While research and production departments in the chemical industry have adopted and benefited from new digital solutions over the years, e-commerce adoption in sales and marketing often lags woefully behind. The reason: many in the chemical industry are hesitant to implement new business models and adopt new technologies for fear of cannibalizing their organizational and sales routines.
And, make no mistake, digitalization is a disruption that many see as threatening the “old economy” of the chemical industry. After all, this is a B2B sector where business has traditionally been transacted on a person-to-person basis. Sale reps often contact leads and prospects by phone. Sales cycles are long, and it usually takes many in-person meetings to land clients. Disruption directly threatens this status quo.
However, many in the chemical industry are now realizing (albeit slowly), that digital isn’t a hindrance but a help. In fact, according to McKinsey, digitalization is poised to unlock $200 billion in new value for companies. Below we look at how it’s encroaching in this B2B sector and how it is impacting marketing efforts.
Marketing and sales 4.0 in the chemical industry
For years, the chemical industry has been dominated by larger, established companies that have shored up their market positions. This left little room for competition among smaller startups. With the democratization of choice that results from digitalization, this dynamic is changing.
Digital e-commerce solutions make it easier for startups to gain a foothold in the market. This has the direct effect of bringing the entire industry out of the dark ages of marketing and sales past, and bringing it into the light of marketing and sales 4.0.
Chembid, for example, embodies the spirit of digital disruption in the chemical industry. This organization, founded in 2016, was the first firm to adopt an all-in-one, e-commerce sales solution for chemicals and services in the B2B market. Chembid designed a meta-search engine that bundled price quotes and technical information on chemicals to facilitate quicker processing. The success of Chembird stems in great part from the fact that it is a new company not beholden to antiquated sales and marketing processes of years past.
The reality is that now entire search engines are being developed to connect chemical suppliers with buyers, which marketers should take notice of. It means that SEO isn’t just for B2C companies anymore, and chemical companies should now be thinking about optimization keywords to direct web traffic to their landing pages.
Omni-channel digitalization is meeting a market need
While companies like Chembid are finding great success by creating online chemical search engines, other companies in similar B2B industries are taking that idea in omni-channel directions. Take BASF, a Chinese steel manufacturer. In 2015 it went full-on B2C and created an e-store on Alibaba.
This yielded three beneficial results:
- It allowed the company to reach more Chinese SMEs who were already using Alibaba
- It served customers with minimum complexity
- The platform allowed BASF to keep selling costs low
BASF then relaunched its store two years later, merging with other platforms and partnering with competitors via other channels to sell their products as well as its own. The result is that these multi-channel initiatives led to three-fold growth, and now the company is generating revenue of around $800 million a year just from online activities.
Digital marketers in the chemical industry can and should follow the lead of BASF and implement such multi-channel initiatives in their marketing plans.
Digitalization is leading to more data-driven marketing
Big-data is another of those modern marketing buzzwords that seems firmly ensconced in the B2C sector. Harkening back to the earlier points about chemical companies being slow to change, many executives still rely on gut feeling when making decisions.
It’s not nearly enough anymore.
Just as consumer marketers use AI and analytics engines to mine vast amounts of data to glean insight and expand their margins, the same can be done in the B2B world. Machine learning solutions, for example, can tell both marketing and sales teams quite a bit. Marketers who mine meta-data from email, phone records, social signals, etc., can help their sales teams increase effectiveness.
Big-data in B2B also does wonders for productivity. Developing targeted initiatives based on solid meta-data signals frees up sales teams from so many wasted phone calls and meetings chasing bad leads or trying to implement otherwise unwieldy strategies.
In the end, digitalization is giving chemical companies another great benefit: making the customer journey easier. Even B2B buyers in the chemical industry want an Amazon-like experience, with tailored recommendations, low prices on many options and no hassle. In other words, a simple customer journey free of pain points.
Those chemical marketers who realize this and adopt a B2C mentality will lead their industry into the next stage of global commerce.