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To Minimize Risk, Take an MVP Approach to B2B Commerce
By Craig Traxler, Partner, Avionos
Many CIOs of B2B companies find themselves in uncharted waters as their organizations are confronted with creating an online experience that customers desire. The technology capabilities needed are unlike those they have traditionally implemented. As a result, CIOs can be cautious about what types of solutions they choose to invest in, or how they go about launching new digital sales channel.
And while the benefits of a streamlined digital commerce channel for B2B businesses are plentiful, CIOs are wise to be tentative. Businesses that have not traditionally provided digital offerings (like many in the manufacturing and distribution industries) must implement a whole new set of unfamiliar capabilities, such as content management, eCommerce, and marketing automation, which can be an intimidating endeavor.
Furthermore, implementation of traditional digital solutions has historically been costly and time-consuming. For many organizations, the conventional process can drain resources, leading to organizational fatigue prior to realizing promised results, and a significant delay in the timeline for payback.
How can CIOs start operating a digital channel while avoiding the pitfalls inherent in bringing new processes and technologies into an organization?
Minimize the time to payback
CIOs can improve financial returns from digital channel implementations by going to market with capabilities that can be deployed quickly, typically with a goal of around 12 weeks. Setting short time objectives helps the organization limit their investment to what is absolutely necessary and start receiving payback sooner. Long implementation times delay the intended payback while costs continue to accrue, and allow more opportunities for feature bloat to enter into the project.
Achieving a quick time to launch often requires looking beyond the traditional players in the digital space.
And while the benefits of a streamlined digital commerce channel for B2B businesses are plentiful, CIOs are wise to be tentative
Many traditional service providers need large, complex projects, and the revenue they create to support their business model. That often causes them to bloat projects to preserve the revenue streams they don’t want to let go of, and in that process delay time-to-value for their clients. While it’s important to make sure the solution achieves the goal at hand, there are opportunities to get to market with a more basic product first and iterate later. CIOs should seek the assistance from partners and platforms that align with shorter time to market and can demonstrate a track record of achieving that goal.
Launch an MVP and build momentum
To get into market quickly, launch a minimum viable product (MVP), or a form of the eCommerce experience that accomplishes your initial, most important goals, and iterate from there. The key to success is for the organization to focus on the “viable” part of minimum viable product – what are the necessary components the organization needs to provide benefit and start the process of adoption. A solution that can be launched quickly and iterated upon easily allows you to get into the market faster and make improvements over time based on tangible insights and real-life customer experiences.
Another key success factor is building in a feedback loop to guide and inform future enhancements. With a proper feedback loop, like analytics, the solution can be adjusted and changed based on actual customer insights so that any further investment is much more likely to drive the desired benefits and avoids a risky “build it and they will come” scenario.
Agility is only possible with cloud-based technology
To implement an eCommerce experience using an MVP strategy, CIOs need to act nimbly while also investing in flexible architectures that allows for rapid pivots. As expectations rise across industries (B2C and B2B), this in an increasingly difficult task. Cloud-based technology is essential for enabling a framework that supports the necessary agility.
The cloud also allows service providers to apply their unique expertise and offer pre-integrated solutions that can reach the market quickly and be constantly updated, bringing in additional capabilities over time without expensive re-platforming. Without cloud-based technology, pre-integrated solutions are not as cost effective to package and offer. What’s more, you lack the ability to enforce changes swiftly, increasing development time and reducing the ROI of the solution.
Cloud technologies can often help achieve shorter time-to-market by eliminating provisioning and setup tasks, simplifying the integration activities, and starting with a blueprint of best practices. Most digital marketing technologies have pre-built connectors to CRM and eCommerce platforms, and can provide a one-stop-shop for all of the necessary B2B commerce components.
B2B businesses can no longer afford to avoid digital commerce, but there is good news: standing up a digital business no longer means years of development and expensive on-premise technology. Successful B2B companies have turned to cloud-based service providers to execute agile digital commerce implementations, and constantly iterate over time to keep pace with customer demand.