Another year, another opportunity to strengthen your business. But what does 2017 hold in store for B2B firms looking to improve their online marketing?

As we move closer into 2017, many business-to-business (B2B) firms will be taking this time to re-evaluate their marketing strategies. Especially those who are actively, or, at the very least, planning to sell to their customers online.

So, where should your primary focus be? Content marketing and social media?

Sure, it’s no big secret that B2B organisations are still playing catch-up with businesses who market on a consumer level (when it comes to embracing digital technologies). But to say that B2B marketing is still confined to meeting rooms, networking events, and stilted conversations over the telephone is something of an antiquated view.

The percentage of B2B firms that now incorporate online content (comprehensive articles and / or white paper documents) as part of their overall marketing strategy has grown massively in the last year — with 88% of surveyed B2B firms stating they now use content marketing.

As for social media, B2B firms now use a broad range of platforms to distribute content and / or engage with audiences directly. In a 2016 study by MarketingProfs, it was shown that LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube was said to be the leading platforms in terms of their effectiveness for many surveyed B2B organisations.

Find out more ways to improve and strengthen your B2B content marketing here.

Whilst content marketing and social media are both equally important aspects of your overall marketing strategy for 2017 (and if you haven’t already, we strongly suggest you click the link above to read more about that), it seems that many B2B firms are placing their focus elsewhere, taking cues from one of the world’s leading eCommerce websites.

Taking a leaf from Amazon — How B2B firms are improving business through better online experiences in 2017

Another area where B2B firms have been typically lacking compared to their business-to-consumer (B2C) counterparts, is customer experience — or rather, to be a little more precise, online user experience.

The rise in eCommerce has forever changed the way customers expect to engage with businesses online. Today’s buyers are accustomed to quick and simple shopping experiences; regardless of whether they are new or existing customers; browsing on a desktop, a smartphone, or a tablet.

In short, better experiences equate to better business, and now it looks as though B2B firms are shifting their approach to be — as one report puts it — more “Amazon-like” in their approach to selling online.

The study was conducted by eCommerce solutions provider Gorilla Group and surveyed the websites of 78 B2B wholesale distributors and brand manufacturers in the US, following up on similar research conducted a year earlier.

Responsiveness and other business tools

The biggest change for B2B firms comes in the form of website design that is responsive to work across all mobile devices. Only 26% of B2B websites studied in 2015 implemented mobile responsiveness. This percentage doubled in 2016.

Twice as many B2B websites now implement a mobile responsive design as they did the year before.

– Gorilla Group, 2016

I’ve already made a point about positive user experiences improving business, and mobile responsiveness would certainly make transaction processes a lot simpler and easier for B2B browsing on a mobile device, but that’s not the only reason why mobile responsiveness is so necessary to B2B firms in 2017 and beyond.

I would stress the main reason why B2B firms need to implement mobile responsiveness would be to empower their outside sales force with data they can use on the go from their own mobile devices.

Laptops, whilst portable, aren’t necessarily practical in a lot of environments, which means salespeople outside of the office may need to refer to information from their tablet or smartphone. This is where mobile responsiveness can really help B2B firms effectively show off their website and clearly communicate crucial marketing information to customers.

45% of B2B websites offer click-to-chat features, up from 21% in 2015.

– Gorilla Group, 2016

Speaking of marketing information… the study also revealed that B2B website content (i.e. the nature and layout of information displayed on each page) is becoming more customer-centric. In other words, it’s a lot easier for customers to find and digest, most notably the use of clearer pricing guidelines, which is certainly more typical of a commerce website like Amazon.

Other business tools include click-to-chat functionality, which, coupled with increased social media and published content, will make it even easier for B2B buyers to access useful and relevant information in real-time.