Summary: 75% of B2B buyers consider navigating a website on their own more convenient than talking to a sales rep. 93% said that they would rather just go online after they secure authorization on what to buy.

It would be easy to think of automation and customization as opposite ends of the spectrum – the mechanical vs. the personal – but in reality they are two aspects of the same cultural megatrend. Automation and customization together are ushering in the age of individual.

Without the production efficiencies of automated systems, the economics of personalization wouldn’t add up. The same machines that make it possible to mass produce cans of Coca-Cola for billions of consumers, make it possible to you to engrave your name on command.

Millennials grew up with an expectation of self-serve automation. As more and more of them grow to dominate business and consumer markets, these eCommerce savvy buyers do not have time to waste on listening to sales people.

They want to go to a website where they can easily define exactly the products, configurations, bundles and specific features of the product they want. They are accustomed to seeing what the products will look like before they buy it, then filling their carts and completing the sale at their special rates.

Full customization and full automation go hand-in-hand. At Doogma, we’ve seen the indications of this shift on the global scale and we’ve helped businesses adapt to it on very personal level.

In the bigger picture, economic trend lines suggest that within the next four years, $1.2 trillion will be up for grabs in the B2B ecommerce space. You might think that a purse of that size would drive a spike in hiring for B2B sales experts, but just the opposite is happening.

The reality is that you can expect 1 million fewer salespeople to be working in B2B over the next few years. That was the central message of Forrester’s report Death of a (B2B) Salesman.

Why? Because the same self-serve customization demand that has driven dramatic changes in consumer markets is now rewriting the rules of B2B ecommerce.

The Bigger Picture

When you look back over the most significant disruptions in the 21st century, you’ll see that they have all revolved around a central theme: the sudden shift from push to pull technology. Searchable video platforms like Netflix have sidelined the old TV networks. On-demand car sharing services like Uber are rapidly making taxis obsolete. Same day delivery networks like the one coming from the new Amazon/Whole Foods merger are emptying out retail grocery stores.

Now that same buyer-controlled pull technology is coming for traditional B2B value chains.

Over the past few decades, on-demand ecommerce sites Netflix, Amazon and Priceline put an end to video rental chains, book stores and travel agents. The few that survived have had to adapt to the new market landscape.

The next wave in that trend is characterized by companies like OroCommerce, founded by former Magento CTO Yoav Kutner. It automates the entire B2B sales process from quote to order creation, taking over many of the responsibilities of B2B sales reps. Businesses can create multiple pricelists customized to each of their clients, with virtually  infinite combinations of price points, tiers and currencies.

The next wave of B2B sales

This is not only possible now, but inevitable, given the changes to the modern B2B buyer. Today, 97% of cold calls go nowhere, 48% of B2B buyers say they don’t want to talk to aggressive salespeople and 39% can see right through annoying sales scripts.

Buyers know how to find the information they need and they would rather handle everything themselves. They are working at all hours from home or on the road so they don’t have the time meet with sales reps anymore, even if that was something they wanted to do.

Instead, 75% of buyers consider navigating a website more convenient than talking to a sales rep and 93% said that they would rather just go online when they secure agreement at work on what to buy. At that point, they simply want access to a platform that lets them choose the precise configurations they want and checkout, as they would at a consumer ecommerce site.

Never forget the buyers and consumers are the same individuals playing different roles. Their expectations have been raised by astounding advances in consumer tech. Today, B2B firms that haven’t already built a full-featured ecommerce destination with a self-serve customization facility can only watch their metrics as customers slip away.

B2B customization examples

You don’t have to imagine what self-serve B2B ecommerce will look like. Early adopters are already profiting on it. A1 Textiles implemented a custom bedding creator using The Doogma Designer™, with choices of fabrics, colors, bed skirts, top covers, runners and bolster cushions. Hotel managers can also see how the beds will look on top of various rugs or floor types.

Another industry eager to get on board with self-serve B2B customizers is the is a next gen manufacturer of vans and utility vehicles in Australia that invites customers to design their own setup of the most efficient interior with options like modular shelving, customized equipment hooks and industrial storage containers. What used to take a crew of contractors now takes a mouse and plan.

The next step

From our perspective as the customization facilitators, we can see how much suppliers benefit from inviting in buyers as co-creators. We often think of Doogma as a “communication platform” where the suppliers meet their customers on equal ground. The supplier specifies all the possible options they can offer for each attribute of the product and then the customer comes into the virtual space to mix-and-match these options, define their preferences and see the exact version of the item they have imagined. Customers come away with a greater pride in what they have built in tandem with suppliers and an emotional bond to the process.

The new world of B2B sales is here, ready or not. Fortunately, you are one step ahead of the competition just by reading this blog. Do you have an idea for automating you B2B sales? Doogma designers can help you with best practices and creative implementations.

For more ideas and inspiration, visit our Design Gallery or call us at (650) 251 4078.

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