The new B2B growth equation (2023)

(15 pages)

After two years of near-continuous business disruption, B2B companies have finally responded to meet their customers' omnichannel expectations. Or so they think. McKinsey's latest global B2B Pulse report shows that B2B companies have struck a balance in their omnichannel capabilities, just in time for customers to upset that balance again.

Our study, which surveyed nearly 3,500 decision makers in 12 markets (and more than 21,000 as of 2016), found that customers want "more" from omnichannel: more channels, more convenience, and a more personalized experience. And when they don't get what they're looking for, they go elsewhere.

The results are a wake-up call. B2B companies that assume they have crossed the omnichannel barrier in sales and marketing need to rethink. Among the headlines:

  • Omnichannel is a way of sharing growth.The more channels a sales organization uses, the greater the gains in market share.
  • There are no exceptions. NoB2B customers prefer omnichannel, regardless of industry, country, size, or stage of the customer relationship.
  • B2B loyalty is winning.More than ever, customers are willing to switch providers to deliver exceptional omnichannel experiences.
  • Do your numbers.The new benchmark for omnichannel excellence is ten or more channels across three engagement modes (in-person, remote, and self-service), delivered 24/7.
  • Domina los cinco "must have".Clients agree on the five skills they havemostthey want omnichannel, and they want everything from performance guarantees to real-time customer service.

But the good news is buried in the 300,000+ data points we collected in our latest B2B Pulse. If keeping up with omnichannel customer expectations seems like a game of two steps forward, one step back, B2B companies now have a unique opportunity to significantly shift their engagement, through increased orchestration, integration, and personalization.

The Great Rebalancing: From Channel Peaks to Omnichannel Equilibrium

Customers have been asking for omnichannel sales for years, and our research shows that more and more B2B companies are getting the message. Gone is the pandemic-related volatility that caused some B2B companies to go full e-commerce or return to field sales after lockdown ended. Instead, B2B companies are beginning to deliver what customers have long wanted: the right balance across multiple channels.

And customers react. An important finding from our global B2B Pulse is that the "rule of thirds" has been established. Faced with choices between traditional (eg, face-to-face), remote (eg, video conferencing or phone), and self-service (eg, e-commerce) interactions, shoppers around the world have shown who want them all, and measure them equally in all markets. the world shopping trip (Figure 1).


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We are committed to our customers so that they can interact with us in the way they choose, whether it is by fax, calling a customer service representative, or doing business with us online.

Chris Breslin, President of Farnell Global and Avnet Digital

Rebalancing works: omnichannel is more effective than traditional sales models alone

As more companies enable face-to-face, remote, and e-commerce interactions, satisfaction with the sales model increases exponentially. More than 90% of B2B companies say that their marketing model is the same or more effective than it was before the start of the pandemic. And 31% believe their model is “much more effective” at reaching and serving customers, compared to 9% who said the same thing two years ago – a triple difference (Figure 2).


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From a seller's perspective, omnichannel is an "omni" opportunity that makes their job easier and allows for higher revenue growth. And providers say they're just as optimistic about an omnichannel ecosystem as they are about engaging with existing customers.

The power of true omnichannel is understanding all the channels our customers use throughout their journey and how they want to use them. If you don't understand what that journey is, you won't be able to provide the right information at the right time.

Victoria Morrissey, directora de marketing, Ferguson Enterprises

Outliers prove the rule of thirds works

Break the rule of thirds and customers won't be the only unhappy ones; Sellers will be too. despite the warningsomeWith the improvement in go-to-market results over the past two years, respondents from B2B companies in France and Japan are much less likely to say they are satisfied with the performance of their sales model than their peers in other markets. In fact, 14% of respondents in France say their models are now "less effective" than before the start of the pandemic (Figure 3). It should be noted that companies in both markets tend to use traditional sales models and prefer face-to-face contact.

There is no such thing as standing still: today, omnichannel is a world of ten channels

Five years ago, omnichannel meant offering four or five channels. Now our data shows that customers want and expect ongoing interactions at ten or more companies (Figure 4). And companies that responded quickly to this demand benefited: 72% of B2B companies that sell through seven or more channels increased their market share (Figure 5).


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As customers transitioned from predominantly face-to-face meetings to more virtual interactions, we adjusted our engagement model. We prioritize more specific virtual platforms to share academic skills and build credibility in our work, optimizing opportunities for live engagement whenever possible.

Gina Mullane, directora de marketing, Charles River Laboratories

Many of the channels customers request have digital roots, with video, chat, and e-commerce all seeing much higher customer adoption. For example, mobile apps appeared for the first time on the list of most used channels in 2019.

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Mobile has largely enabled these rising expectations, largely replacing the customer service representative of yesteryear. There shouldn't be a limit to the types of transactions that can be done on your phone.

Tom House, CTO, Noble

B2B companies looking to test and refine new opportunities, especially digital ones, should look to early adopter markets. For example, customers in India now use an average of 11 channels in their checkout process. And in Brazil, almost a third of B2B customers were already using ten or more channels in 2019.

The five new essentials for customer loyalty

For B2B companies, getting to that point is not enough; You need to prepare for what's next: delivering consistent and exceptional experiences across the omnichannel ecosystem.

