With B2B buyers rapidly shifting their behavior from researching and buying offline to researching and buying both offline and online, B2B companies are radically reshaping their channel sales strategies. Most notably, B2B sellers are shifting resources and capabilities online as well as fundamentally redefining the role of their salespeople.
Join us for the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum on March 2-3, 2015 in Phoenix to hear Forrester’s latest thinking about the future of B2B selling. At 11:30a on March 3, we’ll be revealing first-ever research in the space about the number of B2B salespeople who will be displaced in the next several years. In addition, we'll be talking about what B2B companies must do to prepare for a global, digitally-driven, real-time buying environment where software -- as opposed to salespeople -- will dynamically set prices, personalize products and services, and process and service orders 24/7/365.
Peter O’Neill here. We held our annual research planning meeting the other week and ended discussing yet again the eternal question of B2B marketing versus B2C. This is also a common discussion point with clients in my experience. Many of the documented marketing stories and best practices seem unsuitable for B2B marketers, they claim. B2C marketers respond that even business buyers are people and so the lessons they have learned apply equally to B2B. Now, as is always the case with these interminable arguments, both parties are partly right — and they are partly wrong.
My colleagues and I are planning a Forrester report that explores this dilemma in much more detail. Here is a table which I have often used to lead discussions and which I would like to include in the report. As this is “research in progress”, I have annotated the graph accordingly. In fact, I am looking for YOUR feedback on this please.
I was talking last week with Neil Ringel, Executive Vice President at Staples Advantage as we continue to prepare for the Sales Enablement Forum in March where Neil is one of the industry keynote speakers. Staples Advantage, a division of Staples, is the world’s largest office products delivery business, serving everyone from the twenty-person office up to and including the Fortune 500 and the B2B sales team works with clients to develop customized programs with specialized pricing, dedicated account management, and a complete assortment of products and services at the lowest total delivered cost while ordering and fulfillment is a mixture of these direct meetings and eBusiness transactions. Although they are called sales, they are actually more responsible for delivering the company’s brand promise: “We make buying office products easy.” Here is our discussion.
Peter: Do you think that you will need less, more, and/or different salespeople in 5 years time?
My colleague, Samantha Jaddou, who’s an analyst on the CX team covering the China market, is working on a report about the customer feedback management (CFM) vendor landscape in China. This report will better help Forrester clients, particularly companies that operate in China, understand to whom they should turn to satisfy CFM needs. She is in the middle of fielding a survey, which will be the research foundation for this report.
If your firm is interested in being included in this study to show your product and service capabilities in China in the CFM space, please consider one or both of the following:
The holiday season is one month behind us, and while the celebratory spirit has faded, the effects live on through the gifts we’ve exchanged. If you think the shiny new object you presented to your loved one had its greatest impact when she unwrapped its box, think again. Apart from the occasional toy tossed to the back of a closet, gifts may have a stronger influence on our long-term behavior and lifestyle than we might think —particularly when it comes to consumer electronics.
For example, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, consumers who have received a tablet computer as a gift end up using traditional devices like laptops, desktops, and digital cameras less often. Qualitative insight from our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community reveals that sentiments of surprise and delight characterize the experience of these tablet recipients; regardless of their initial technology attitudes, most community members find the devices exceed their expectations and inadvertently change their lifestyle:
According to the National Retail Federation, consumer electronics stores saw more than $23.4 million in holiday sales in 2013 and even more by the close of 2014. However, the more interesting story is unfolding now, as consumers who have leapfrogged the purchase experience begin experimenting with —and embracing —their new devices.
Time spent on mobile is skyrocketing. Since about 80% of that time is spent on apps, many marketing leaders have quickly jumped to the conclusion that the only way to reach and engage their customers is through their own branded apps. Wrong! Here are five — often ignored — good reasons for marketing leaders to broaden their mobile approach beyond their own apps:
1. Branded apps are relevant. Yes, some of them (Starbucks, Nike, and many others) are success stories. But more often than not, branded apps don’t deliver real mobile benefits and engage only a small subset of customers. It's about time marketers connect their apps to their marketing and CRM systems to personalize and contextualize the brand experience. Marketers should launch fewer but smarter apps.
