B2B Digital Transformation: What Traditional Manufacturers and Distributors Need to do to Compete

by: Nichole Gunn July 15, 2020

Whether it is competing in an oversaturated marketplace, or keeping up with the “Joneses” of B2B digital transformation, manufacturers and distributors have their work cut out for them. 2020 has specifically hit the B2B industry hard, with traditional, in-person sales and marketing techniques succumbing to social distancing. If the adoption of digital practices weren’t already on your business’ to-do list, now is the time to start laying foundation. Let’s take a look at what manufacturers and distributors are up against in the B2B sector, and what practices can help them compete.

Defining B2B Digital Transformation

Digital transformation can be defined as the use of technology and data to improve efficiency and enhance the customer experience. Research collected via a survey of 450 senior B2B marketing decision makers found that 81 percent of B2B companies see digital transformation as key for the future of their business.

Furthermore, companies that successfully master B2B digital transformation have been proven to generate five times more revenue growth than their competitors. Clearly digital efforts are a profitable step for manufacturers and distributors, but what exactly does this B2B digital transformation entail?

Prioritize Personalization

Successful B2B digital transformation practices are centered around the needs of your customers and channel partners. According to salesforce, 59 percent of customers say that a personalized experience is very important to earning their business. While it may seem counter-intuitive, the implementation of technology can actually help foster a stronger and more personalized buyer connection.

It’s no secret that today’s target market demographic is the millennial, and their B2B buyer process starts with heavy online research before ever interacting with your sales team. Their digital preferences are further heightened by popular B2C shopping experiences, including e-commerce and loyalty program perks. With Amazon Business claiming a large stake in the B2B channel, manufacturers and distributors need to find ways to differentiate their product while appealing to the convenience and ease of digital brand interaction.

Gather Customer Data

B2B digital transformation provides personalized customer engagement through customer data collection. As a manufacturer or distributor, customer data analysis allows your business to organize your customer base into specified bands, creating the opportunity for more targeted messaging and calls to action.

For example, with the use of an Ecommerce platform, customer data analysis can provide automated product suggestions for customers based on previous sales. For businesses who invest in an online customer loyalty program, collecting channel partner information with strategic enrollment options and CRM integration helps fill in data gaps surrounding partners deep within the sales channel.

Use Rewards to Solidify Customer Relationships

Digital customer engagement is taken to the next level with an online rewards platform. Purchasing your quality product becomes much more enticing when rewards are involved, and with the right loyalty program provider, a large variety of reward options can make for the ultimate personalized experience.

Today’s loyalty program software automates manual functions for a more responsive customer experience, as well as fast reward delivery, and streamlined administration.  Connect with your customers through their preferred contact method with omnichannel capabilities, including a customized mobile app for channel partners to upload warranty information and exchange data while out in the field. The positive emotional impact of rewards is perfectly paired with the ease of connection brought on by the B2B digital transformation.

Integrate a Loyalty Program with an E-Commerce Platform

Research states that US B2B eCommerce market could reach $1.1T and account for 12.1% of all B2B sales by the end of 2020, and over $6 Trillion worldwide. Those numbers are no laughing matter, and Amazon Business is more than willing to acquire the rising amount customers each year. Combining a loyalty program with the release of an e-commerce platform can be powerful for keeping customers loyal and increasing your business’ bottom line. Examples include:

  • Increasing online (and total!) sales, which typically have a lower “cost-to-serve” than in-store sales.
  • Capturing more complete customer data, including customer information and purchase history.
  • Automating the order process and organizing data to minimize order placement error and associated costs.
  • Encouraging customers to shop online with training on the e-commerce platform.
  • Retaining existing online shoppers through a positive loyalty program experience.
  • Driving traffic to your e-commerce site, allowing for stronger brand awareness and higher sale likelihood.

Here at Incentive Solutions, one of our clients in wholesale distribution saw their average online order quantity increase by 319% thanks to their loyalty program. With 77% of contractors participating in the rewards program, these customers provided 665% more monthly revenue than those not participating.

Embracing the B2B Digital Transformation

B2B digital transformation, while complex, is the key to success in the future B2B marketplace. Technology opens the door to personalized digital marketing and communication practices that match today’s B2B buyer preferences. With the added boost of a digital reward platform, customer engagement and collection of valuable data helps businesses achieve differentiation in a digitally competitive marketplace.

Begin Your B2B Digital Transformation with a Customer Loyalty Program

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About Nichole Gunn

Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing at Incentive Solutions, an Atlanta-based incentive company that delivers advanced, agile B2B customer loyalty and channel sales incentives programs.