logo
Zendesk
Customer-focused marketers understand that a multichannel experience where brands may be present but inconsistent across channels is simply not enough. Instead, omnichannel marketing keeps the customer at the center, providing a consistent, unified experience regardless of channel or device.

Jennifer Ruggle

Managing Director, Digital Services
Two Rivers Marketing

Omnichannel vs. multichannel marketing

You might be wondering about the difference between omnichannel and multichannel marketing. Although both multi- and omnichannel involve selling across multiple physical and digital channels, the key difference is how the customer experience is unified across those channels.

Multichannel

Multichannel marketing (meaning “many” channels) revolves around your product and spans several different channels, like social, mobile, direct mail, and a physical location. Each channel is often treated independently from the others.

Omnichannel

Omnichannel marketing (meaning “all” channels) revolves around your customer and creates a single, consistent customer experience across your brand by unifying sales and marketing to account for the spillover between channels.

It all begins with search

With so many channels — and often limited time and budget — it can be difficult to know where to begin. Start where your customers start their online experience: search. A whopping 93% of all online experiences begin with search, so it should be no surprise that when B2B decision-makers have a question or problem, search is where they turn.

According to Google, 90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases, 71%, of those B2B researchers begin with a generic search, and B2B researchers do an average of 12 searches before engaging on a specific brand’s site.

Search used for Business 90%
90% of B2B researchers use search
for business purchases
71% Begin with Generic Search
71% of those begin with a
generic search
57% of the way down the path

Research shows that those involved in the buying process are already 57% of the way down the path to a decision before they’ll actually perform an action on your site.

In the early days of the web, search engine optimization (SEO) was all about helping people find content that exactly matched their search query. But it’s no longer enough for your brand to simply answer search queries. To differentiate your brand from your competitors in search, it’s important to think beyond providing content that simply answers basic questions. 

To ensure a successful search presence, B2B marketers must think about the complex buyer’s journey and understand the psyche of their customers as they navigate the decision-making process. Search is more than just keywords. It’s understanding the audience’s needs and what questions and problems they are trying to solve, and then creating content that not only provides a solution but also provides an optimal user experience from the search engine results pages (SERPs) to your website experience. The best way to get your search engine optimization on the right track is to develop an SEO strategy that:

Evaluates the overall health of your website, including technical SEO

Includes keyword research to inform content creation and on-page optimizations

Monitors top competitor keyword rankings and SEO metrics

Leverages backlink strategy to acquire high-authority links from credible sources

Ensures an optimal user experience across all of your priority content

Your website is the hub of your online experience

B2B marketing once relied heavily on meeting face to face with decision-makers to sell products and services to them. Now buyers conduct most of their research on their own, online, before contacting a sales representative. Much of this change is driven by the increasing role of millennials in buying decisions. According to a study of millennial buyers by Merit:

73%

of U.S. millennials are involved in purchase decision-making at their companies, with one-third reporting they are the sole decision-maker for their department.

56%

of U.S. millennials are turning to digital channels, such as search engines, vendor websites, and social media, in the initial phases of researching products and services.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced buyers to turn to virtual solutions that include supplier websites. According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company more than 75% of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions.

  • Only about 20% of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales, even in sectors where field-sales models have traditionally dominated, such as pharma and medical products.
  • Over 90% of B2B decision-makers expect the remote and digital model to stick around for the long run, and 3 out of 4 believe the new model is as effective or more so than it was before COVID-19 (for both existing customers and prospects).
  • 99% of B2B buyers claim they will make a purchase in an end-to-end digital self-serve model, with the vast majority very comfortable spending $50K or more online.

At the center of your audience’s online research is your website, the hub of your online experience. Whether your customers are finding you via search, social, or email, their final destination, and often first introduction to your brand, is likely your website. Your website is like a digital handshake for new prospects, and so it should clearly and compellingly communicate who you are, what you do, and why they should care.

