Everyone is a consumer. And whether they’re in the office or outside, most consumers are connected and online. The traditional barriers separating B2B and B2C sales and marketing tactics are no longer in play and everyone - from brick and mortar retailers to manufacturers and distributors - is looking for more ways to grow sales and operate efficiently. Nowadays it’s more essential than ever to consider the individual who will be interacting with the messages, applications or technology.
Even in the workplace, individual employees still think and act like consumers. The stakes can be even higher for business buyers to make the right purchase decision if their job or professional reputation is on the line. In today’s market, as consumers have become accustomed to ecommerce innovations that make their lives easier, expectations for how things work in office have been changed. People, regardless of why they are seeking information, demand relevant content in a timely fashion, presented in a useful way on any device. Whether the B2C consumer is purchasing a pair of sneakers online, or a busy employee is checking inventory levels, smartphones have become a gateway to information and products, and users expect the ability to easily click through and discover their desired content or business processes.
While distributors may not interact with the end consumer directly, the experience they must deliver for their customers must be a consumer-like to meet the expectations of the “consumer at work.” Like consumers, business users need the seamless ability to process and move through each purchase journey and digital interaction with your company, regardless of the device they are using or where they are located. This approach, pioneered by the B2C industry, is slowly making its way to the B2B world. And as distributors set out to make the mind shift in their own organizations, there are vital lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of B2C.
With that in mind, here are five lessons learned from looking at the B2C past as a crystal ball for the B2B future.
1. Ensure that the Experience Transcends the Transaction. Much like in the B2C world, optimizing customer experience across multiple channels and touchpoints – be it online, offline, phone, print catalog, social, mobile, or direct mail, – can build a strong relationship with customers in the B2B world. Establishing multiple connections builds loyalty which can extend the lifetime value of that customer and lowers customer acquisition cost as additional purchases are made over time.
2. Know that Convenience Creates Loyalty. B2C customers with a positive customer experience become more loyal to brands and the same can be said for manufacturing customers in the B2B world. By driving customer loyalty via a good first impression and streamlining the customer experience when customers are taking on everyday tasks like tracking shipments, you can increase customer loyalty for your brand.
3. Understand that Identity is Essential. The most successful sites B2C sites, such as Amazon, require customers to register or login. This permits sites to offer customers a much richer and more personalized experience, further cementing the bond between customer and brand. Some sites (building supply sites, for example) combine B2C and B2B audiences, allowing customers to register as business buyer in order to get trade pricing, tax invoices and credit accounts. For B2B companies, capturing identity information can become part of the onboarding process when a new contract is signed or through the use of loyalty programs and special offers available to registered users.
4. Know that Automated Processes Build Efficiency. Keep expensive sales personnel focused on the most important tasks such as large orders, new contracts and higher value sales while leaving small order processing and order management to an automated system.
5. Don’t forget to Remind Customers what they Want or Need. Active merchandising – cross-selling and up-selling – add profit and deepen the customer relationship with the brand. What else does the customer want/need to purchase from you at this time? Customers are already familiar with these types of personalized cross-sell and up-sell techniques from B2C sites (i.e., recommendations, “People who looked at X also bought Y,” etc.)
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember to meet customer expectations. Meeting these expectations has set the stakes even higher for your business, giving you mere seconds to deliver the best digital interaction possible, or lose the sale. Whether you’re in manufacturing or in the retail business, your customers expect the online experience to be great. Customers’ B2C e-commerce experiences have set a high bar that must be met in the B2B environment and the companies that realize that now will be the most successful moving forward.