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B2C expectations have crossed over to the B2B world

  • Posted on May 10, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes

In today’s digital economy, we can’t afford to overlook the fact that business buyers are consumers. Even when you’re selling into a multi-million-dollar global conglomerate, the decision-makers on the buyer’s side of the transaction see themselves as unique individuals. They have developed increasingly high expectations of the vendors with whom they partner.

Several factors are responsible for this shift in expectations.

First, digital-first experiences have proliferated beyond retail. And, as a result, consumer expectations have normalized around Amazon-like frictionless experiences. This raises the bar for traditional B2B organizations, who could historically opt-out of ‘going digital’ without much impact. Business buyers now expect easy-to-browse online catalogues, simplified decision-making, seamless check-out and fast shipping for business purchases, just as they do when they make personal purchases.

Secondly, the demographics of B2B decision-making have changed. According to research sponsored by LinkedIn, digital-natives between the age of 21 to 40 are now, globally, the primary decision makers in B2B sales (almost 75% in the field of hardware and software sales). When these digital natives make purchasing decisions, they expect digital-first or, increasingly, digital-only experiences. 44% of millennials don’t want any interaction with a sales representative in a B2B buying journey. And for those who still expect some level of interaction with your sales organization, this engagement now happens much later in their purchase decision process. These buyers prioritize digital channels for product research, evaluation, comparison and post-purchase needs.

B2B organizations are increasingly embracing B2C-style offerings in response to these changing attitudes. That means everything from creating more video and social content (around 40% of young decision makers say video and social media play a hugely influential role in their buying decisions) to developing purely online purchase processes. Personalization, long critical to B2C experiences, is now also a critical part of the B2B journey.

If you’re looking to deliver competition-beating B2B experiences today, you should consider a B2C mindset as you set your strategy. To do that, you need to optimize three key factors:

  • Brand identity
  • Interactions with buyers and end customers
  • Agility and optimization

Brand identity
In today’s global markets, things move fast and low-cost copycat products are quick to follow innovative product releases. To stay profitable, you not only need to be first to market, you need to capitalize market-share quickly to recoup investment costs.

Optimizing digital channels to expand reach allows for faster market penetration and lowers the cost of acquiring new customers and markets. Digital channels can and should be leveraged to build the strength of your B2B brand.

B2B brands aren’t all that different to B2C ones. If you can differentiate your brand, you’ll have a better chance of gaining and holding onto new business buyers. Your buyer will have personal motivations for working with your business just as any consumer will.

By developing a brand identity around the strength of your products, your commitment to social good and strong customer service, your B2B company will stand out from your competition and allow you to strengthen your market position.

Interactions with buyers and end customers
We can all agree that customer experience matters in B2B but, somewhere along the way, we’ve lost touch with buyers. 80% of brands think they deliver an excellent customer experience, but only 8% of their customers agree. To deliver great B2B CX, you need to know your customer. And, by this, we don’t just mean their business profile.

Find out who is actually making the decisions. Are they mostly millennials? What are their preferred methods of gathering information? Do they even want to talk to a salesperson? Maybe they’d prefer to self-service?

In the new economy, brand development is built on two-way communication and engagement. Your website should tell your brand story, but also be configured to deliver critical information to you about buyer priorities and goals so that you can anticipate new market needs for products or services. Engagement on social channels also allows for two-way communication that will foster your brand impact in market and reach new audiences.

Agility and optimization
Developing a digital strategy is never a “one-and-done” activity. Your customer’s needs are in a state of constant change and evolution, so it’s critical that you are able to evaluate and optimize your strategy based on key performance indicators.

Data-driven brands take full advantage of the data they collect to derive actionable insights. They’re also keen to incentivize prospects to provide additional information about themselves.

Be sure to explore different methods of content delivery, especially across your social, email and website channels. But also be sure to think outside the box. Take advantage of those areas where the physical and digital meet (for example, digital billboards, QR codes and augmented reality) as these can help you be instantly accessible to your buyers, wherever they are.

Successful B2C businesses have already seen the power of content, data, and personalization and have set a high bar for customer experience. The most successful B2B brands leverage their digital footprint to outpace their competition and build personalized relationships with their buyers and end-customers.

The future of B2B
B2B marketing has changed. Not only do you need to know how to sell to a new generation of business buyers, you also need the right tools and support to open up new opportunities.

If you’re thinking of taking the next big step in your organization’s evolution, Avanade and Adobe can help. We’ll work with you to find the best way forward and deliver on the new expectations in B2B experience. As a starting point, we can show you how to build innovative digital experiences that quickly differentiate you from competitors, delight your customers, and boost your marketing ROI.

We understand that every business and customer is different. Do you agree that B2B businesses should act more B2C? I look forward to hearing your perspective.

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