A new report on B2B digital transformation finds that, while earlier waves were designed to do more with fewer people, the focus has now shifted to improving the customer experience.

The 2019 FPX Digital Transformation Study” [free, registration required], out this week, is based on online surveys of 229 U.S.-based B2B decision makers in a range of industries, including manufacturing (half of the respondents), financial services, health care and telecommunications, in companies having at least $25 million in revenue.

“Improving the buyer experience.” A key insight, Director of Product Marketing Matt Noyes told me via email, is “the emphasis of Digital Transformation as an initiative that delivers a better [customer] experience as opposed to improving internal processes.”

He noted this means that manufacturers in particular, which have traditionally focused on selling through internal teams and resellers/vendors, are now “focused on looking at selling directly to the customer with an emphasis on potentially adding e-commerce channels.”

Of the 68 percent of respondents engaged in a digital transformation, more than half — 58 percent — say a key goal is providing a better buying experience for customers. And 95 percent of all respondents agree or strongly agree that “digital transformation funds are best spent on improving the buyer experience.” Meanwhile, 98 percent say enhancing the buyer experience is the best way to drive sales.

“Counter to pre-survey hypothesis.” As a provider of CPQ (configure-price-quote) software, FPX clearly has a horse in this race, since it wants businesses to update their quoting tools.

But price quoting software applies to both internal processes and customer experience. The overall takeaway from the survey is that B2B businesses, in becoming digital, are now looking more at ways to improve customer experience than at making internal processes more efficient. For instance, the report found that customer-facing tech is rated higher than internal efficiency tools for ROI.

From the FPX survey report (click to expand)

“This runs counter to a pre-survey hypothesis,” Noyes said, “that most organizations want to focus on internal processes when undertaking a digital transformation initiative.”

Customer-facing technologies. FPX points out that advanced customer-facing technologies are more important to improving customer experience for complex products like cars or aerospace parts, because customers need more detailed information, education and product selection.

An overwhelming 93 percent of respondents said that B2B buyers “want the ability to research products and receive quotes without ever speaking to a sales representative.”

This is the first report from FPX on how B2B companies “are defining and prioritizing digital transformation” within their organizations, although the company has conducted previous studies which specifically looked at CPQ adoption.

Why you should care. While B2C companies are all focused on the customer, a key question about B2B companies undergoing digital transformation is whether efficiency or customers get first dibs.

The answer to that question directly affects how B2B marketers keep up with the demand of customers, who increasingly want to research, compare and even decide on their product choice by themselves, online, before talking with sales.

In other words, a B2B company emphasizing its digital customer experience is one where marketing is largely about providing tools and resources for customers engaged in self-marketing. This survey report indicates that most of the respondents see that as the more rewarding goal, compared to improving internal efficiency.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.

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