RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • B2B customers increasingly expect the personalized, frictionless interactions they experience in B2C markets.
  • By 2025 more than half of industrial transactions will be induced online.
  • Companies that fail to invest in this marketing, sales and service revolution will be risking 10 to 20 percent of their revenues.


Constantly evolving digital technologies are reinventing industry as we know it. And business-to-business (B2B) customers increasingly expect the personalized, frictionless interaction they are already experiencing in business to consumer (B2C). It’s a step change in expectations that Accenture calls industrial consumerism.

By 2025, we estimate that most B2B customers will have an online touchpoint at some stage between research and purchase. As a result, more than half of industrial transactions will be induced online. This seismic shift requires a massive change of mindset, and inevitably, a reallocation of the Sales, General and Administration (SG&A) cost budget—away from traditional structures that rely heavily on a physical field force, towards increased online tools and presence.

We estimate that companies who fail to invest in this marketing, sales and service revolution will be risking between 10 and 20 percent of their revenues. Today, however, few recognize the enormous speed of change, let alone its implications.

Most B2B organizations think they are doing just fine on industrial consumerism maturity. However, our findings reveal that these perceptions are a long way from market reality. Three reasons for the discrepancy between self-assessment and reality:

  1. Most organizations still benchmark against their peers rather than digital leaders in allied industries.
  2. Decision-makers have yet to recognize that true digitization is a perpetual process.
  3. Traditional/legacy behaviors and structures are entrenched and difficult to break down and change.

With both revenues and profitability at risk, all industrial companies need to raise their game.



What sets the masters apart?

Our research revealed that a small group, 16 percent, of B2B organizations are transforming at pace and already reaping the rewards. The EBIT of these “masters” is 13 percent higher than the rest of the peer group, and it’s growing 8 percent faster.

Masters understand that the disruption of marketing, sales and service is inevitable. They view industrial consumerism as an opportunity to evoke the pioneering spirit that defined industrial leaders in the past—and they are setting the pace in the race to reinvent marketing, sales and service. What sets them apart?

  • Their transformative vision gives them the courage to break with legacy paradigms.
  • Their lifecycle digitization reinforces their commitment to transform with new technologies.
  • Their true customer-centricity makes the pursuit of new structures, processes, go-to-market capabilities and data-driven customer experiences their business lodestar.
B2B customers expect the personalized interaction they experience in B2C markets. It’s a change in expectations that we call industrial consumerism.

Lessons in mastery

Our research reveals only masters appear to comprehend the big picture. A deep dive into their performance along three core dimensions of industrial consumerism maturity reveals the lessons that can be learnt from the masters.

Industrial consumerism maturity

Graph shows the stages of industrial consumerism maturity amongst laggards, strivers and masters.

Transform your vision into reality

Most critically, and in sharp contrast to strivers and laggards, masters have a clear strategic vision of how to digitize their marketing, sales and service. With customer-centricity at its core, that vision is fully embedded in the C-suite and across the organization. A digitization plan is defined and implemented, with clear governance structures, binding principles and secure funding in place.

Market Insights 

Along the left-hand side, there are four statements about market maturity with the right-hand size displaying the percentages of companies who said yes to these statements. They are itemized by Laggards, Strivers and Masters.

Masters also use rapid prototyping, minimum viable products, and SCRUM / agile implementation as part of their differentiated approach. They rigorously prioritize digitization initiatives according to how they add value, both in terms of improving customer experience to boost sales and improving performance to boost margin. Furthermore, they have flexible, adaptive structures to deal with the fragmentation of knowledge in the digital age which enables swift, efficient sourcing of expertise from their ecosystems.

Adopt a lifecycle approach to front-office digitization

Masters have invested in customer-facing technologies to deliver on industrial consumerism’s core promise: a personalized, frictionless experience throughout the lifecycle, from product information, consulting and purchase to maintenance, repair and overhaul.

Advanced technologies are leveraged to attract talent and retain skills, while also enhancing workforce performance. Masters also ensure that all functional departments use leading edge technologies and have a sophisticated CRM backbone to drive sales pipelines and conversion rates.

Selected technology insights

Along the left-hand side, there are five statements with the right-hand size displaying the percentages of companies who said yes to these statements about advanced CRM tools and automated marketing. They are itemized by Laggards, Strivers and Masters.

Deliver true customer-centricity

Masters fully align the overall customer experience across all channels and touchpoints, avoiding channel conflicts and cannibalization. Their understanding of emerging requirements across the entire product and service life-cycle makes them relevant throughout the customer journey. They score particularly highly in solution selling and deployment of new business models. This is key to achieving new revenue streams and realizing the full benefits of Industry X.0—the digital reinvention of industry. Crowd sourcing, AR/VR-based product configuration, interaction portals and IoT-based service models all help to keep customers engaged.

Customer engagement insights

Along the left-hand side, there are five statements regarding customer engagement along with the percentages of companies who said yes to these statements. They are itemized by Laggards, Strivers and Masters.
Continuous and agile transformation is key to realizing the full benefits of industrial consumerism.

Get ready to reinvent. Fast.

Masters have risen to the challenge of industrial consumerism with vision and enthusiasm. And, as a result, they are already more profitable than their peers. By following their lead, other companies can learn from them and reduce the risks to their own businesses. But to make a difference this change must happen fast. The time is now. Are you ready?

About the Authors

Bernd Hirschle​

Managing Director, Customer and Channels Lead – Industrial Consumerism​


Frederique Schmitt

Managing Director – Digital Transformation


​Clemens Stahl​

​Manager – Customer and Channels


Matthias Wahrendorff

Thought Leadership Research Senior Principal – Accenture Research


​Emma Blackburn

Research Manager – Customer and Channels

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