Most B2B clients around the world say that if the top five needs are not met when working with suppliers, they will actively look for another supplier. Nearly 80% of B2B customers say a performance guarantee is critical to brand loyalty, including a full refund if the product or service fails to meet the agreed level of performance. Other must-haves include displaying product availability online, enabling purchases on any channel, providing real-time customer service, and providing a consistent shopping experience as shoppers switch channels (Exhibit 6). And B2B customers who wantallOf those options, 80 to 90 percent will probably want the other four!


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Our B2B Pulse also highlighted areas that B2Bs shouldn't be emphasizing. When asked to rate loyalty drivers, customers around the world put rewards programs and virtual/3D product demos at the bottom of their list.

Next on the list: Markets are the next generation for the next generation of leaders

Market leaders invest in markets while improving the quality of their brand's websites. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of companies that have created their own marketplace have seen an increase in market share in the past two years. Among companies that did not create a market, only 42% of companies saw their shares grow, a difference of 1.7 times (Figure 7).


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Brand sites behind paywalls also take center stage: 57% of B2B decision makers say they find it more convenient to transact online on a vendor site that is behind a paywall.

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Orchestrate, integrate and customize to win in the new omnichannel world

Instead of constantly tracking the omnichannel needs of their customers, leading B2B companies can predict where that curve is heading and stay ahead, improving customer value and the opportunity to grow market share. To see how.

1. Become a tour orchestrator

B2B decision makers are omnichannel customers in the macro and micro sense. You use multiple channelsaboveshopping trip andwithineach purchase phase of this trip (Annex 8). And while some shoppers gravitate toward face-to-face interactions for complex, high-value deals, many happily embrace digital self-service for larger purchases.


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To meet these expectations, sales professionals must become travel planners, directing customers to the channels their shopper intelligence determines are most useful for specific audiences and purchase stages. In addition, suppliers may need to change their online product mix and introduce new pricing processes to streamline quotes and approvals for high-value purchases.

2. Integrate, integrate, integrate

Agility is key, and a hybrid sales model is a natural enabler, as it includes more than one channel by definition and is integrated by design. Hybrid sellers step into their shoes and are ready to serve customers the way they want, seamlessly across all channels, resulting in faster market share growth and fewer channel conflicts ( Figure 9, Part 1). About 40% of companies have added hybrid sellers to their ranks in the last two years, and this role will become the second most important role in B2B sales over the next three years (Figure 9, Part 2).

9, part 1

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9, part 2

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Agility has increased the ability of marketing to better translate the sales message. They are closer to the needs of their customers and better equipped to develop tools and materials that delight them. For IT, agility means seamlessly integrating with marketing, sales and operations, with direct connections to customers to create digital assets that bridge disparate data and create seamless experiences, regardless of channel.

Mark Mintz, chief information officer, Charles River Laboratories

3. Customize everything

Custom reach should become the de facto method of engaging across all channels. Providing customers with intuitive user interfaces, friendly transitions between channels, and speed, transparency, and experience have become key differentiators in the marketplace.

One of the biggest changes we've seen in the way customers interact with businesses is how quickly the bar has been raised. There is a greater demand to know immediately who they are, what they want and how to obtain the product/service that interests them.

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Tom House, CTO, Noble

Customers don't want to do without in-person visits entirely – 68% see this as a sign of how much a supplier values ​​a relationship. But the personal is not a one-size-fits-all approach to personalization. Customers around the world, including the unconventional markets of France and Japan, describe providers as "very busy" when it comes to meeting in person. Globally, 61 percent of buyers say they get as much benefit from meeting with suppliers via video conference as they do from face-to-face visits. And in China, India and the United States, that number rises to a staggering 72%.

Tailoring interactions to individual markets requires a deeper understanding of data manipulation and analysis. While this requires investment, the return can be substantial. The more adept an organization becomes at personalization, the greater the inventory gains (Figure 10).


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A uniform range of services does not fit all. We will use tools like machine learning or AI to evaluate our own data to tailor offers for the different types of customers we serve. For example, if a customer searches for something on our site, we can serve them relevant content the next time they return.

Chris Breslin, President of Farnell Global and Avnet Digital

Customers are willing to spend more remotely

One in five B2B decision makers are now willing to spend between $500,000 and $5 million for a single interaction through remote or self-service channels. That's a jump from the 16% that said the same thing in early 2021 (Figure 11). Additionally, seven percent of buyers are willing to complete transactions worth more than $5 million entirely online.


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The desirability of spending heavily through digital channels is particularly strong in China and the United States, where nearly eight in 10 shoppers say they are willing to spend at least $50,000 through digital channels. And about 20% of customers in China, India and the United States are willing to spend $1 million or more on fully online or remote transactions.

On the other hand, when the rule of thirds is weak or broken, shoppers feel less comfortable making large purchases online. Only around 36% of Japanese shoppers and 44% of French shoppers say they are willing to spend more than $50,000 on digital channels.

The message of our global B2B pulse is an echo. To ensure customer retention, and the potential to double inventory gains, B2B companies must make omnichannel the foundation of their value proposition and sales model. Hisprofitable growthand competitive position depend on it.

Arun Arorais a senior partner in McKinsey's Paris office;liz harrisonis a partner in the Charlotte office and global head of McKinsey's B2B Pulse;Candace Lun Plotkinmijennifer stanleythey are partners in the Boston office; ANDMax Magniis a senior partner in the New Jersey office.

The authors would like to thank David Greenawalt, Kate Piwonski, and Danielle Taylor for their contributions to this article.

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