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Industrial Companies Slow to React to Rising Demand for Digital Sales, Accenture Report Finds

Report identifies five capabilities critical to building seamless digital customer journeys

Despite industrial customers’ increasing expectations for a digital purchasing experience, many industrial companies have been slow to deliver, with only about one in 14 of them (7%) planning to transform their digital sales capabilities within the next two years, according to a new report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

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The new Accenture report “High-Voltage Digital Sales” notes that industrial companies do not plan to expand their digital sales capabilities in the next two years. (Photo: Business Wire)

The new Accenture report “High-Voltage Digital Sales” notes that industrial companies do not plan to expand their digital sales capabilities in the next two years. (Photo: Business Wire)

The report — titled “High-Voltage Digital Sales” and based on a survey of 500 executives in sales and marketing positions at industrial companies globally — estimates that by 2025 almost one-third (29%) of industrial sales will be conducted through digital channels, up from 21% today. It notes that while 96% of respondents generally see the need to transform their sales departments to offer their customers better digital purchasing experiences, they are slow to act.

“While the pandemic served as a digital wake-up call for most sectors, industrial companies seem to have missed the message,” said Thomas Rinn, who leads Accenture’s Industrial industry group globally. “Most of them understand the need to transform the way they sell machines, spare parts and services, but only a fraction of them are ready to do so. As a result, the vast majority of industrial firms are still far away from offering their clients the needed multi-channel sales experience with a focus on digital sales as we see in other industries.”

As part of its research, Accenture categorized the sales-maturity levels of respondent companies based on how they identified their performance across five capabilities that are key to digital sales: digital end-to-end customer engagement; proactive, customized recommendations; predictive, data-driven customer insights; automated, standardized sales processes; and collaborative front-office operations.

Based on these five capabilities, Accenture then divided the companies into three clusters according to digital sales maturity, calling those with the most advanced approach to creating digital customer journeys — accounting for 11% of respondent companies — the “Leaders”. Those with the least-mature digital sales capability, the “Laggards,” accounted for nearly half (48%) of respondents, with the “Strivers” comprising the rest.

The report found that, compared with “Strivers” and “Laggards”, “Leaders” stand out in two of the five capabilities in particular:

  • Front-office collaboration: Leaders excel by creating seamless customer journeys that include all steps of the buying process, from marketing to sales to after-sales. They combine data and customer insights from each of these three areas to create highly customer-centric digital sales experiences. In addition, more than half (54%) of “Leaders” engage in advanced marketing practices like competitive intelligence and pricing optimization, serving as a strategic advisor for sales and after-sales.
  • Customized recommendations: By making the online experience personalized and relevant, Leaders are doing far more to bring a digital purchasing experience into the B2B world. They use customized, data-driven automated recommendations to ensure that customers get products tailored to their individual needs and based on their buying history, while also personalizing the digital customer journey by using branded, customer-tailored web shops that are integrated with customer procurement portals.

The report also notes that nearly half (48%) of “Strivers” and 42% of “Laggards” — those with the lowest digital sales maturity — said that their sales staff are resisting a stronger push toward digital commerce.

“Although many sales reps believe that scaling digital sales capabilities will jeopardize their jobs, the reality is that promoting complex products such as industrial machinery requires the support of an experienced sales expert,” Rinn said. “Online sales are a great way for industrial companies to attract new buyer groups and deepen existing relations with clients. There’s no going back to the old status quo, as digital sales will continue to be important — likely even more so once the pandemic ends.”

Read the full report here

About the Report

For the report “High-Voltage Digital Sales”, Accenture conducted a comprehensive and representative online survey of 500 executives in senior sales, marketing and after-sales positions with industrial companies across 12 countries in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. The companies operate in four industry segments — industrial and electrical equipment, heavy equipment, automotive suppliers, and consumer durables. The survey was conducted in October and November 2020.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries, we offer Strategy and Consulting, Interactive, Technology and Operations services — all powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Our 537,000 people deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity every day, serving clients in more than 120 countries. We embrace the power of change to create value and shared success for our clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities. Visit us at

Accenture’s Industrial Equipment practice — fuelled by the company’s global industrial footprint, ecosystem and cross functional expertise — helps clients re-tool, re-purpose and re-invent themselves in the ever-changing business environment so that they are future-ready and prepared for the Industrial Renaissance. To learn more, visit

Copyright © 2021 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture and its logo are registered trademarks of Accenture.


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