Disruption, changing expectations, and extreme competition are all realities for today’s high-tech B2B companies, accompanied by added pressure to stand out more than ever before.
Last year, research firm Ovum asked high-tech marketers to rate the intensity of competition on a scale of 1 to 10. Sixty percent responded with an eight or higher. When asked to predict the level of competition in 2017, 60% became 70%. So what is a high-tech B2B company to do? For one, they can use experiences to separate from the pack. Indeed, a majority of high-tech companies said that was their No. 1 priority in 2017, according to Adobe's 2017 Digital Trends report, in partnership with Econsultancy.
That leads to another question: What does a high-tech, experience-led business look like? Do they have common attributes? CMO.com asked industry experts to weigh in:
Paul Roehrig, Chief Strategy Officer, Cognizant Digital Busines:
One of the things that’s getting lost in a lot of the dialogue around technology and business is that you’re still just dealing with people. There aren’t any autonomous businesses on Earth. So whether you’re an employee in a company that’s doing B2B work or you’re a consumer in a retail store, we’re all still people.
The high-tech companies that are succeeding in the digital economy are those configuring their technologies around what human wants and needs are. So whether it’s B2B or B2C, humans still have to apply. There are still a lot of engagements, whether you’re processing a health-care claim or buying a luxury good in an airport.
All of those are human interactions. Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said at Adobe Summit that businesses need to become experience-based, and that is absolutely consistent with how we see the digital economy unfolding, whether it’s consumer-facing, employee-facing, or partner-facing. It’s all human experience.
That may sound simple, but that’s really an important starting point because if you’re going to design a technology solution, the first most important step is to understand what people want and need. Technology, when you boil it all the way down, allows these experiences to be customized, curated, and efficient. They are productivity improvement tools. If you do it right, you end up with a happier consumer or more effective employee.
That’s the promise of the digital revolution, whether you’re automating elements of a process or you’re creating a really engaging omnichannel experience. A lot of people talk about technology as the end, but it’s really the means to creating much more attractive, engaging, and productive business processes and consumer experiences.
Suzanne Kounkel, U.S. Technology Leader, Deloitte Consulting:
Experience-led business is something that we’ve been talking about for 20-plus years. But it is actually doable today in ways that are unprecedented, which I think is really exciting.
But when you think about what that actually means in high-tech B2B, it means that for the first time, you can truly design products and services for your customers. Let me explain what I mean. Traditionally, you’d launch something to the market that you thought was what your customer needs. However, in today’s market, customers are bound by their own experiences, often leaving them uncertain of what they actually want. It’s our job to put products out there to test what’s actually used, wanted, or suggested and then quickly adapt to that feedback, which may ultimately take several iterations in order to get it right.
As important, high-tech companies can now shift their models around customer journeys rather than designing customer journeys around their entrenched structures. If you’re truly an experience-led business in the high-tech B2B world, that means your business model, operating model, and all your underlying infrastructure have changed pretty dramatically. One important example of this is can be seen in how the back office has become the front office, and a lot of the functional boundaries that used to exist for very real reasons no longer exist.
Speaking of changing boundaries, in the past enablers like social, mobile, measurement, and analytics have been applied to current functions, constrained by existing boundaries, and that has led to a step function change in effectiveness and outcomes. But the next horizon is actually to take those same enablers to reimagine functions so that artificial constraints and boundaries disappear.
Anand Birje, Corporate Vice President And Head, Digital And Analytics Practice, HCL:
We believe an experience-led business is one that drives successful digital transformation journeys by first reimaging the experience of customers, employees, and partners. This process could be as complex as reinventing how consumers make major purchases, ranging from cars and houses to vacations and insurance, to something as seemingly simple as empowering employees with the information and tools they need, where and when they need them.
The role of experience-led businesses is also to drive the innovation and outcomes that best fit the needs of their stakeholders. To do this, they must understand the business challenges and audiences thoroughly to design and incorporate the right experience. Key to this understanding is discovering the true needs of users based on articulated and unarticulated requirements and to understand where process and emotional and functional innovation come together to define the overall experience. Experience-driven businesses apply the power of design thinking to reimagine business processes in a way that the user experience is at the center.
Jill Steinhour, Director Of High-Tech Strategy, Adobe:
Experience-based, high-tech B2B companies are looking at the customer journey and making sure that not only is it personalized and consistent across different channels and devices, but it’s providing value. After all, personalization is nice, but providing value is really the priority for them. They’re thinking about how they can help helping you, the consumer, solve a problem or smooth out a cumbersome process.
The other aspect of this, of course, is what I’ll call “new value,” and that’s really companies that are innovating. These are the companies thinking about how they can use information that they have to either predict something for their customer or provide more information for that customer above and beyond what the service or the widget provides today.
Years ago, Intuit was probably one of the first to really start to look at the assets they had in hand and extract value to give to their customers who are subscribing to QuickBooks. They had customers who are entering in all of this salary information, and they now provide subscribers an understanding of what the salaries would be in a given location. Adobe does this as well with Adobe Digital Insights, using heaps of anonymized data to point out trends in specific industries.
Think of the “Best Of The Best” report that we do. We’re not selling that data, so it’s not a direct and new source of revenue, but what it does is it demonstrates that we are a player. It improves our credibility and street cred. We’re able to walk the walk and talk the talk. We, Adobe, are a tech company. So we need to demonstrate that we are technology-savvy. And not only that, we’re able to even use our own technology in a very savvy way.