Why your “future” online B2B platform is needed now – how to start, scale and not miss out

Why your “future” online B2B platform is needed now – how to start, scale and not miss out
SparkOptimus Team
Written by
Alexandra Jankovich, Tom Voskes & Sophie Heijenberg
The SparkOptimus Blog Team
May 13, 2020

Over the past few weeks, our main focus has been with the health and wellbeing of our families, friends, and employees. All of us had to think of pragmatic solutions to make this new life work. B2B business leaders asked themselves: “How do I keep my factory operational with public transport being shut down?”. These unusual questions required a solution within a matter of days. With the initial chaos settling down, we have been in close contact with business leaders who are carefully creating a vision on life and business post-crisis.

Over the past decade, SparkOptimus supported several of these business leaders in building the foundation of their digital (B2B) platforms. For some, we even transformed their platforms into fully data-driven digital commerce & engagement solutions. Others recognized the need for digital, but decided to pursue other plans first. Whatever “group” or “stage” you are in, we understand that making bold decisions on this topic feels uncomfortable right now. Therefore, we would like to share with you why these times in particular could create unparalleled momentum and why we believe digital is a means to improve your daily business, now more than ever.

Why these times could create unparalleled momentum

Regardless of your digital maturity or industry, an online platform requires different capabilities compared to your “traditional” business. It requires change and strong change management. In fact, this change rapidly became the only constant in your organization, creating momentum that was never there before:

  • The business case to build or expand your digital platform is more attractive than ever
    Expanding into online channels requires investments. More conservative businesses often decide to spread these investments over several years, allowing the online channels to prove their worth without taking too much risk. However, with many “traditional” channels disappearing (temporarily), all incremental sales through digital channels directly contribute. To illustrate this, a client in chemical distribution decided to increase the budget to scale their B2B platform with a factor 30 (!) to capture the momentum of today’s crisis.
  • Local organizations have resources available due to daily business being slowed down
    An organization’s digital agenda is often pushed from central level, resulting in resistance from local organizations dealing with budget- and resource scarcity. Current developments, however, are freeing up resources and shuffle roadmaps, creating momentum to rapidly design, test, and implement digital projects. As an example, after years of local de-prioritization, an animal nutrition producer all of a sudden found several local operating companies willing to participate in their digital ideation workshops.
  • Often-voiced counter-arguments suddenly lose their power of persuasion
    “Change takes time”, “it will take years for our B2B customers to get used to online channels”, “online expansion is in our vision 2025”: these are just some of the counter-arguments we hear a lot in discussions around building or expanding B2B sales platforms. However, the resilience, adaptability, and creativity our clients’ businesses have demonstrated recently suddenly invalidated these counter-arguments and changed the minds of even the strongest disbelievers in digital. A new level of urgency became apparent when a client producing adhesives shared their updated digital platform roadmap with us. Timelines shifted from 4 years to 24 months.

The SparkOptimus approach

At SparkOptimus, we believe that digital is not just about having a digital (B2B) platform. Instead, we believe that digital is a means to help improving our clients’ daily businesses and (data-driven) decision-making. We support you in doing so by adhering to three main principles:

  • Start small & local
    We do not believe in centrally-developed “one-size-fits-all”-online platforms. All your geographical markets, customer segments, or product categories have different needs and particularities and we want to understand these. We teach you how to make decisions based on data and which levers you should steer on. At HEINEKEN, we set up digital B2B capabilities within local operating companies fully leveraging local capabilities, partnerships, and technology (read more about it here).
  • Scale towards fully digital commerce
    After successfully launching and accelerating your transactional sales platform, the next step is to integrate marketing, customer engagement, and retention efforts to transform into a full-fledged digital commerce business. We help you drive technological and organizational change management, scaling towards fully online commerce and engagement. We supported Unilever Food Solutions in building local digital and data-driven CRM capabilities to capture the full potential of their B2B platform (read more about it here).
  • Continuously improve
    Once your digital platform is up and running, you should not sit back and relax. Customer expectations are rapidly changing, as well as the underlying technology. Recognizing these changes and making decisions based on data will help you to stay ahead. The current crisis is your ultimate test for adaptability and scalability. What problems did you face? Which customers switched to your online channels? Which did not? What do you need to be ready for the next unpredictable event? Make sure to use the momentum that was never there before.

We are here to help

For a decade, SparkOptimus has supported her clients to achieve concrete results in areas that are now more relevant than ever. This has resulted in our fourth #1 position in digital consultancy in the Netherlands. Especially in these days of turmoil, we are determined to help you navigate current and post-Corona times, setting up your (online) business for success. Feel free to reach out, we are here to help.

This article is part of our series “Accelerating digitization & organization in times of Corona”. Also read:

  • Article 2: “How to virtualize your (B2B) sales engine to keep your salesforce working effectively from home”
  • Article 3: “How the COVID-19 outbreak incubates disruptive thinking – three levels to design the future of your business”
  • Article 4: “How to start boosting ‘direct-to-consumer’ sales today – even without a D2C platform”
  • Article 5: “How to transform your organization for digital success in these times – leveraging the momentum of drastically changing routines“

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