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Has Covid-19 pushed B2B sales into the digital era?

ADVERTORIAL
By Sponsor

3 May 2021

Business

Not necessarily: the last 12 months have only served to accelerate a process that was already underway, although the speed at which digital sales have been adopted as the norm has been rapid out of necessity, the stickiness for B2B will depend on buyer experience.

2021 is looking more positive. While the fight against COVID-19 is by no means over, the impressive size and scale of ongoing vaccination drives mean that we may be much freer to shop, socialise and travel in the coming months. So, what does this mean for retailers, and how will consumers needs and desires have changed during these unprecedented times, more importantly what appetite will buyers have for pre order’s in the new retail environment?

At Retaissance, we have adopted a blended approach to maximise the impact for our brands and their sales growth. Connection, always on order management –through our partner NuORDER, retention, replenishment and engagement with our network of 12,000 global buyers are critical.

This doesn’t mean that either buyers or brands should look to ignore the power of human connection and in-person sales, of course: it seems difficult to imagine a future where that would be entirely obsolete. Connection and human interaction are still important, long term relationships are always trusted and market understanding is critical.

What it does mean is that updating your sales pitches to ensure they work for a digital setting, using the variety of technologies that are available, (remembering research is almost always conducted online by the buyers) to ensure that you remain competitive (and stand out) in this new, digital, sales landscape.

A McKinsey ‘B2B Decision-Maker Pulse’ report from October 2020 highlighted precisely how far digital sales have come since the start of the pandemic: most B2B sellers have moved over to digital, with 70% doing so at the initial stage of finding suppliers, and 80% ordering digitally. These numbers are buoyed by the response from decision-makers on the buying end: up to 80% now prefer remote or digital sales interactions for ease, cost-saving on travel, and security.

Confidence is key

What is especially interesting - although, given the statistics above, perhaps not surprising - is that not only have digital transactions increased but so too has the belief in digital as a sales model. The mercurial, intangible nature of anything digital has long inspired a sense of wariness: a kind of ‘hiding cash under the mattress to avoid the banks’ fear that likes its money (and it’s sales techniques) where it can see them.

But, according to the McKinsey study, 46% of respondents now believe the new sales model is ‘much more’ or ‘somewhat more’ effective in reaching and serving customers - a 10% increase compared to April 2020.

This becomes a virtuous circle for those wishing to sell digitally - increased confidence in the model brings new buyers in greater numbers - and accelerates innovation in technology that makes the process even easier, faster, and more secure.

Not just testing the waters

Another area which demonstrates clearly the shift towards digital as the prevailing sales environment is the size of purchases made - these are not merely toes being dipped into new waters. When asked ‘what is the maximum order value that you would purchase through end-to-end digital self-serve and remote human interactions for a new product or service category’, 59% of the respondents to the McKinsey report said they would be willing to spend at least $50,000, with 15% willing to spend over $1 million.

This speaks to a real belief in the effectiveness and validity of digital sales: this is no longer a fringe or progressive approach, but the status quo.

Meetings from anywhere

As everything from socialising to business steps boldly into the age of the Zoom call, so too do digital sales, with video conferencing interactions with sales reps up 41% since the start of the pandemic (compared with in-person interactions, which have decreased 52%). While this has largely been out of necessity, it seems clear that firms will see the time and cost savings of online sales meetings as benefits to take forward from the last year, with video conferencing (and online chats, which were also a breakout star with a 23% increase) becoming an increasingly popular method.

It seems, then, as though the future’s bright for the power of digital.

This doesn’t mean that either buyers or brands should look to ignore the power of human connection and in-person sales, of course: it seems difficult to imagine a future where that would be entirely obsolete. Connection and human interaction are still important, long term relationships are always trusted and market understanding is critical.

What it does mean is that updating your sales pitches to ensure they work for a digital setting, using the variety of technologies that are available, (remembering research is almost always conducted online by the buyers) to ensure that you remain competitive (and stand out) in this new, digital, sales landscape.

Boilerplate

Retaissance is a revolutionary B2B platform and sales service that gives brands the tools, access and control to trade globally, and gives retailers frictionless access to the top brands of the world.

Our specialism is our network and relationships in varied sales channels - collaborating with the best stores, omnichannel retailers and pure play eCommerce retailers worldwide.

Working alongside our brands as an extension of their in-house team, Retaissance is instrumental in the building of brands in the UK, Europe and around the world.

For more information, see: retaissance.com