Pandemic prompts surge in digital migration

The drive towards digital as a way of doing business has "gone into overdrive" because of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a global survey by a leading, US-based business consultancy.

McKinsey & Company's 'B2B Decision Maker Pulse' - a survey of 3,600 business-to-business decision-makers in 11 countries and 12 sectors - found that, because of the coronavirus outbreak, the way companies interact with each other now is fundamentally different than it used to.
"And that is likely to be permanent," says Rock Khanna, senior partner at McKinsey. "To thrive in the next normal, B2B companies will need to continue adapting to the new economic reality."He said the latest survey found three distinct trends emerging:
  •  An accelerated migration to digital, which was already underway before the pandemic but which B2B companies "are now taking into overdrive". Two-thirds of respondents said that digital interactions were now more important to their customers than traditional ones — a doubling of significance compared to the pre-pandemic period.
"No longer a nice-to-have feature, digital is now an essential means of doing business. Companies that provide their customers with outstanding digital experiences are twice as likely to be chosen as primary suppliers (as compared to suppliers providing poor experiences)," said Mr Khanna."Further, digital self-service tools are increasingly attractive to B2B customers, with live chat as the highest-rated channel for researching suppliers and mobile app ordering up by 250 per cent compared to pre-Covid times."
  •  A pivot to remote selling. The survey found that with so many sales associates working from home, remote sales had become the standard way of doing business. Since the start of the outbreak, 96 per cent of B2B companies had shifted their sales model either partially or fully to remote selling.
"And it may be here to stay," said Mr Khanna. "Sixty-five per cent of company decision-makers say the remote model is equally effective or even more effective than what they were doing before the pandemic hit."
  •  A change in how the next, normal sales model will look. McKinsey said the survey indicated that B2B sales operations were at "a digital inflection point" with the pandemic has accelerating previous trends, such as omnichannel selling, inside sales, tech-enabled selling, and ecommerce.
Some 79 per cent of B2B companies said they were very likely or somewhat likely to sustain these shifts for at least a year after the coronavirus pandemic had passed."To improve remote sales interactions, marketers need to prioritise the pipeline and provide necessary information to sales reps," said Mr Khanna. "They should mine recent online customer searches for leads, focusing on customers who express a need and would likely welcome outreach."It’s also key to personalise digital marketing messages thoughtfully and with the customer clearly at the centre. Marketers should pull in senior executives to support outstanding proposals or account reviews to help reps and reassure customers."Marketers can also support B2B sales by enhancing customer intimacy across traditional and digital channels. Possible activities could include hosting multi-customer virtual product demos with phone follow-up from reps; scheduling ten-minute video conference check-ins with the entire book of business; holding virtual lunches or information-sharing sessions with selected customers; and emailing tailored content that reflects customers’ needs and current reality."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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