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All businesses understand the importance of B2B communications, yet too few are doing a good job of embracing this concept. The importance of a consistent customer voice is imperative in order to provide a seamless customer experience, yet delivering this across multiple digital channels is an increasing challenge for businesses of all sizes.

INTEGRATED DIGITAL STILL LACKING

A poll carried out by Omobono, in partnership with The Marketing Society and Circle Research, found that only 28 percent of B2B professionals in the UK and US actually possessed a formal digital communication strategy. The overwhelming majority had either an informal or extremely limited approach, and incredibly one-third of those surveyed had nothing in place whatsoever.

The benefits of an integrated approach to digital communications are manifold, with the majority related to directly communicating with the customer. Despite the paltry number of professionals that have a structured formal strategy in place, it was nonetheless acknowledged that this is an irrational approach to B2B communications.

Nearly two-thirds of B2B professionals confirmed when surveyed that integration would allow for a superior customer experience, with a similar proportion stating that communications would be improved as a result. Additionally, the majority of those surveyed also cited consistent messaging as a benefit of such an integrated approach.

Taking a holistic and integrated approach to digital communications was also reckoned to have a significantly positive impact on the bottom line of a company. Respondents from this niche when surveyed stated that operational efficiencies could be achieved via this mentality, with cost savings, maximised values and easier return on investment measurement all obvious perks of this approach.

The results of the survey indicate that alignment and collaboration across multiple departments, awareness of the importance of digital platforms, and strong leadership are all necessary for satisfactorily integrating digital communications.

DIGITAL CHALLENGES

When asked for further information about the greatest challenges faced in adopting an integrated digital communications strategy, B2Bs were most likely to cite issues with different objectives and priorities across departments. A lack of understanding regarding the importance of digital was also a significant barrier to creating a holistic digital policy across multiple platforms.

It is also clear that many businesses are failing to acknowledge the importance of digital as a commercial entity. A lack of support from business leaders was cited as a major obstacle to the integration of digital communications, while a limited amount of time provided to collaborate was also cited by one-third of respondents.

If businesses are to effectively streamline digital communications, it is thus essential that these challenges are tackled head-on. It is widely acknowledged that digital is becoming essential to all businesses, and this is profoundly underlined by some of the statistics relating to the technology.

For example, the authoritative business publication Forbes reported in March of this year that digital technologies will imminently add $1 trillion to the global economy. This is a figure greater than the GDP of most nations. In fact, the increased use of digital technologies could add $1.36 trillion to total global economic output in 2020, according to a recent study by Accenture and Oxford Economics.

When one considers that retail sales will top $22 trillion in 2015, and that 63 percent of Americans are expected to make a digital purchase at some point during the calendar year, it is clear that this is a vastly important commercial marketplace. The actual total value of digital communications and commerce is almost incalculable, but it would certainly run into several trillion dollars.

DIGITAL ENABLERS

Thus, ensuring that integrated digital communications are carried out efficiently is absolutely essential to the commercial viability of any B2B operation. And it is therefore valuable to understand some of the enablers that can help this process to be carried out smoothly.

Among the individuals surveyed, around 60 percent believe that understanding on a company-wide basis of the importance of digital can help significantly with such an integrated digital communications strategy. Businesses reported repeatedly that support from a leadership team followed this intellectual understanding of the importance of digital as a platform. Both alignment and cooperation where considered to be important, and an individual willing to lead the overall process was also a vital component of this digital integration revolution.

Although there is still some way to go with regard to the effective integration of digital communications, trends within businesses do indicate that the topic is beginning to be taken seriously. Companies are hiring Chief Digital Officers in large numbers, with the important task of overseeing digital transformation being handed to these individuals. The number of CDOs worldwide exceeded 1,000 during last year, and is expected to to double to 2,000 by the end of 2015. In a the poll carried out by Harvey Nash, nearly one-quarter of technology executives worldwide stated that the company had either hired, or plan to hire, a CDO.

Integrating digital communications can certainly help B2Bs maximise reach and customer experience. Businesses attempting to accomplish this must form clear alignment across multiple departments, and ensure that everyone is on board with the changes and aware of the importance of digital commercially. Putting visionary and knowledgeable leaders in place who can oversee the overall transformation to this increasingly important technology is also extremely valuable.

Digital integration is happening steadily, but for B2B communication to improve the process must still be ironed out rapidly by the majority of businesses.

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