2. Apps offer real engagement opportunities. Yes, but only for a minority of apps, according to Forrester’s App Engagement Index. Several of the most engaging apps — Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, and WhatsApp — either don’t have or only recently introduced mobile advertising offerings. Marketers must identify the overlap between the most engaging apps and the most popular apps among their brand’s customer base. Then they have to mix content and context to tell a story that is relevant to customers in their mobile moments. It will not be about ads but about sparking a conversation instead of broadcasting a marketing message. Marketers should select the most promising partners evolving their apps as marketing platforms.
The problems of content marketing apply to you as a marketer whether you’re actually practicing “content marketing” or not.
In any enterprise, there’s a New York Times-scale amount of content getting produced.[i] And your customers are hoovering up content (from a brand or otherwise, in many channels, interchangably) and making decisions based upon it.[ii]
That means you’re in the content business. And the more customers control the purchase path, the more marketers find themselves in the content marketing business.
Which means you will be dealing with the problems content marketing creates. Two of these problems are particular to marketing teams and governance. These are best explained with analogies:
The Menu Problem – How content gets conceived and planned
The Sausage Problem – How content gets made and delivered
The Menu Problem
Marketers don’t have much experience running editorial organizations. This is best reflected in the low percentage of marketers who report that they follow a content marketing strategy.[iii]
A strategy is necessary.[iv] And no one is taking the responsibility to make one.
The press coverage of my report "Making Sense of New Video Consumption Behaviors" -- and especially the number they highlighted that 46% of the "core" TV audience watches linear TV in a typical month -- raised a lot of questions (and skepticism!) on the Research Wonks list serve. I figure if they had those questions, others might, too, so here is the response I posted there:
"The media always looks for the headline-grabbing, shocking, number and the 46% watch linear certainly qualifies. I used this number in passing to set up the report so before I address the methodology questions, let me share the core conclusion of the report: consumer video consumption behaviors are different enough across generations that planners need to break out of past planning routines and account for these different behaviors. Toward the end of the report I say:
A goal of 100 gross rating points (GRPs) against an 18-to-49 audience is merely an average across this entire audience; if the placements are skewed to linear TV, it will likely deliver too many ads to the 35-to-49 segment and not deliver enough to the 18-to-34 group.
The 46% number doesn't comment on the number of hours, and the data we capture is very broad here, but even it shows that linear is still the larger number of hours.
In the report I say that linear is the “main dish” that must be complemented with “side dishes” like streamed sources and addressable plus “desserts” like professional short-form video to present a balanced video ad diet. (Yes, I really tortured that metaphor!)
Behind every online sale is a set of software tools to manage the shopping experience and order process: the commerce platform.
The technology itself is nothing new. Commercial software packages for digital commerce have been around for 15 years or so. However, we’ve seen commerce-related technology investments accelerate over the past couple of years. Companies are replacing legacy systems from the early 2000s with modern platforms ready to meet the demands of mobile commerce and international sales, and the buyer pool is extending from retail to virtually every industry.
The journey isn’t quite over. Forrester expects growth in commerce tech spending to continue unabated. According to our recent forecast, we expect the US market for commerce platform technology to nearly double over the next five years, growing from $1.2 billion in 2014 to nearly $2.1 billion by the end of the decade.
Peter Sheldon and I developed this forecast to help tech vendor clients identify and assess new market opportunities. For deeper insight into the target markets most ripe for growth, we segment spending projections by target industry (i.e., retail, wholesale, pharma) and quantify the shift from legacy (i.e., on-premises) to modern (i.e., SaaS/hosted) solutions. For more details, see the recent report we’ve published around the forecast results.
It’s no secret that digital skills are in short supply. In fact, while some three quarters of executives tell us their firm now has some form of digital strategy (however rudimentary), a paltry 16% say they have the skills and capabilities necessary to deliver it. Even though the average eBusiness team’s staffing budget is growing year on year, finding the skills and capabilities to execute on a digital strategy is becoming harder and harder.
eBusiness Teams Have An Average Of 95 Employees. The average eBusiness team has 95 team members. As would be expected, the larger the worldwide revenue, online revenue, or total employee count is, the larger the eBusiness team is.
Technology And Customer Experience Are Still The Hardest Roles To Fill. Technology, customer experience, and business analytics are the hardest jobs to hire for. Additionally, technology and customer experience are the most outsourced, and technology is the most understaffed.
The Digital Skills Gap Continues To Widen. Digital transformation brings an increased level of responsibility for eBusiness employees who are often leading the charge for company-wide transformation in addition to handling day-to-day operations. As all business becomes digital business, eBusiness teams will have an increasingly difficult time sourcing talent.