PUTTING YOUR CUSTOMERS AT THE CENTER OF YOUR WEBSITE STRATEGY MEANS BALANCING YOUR BUSINESS OBJECTIVES WITH THE NEEDS OF YOUR AUDIENCE AND HAVING A CLEAR ROADMAP FOR THE FEATURES, CONTENT, AND FUNCTIONALITY OF YOUR SITE. DOWNLOAD OUR WEBSITE ROADMAP TEMPLATE TO HELP GUIDE YOU IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

Download the Roadmap

Keep the following in mind when considering your business objectives and the needs of your audience:

  • Your audience is an expert in what they do, so your site needs to speak their language and provide a variety of content types, including articles, white papers and more to meet their needs during the decision-making process.
  • From a campaign perspective, your website should support the promotion of a single marketing campaign or offer.
  • With more emphasis on personalization and first-party data, it’s also critical to provide plenty of opportunities for your audience to engage with you.
  • In all cases, you should be thinking of your website as a two-way communication platform, providing content and collecting information so you can better meet their needs.
Here are some key features modern websites typically include:
Resources
  • Articles/blogs
  • White papers
  • Tools and calculators
  • Videos

Interactive Content
  • 360 photos and videos
  • Experiential content
  • Interactive infographics
  • Sales enablement tools

Lead Gen
  • Preference center
  • Email/newsletter sign-up
  • Lead forms
  • Offers

Sales/Support
  • Contact form
  • Sales/support phone
  • Sales/support email
  • Live chat

Web strategies in 2020 and beyond must not only consider an evolving audience but also the monumental shift to mobile devices, transparency, and accessibility.

Mobile plays an increasingly critical role in the B2B customer journey. In fact, mobile accounts for approximately half of web traffic worldwide, and 70% of B2B buyers increased mobile usage over the past years. B2B businesses must strive to engage potential customers on their smartphones, or they risk losing sales and market share. The increasing use of mobile devices is reflected at the workplace as well, with 80% of B2B buyers using mobile at work (BCG). For B2B buyers, the digital experience plays a particularly important role in the early stages of formulating purchase intent.

Also growing in importance is the need to focus on transparency and data privacy, which has become a hot topic over the last few years with new regulations like GDPR, ePR, CPPA/CPRA, and the SHIELD Act cropping up. In an era of security breaches and growing consumer distrust, governing personal data on your website and being able to prove it is key to data privacy compliance. B2B companies can minimize risk by implementing site-wide data privacy and security policies and functionality that safeguard and mitigate potential risks to personal data.

In addition to the shift to mobile and increased importance on transparency, accessibility of your digital content is critical to providing an optimal user experience for all, including people with disabilities, who comprise 15% of the world’s population or over a billion people, according to the World Health Organization. This number is expected to double by 2050.

Web accessibility is the practice of designing and building websites in a manner that is inclusive for all users, including those with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, or visual disabilities.

Implemented correctly, accessible web design should improve the user experience for all web visitors. To achieve this, the W3C (The World Wide Web Consortium) has created the “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” 2.1 (WCAG 2.1), which are meant to explain and guide developers on how to make websites accessible. These guidelines have been adopted by governments around the world and are now a part of the ADA Section 508 and others.

Download our ADA website checklist to help you understand the changes you may need to make to bring your website into compliance.

DOWNLOAD NOW

And finally, no web presence is complete without analytics to gather information about how your users are behaving and interacting with your content to ensure your company is always learning and evolving with your customers’ changing needs. Web analytics tools, like enterprise analytics platforms and tag managers, can help you measure the ROI of your marketing efforts, gain insights about customer behavior, improve your site’s user experience, predict trends, and identify actionable takeaways to better position your digital strategies for success in the future.

