Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How omnichannel can boost performance in a downturn

By Candace Lun Plotkin, Partner, McKinsey & Company

Consumers are used to buying anything they want through a wide variety of channels at any time of the day or night. Businesses have long demanded the same ability. Today, they are finally getting it right. After three years of seismic shifts including the pandemic-driven race to digital, the consumerisation of B2B buying appears to be complete.  

In our recent report, The Multiplier Effect: How B2B Winners Grow, we surveyed 3,800 decision-makers across 13 countries. The key takeaway was clear: omnichannel-first companies are more than twice as likely to experience 10% growth in their market share than companies who are less focused on delivering a great omnichannel experience. 

Organisations that experiment with new technologies and analytics capabilities are at a clear competitive advantage. The businesses which are actively growing their market share are 55% more likely to be planning the introduction of new sales technology (for example, predictive recommendations for sellers, and chatbots to interact with customers). These winners continuously innovate and look for new ways to be more compelling to customers and to drive a better experience across all interactions. 

Our data also reveals deep concerns about the uncertain macroeconomic climate, showing that more than half (56%) of UK B2B organisations believe they will be worse off this year. Yet now is not the time to take the foot off the pedal. It is not enough to simply experiment with omnichannel. Businesses that want to grow market share are continuing to spend in this area, even amid challenging economic headwinds. Unlocking the benefits of omnichannel requires a company-wide commitment to investment and innovation.  

Omnichannel, everywhere 

The number of sales channels used during the buying journey doubled between 2016 and 2022. Although buyers still use around ten channels in 2023, there are some changes in their behaviour, particularly in the early stages of the sales process as they assess suppliers using mobile apps, social media, texting, and other digital technologies.  

We identified five clear trends. Companies that deliver on all of these areas are twice as likely to achieve 10% growth in their market share or more – although focusing on them individually is still enough to drive a smaller increase.  

  1. The “rule of thirds”: At each stage of the buying journey, customers want an evenly divided mix of traditional, remote, and self-service channels, including face-to-face sellers, inside sales, and e-commerce.  
  1. Ecommerce is the most effective sales channel: It was rated as the most effective sales channel by 35% of respondents, ahead of in-person sales (26%), video conference (12%), email (10%), and telephone (8%). Companies winning market share combine digital self-serve channels such as their own websites with broader e-commerce offerings. Our research found that 48% of winners use industry-specific marketplaces, compared with 13% of companies that are losing market share.  
  1. Big spending on ecommerce transactions: Roughly 70% of decision-makers are prepared to spend up to $500,000 on a single e-commerce transaction. The number willing to spend $10 million or more has increased by 83%. 
  1. Hybrid sales teams: These are roles with a mix of both in-person and remote time with customers and are deployed by 57% of winning companies, compared with 40% of those that lost market share. The adoption of larger hybrid teams is correlated with greater market share gains. Respondents from small to midsize companies with larger hybrid adoption rates reported greater market share growth. 
  1. Hyper-personalisation. Winning B2B companies are much more likely to use personalisation in their outreach, providing unique messages to individual decision-makers based on their needs, profile, behaviours, and interactions. Half of the survey respondents who invested in personalisation capabilities experienced growth in market share.  

How to become a winner    

We’ve shown that companies that commit to delivering omnichannel experiences are more likely to grow their market share. Our research also identified three immediate core actions for sales leaders in 2023: 

  • Accelerate growth with an all-in channel approach, excelling in all sales channels and extending excellence throughout the entire marketing and sales funnel. 
  • Invest in innovative and practical technologies, such as predictive capabilities for connecting the end-to-end marketing and sales funnel and prioritising leads. 
  • Ensure flawless execution and seamless orchestration of the B2B buying experience across all channels, with a central sales leader to seamlessly orchestrate across multiple channels, including remote sales technologies and digital relationship management. 

In an era when companies are growing market share by investing in omnichannel, organisations that have yet to commit may be running out of time. Unless they take action now, they could lose ground to competitors. Decision makers prefer companies that deliver omnichannel experiences supported by personalised marketing. The time to commit to omnichannel is now.