By focusing on the right digital practices, B2B companies—currently trailing B2C companies in digital transformation—can create long-term value. Here are six areas where digital leaders excel.

Far from standing on the sidelines, B2B companies have embraced the digital revolution. Most are outpacing consumer companies in digitising back-office workflows and resource planning and in modernising their existing IT architectures. But those efforts have tended to focus on internal cost and process efficiencies and less on innovating around sales and the customer experience—and that’s where the real growth is.

Digitisation has made providing consistent, high-quality customer interactions a competitive differentiator, no matter the channel. B2B companies need to adjust accordingly. Right now, however, selling models remain firmly planted in the offline world. Company websites, though rich in product descriptions, are often little more than digital brochures that fail to provide an easy way for customers to buy. And while sales teams are working harder to navigate deals that stretch longer and involve multiple influencers and buyers, they often lack (or are unable to apply) the analytics needed to manage the sale profitably, understand who the real decision makers are, and what sorts of outreach might prove persuasive.

It’s not going to get any easier. B2B players must contend with shrinking product shelf lives, greater price transparency, and a changing cost basis on the one hand while simultaneously growing the capabilities needed to create consumer-like experiences on the other, with personalised service and hassle-free purchasing across platforms and devices. Nontraditional players like Amazon Business and Alibaba are already cashing in on this trend by providing business buyers with simple and convenient digital marketplaces.

Credit: By Tanguy Catlin, Liz Harrison, Candace Lun Plotkin, and Jennifer Stanley