Here are some key metrics to look at when tracking your B2B website performance:

  • Traffic volume/sessions
  • Average session duration
  • Pageviews
  • Pages per session
  • Traffic by source/channel
  • Engagement metrics
  • Top landing pages
  • Goal conversion rate
  • Breakdown by location, device, and browser

Thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, modern web analytics tools now have stronger capabilities that enable businesses to generate more robust data-driven insights and make informed decisions about their marketing efforts. However, data privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA, and changes to first- and third-party cookie tracking in browsers, are also impacting web analytics data. If you’ve noticed a drop-off in behavioral data for EU and CA visitors, or discrepancies for key metrics like unique users or session data, you’re not alone. B2B marketers will need to continue to adapt to the shifting data landscape as data privacy continues to grow in importance among consumers.

What About Social Media?

Yes, social media plays a vital and growing role in your B2B digital marketing efforts – especially when it comes to building relationships with customers. Look for our chapter focusing specifically on social in early 2021.

Email remains a top channel for B2B marketers

Email has been around for decades, and yet it continues to reign as a top channel for B2B marketers long after everyone predicted it would die out. In fact, in a time when most marketers struggle to break through the noise, email continues to be a viable and effective direct marketing tactic. The last 10 years have seen massive changes in email marketing, design, technology, and standards, and the next decade will see even more.

Just as your customer’s expectations have evolved across your other digital channels, your email strategy must also evolve to meet the changing needs of your B2B audience. In order to use email effectively today, businesses must employ an audience-centric and integrated content marketing approach to email, leveraging best practices through data and technology to dynamically deliver content to achieve an automated, scalable solution. This includes delivering relevant content to subscribers based on audience segmentation, as well as leveraging a variety of technology integrations such as your CRM.

The benefits of this approach include:

  • Driving conversions — Personalized content delivery that meets and anticipates user needs dramatically impacts click-through rates and conversions.
  • Superior customer experience — An integrated content marketing approach leverages content across channels, delivering a unified consistent message throughout the online experience.
  • Increased operational efficiencies — Dynamic email content delivery drastically reduces the manual time and effort required to deliver highly personalized, targeted email content while aligning to content planning efforts. 

With an ROI of 42:1, email marketing is more effective than ever, significantly outperforming other channels. One of the reasons email continues to be so effective is its ability to generate and nurture leads throughout the buyer’s journey. A lifecycle email strategy can inform your audience of new products, promotions, resources, and services while continuing to nurture existing customers post-purchase with affinity-building content to drive increased engagement and loyalty. This data-driven approach relies on the stage of the buyer’s journey and other known information to send personalized, relevant messages at the right time.

Are you getting the most out of your email strategy? Answer these five questions to find out:

Is your email strategy part of an integrated content strategy?

Does your email strategy leverage customer data and technology to deliver personalized content?

Does your email strategy utilize marketing automation technology to deliver content in an automated manner?

Does your email strategy balance priority business needs with user interests and needs?

Are your emails performing within industry benchmarks?

Make your tech stack work smarter, not harder

If your website is the hub of your online marketing efforts, your tech stack is the engine and the intelligence that drives your success. It connects the dots between sales, marketing, and operations to ensure a smooth customer journey every step of the way. A scalable, integrated tech stack enables the development, deployment, and most importantly the measurement of highly segmented marketing campaigns. 

Marketing technology is now one of the largest portions of a company's total marketing budget, at an average of 26% according to Gartner. Your tech stack can help you make the most of your marketing dollars by leveraging customer data to increase the impact and efficiency of your marketing efforts. See if you’re getting the most out of your tech stack today by taking an inventory of your current marketing tools and how they impact your internal collaboration, marketing activities, and customer experience; then identify any gaps or challenges before aligning on your marketing technology needs.

Your digital experience will define your success in 2021 and beyond

The next few years will promise a wide array of digital opportunities and challenges for B2B marketers. Customer demands will change and evolve more quickly along with the technologies and channels you use to reach them. But it’s important to remember that the fundamentals don’t change — know your audience, speak to them on their terms, and create a consistent and compelling brand story that resonates with their needs.

Is your organization ready to adapt to the changing landscape?

If you’re looking for an experienced agency partner to help you with your digital strategy and execution, the team at Two Rivers would love to start a conversation.

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