While the B2C market has been engulfed by constant streams of digitalisation and innovation (fuelled by the likes of Amazon and Netflix), B2B businesses have remained relatively consistent. B2C businesses are continuously experimenting with creative tactics to attract new customers but B2Bs largely rely on referrals, reputation and retaining their existing customers.
However (and it’s taken some time but it’s finally happening), the market is changing. More and more businesses with experience on the consumer side are entering the B2B world. And with them, they bring their innovative mindset, digital-first culture and roadmaps on ‘how to sell like Amazon’.
If traditional B2B players don’t embrace digital transformation, they’ll get left behind.
Customers are driving digital transformation
No matter how customer demands change, one thing they always want is an excellent customer experience. And that is what’s driving digital transformation across the B2B landscape. (If you’d like to read a little more about digital transformation, its definition and how it entwines with innovation, click here.)
The modern B2B customer experience
Thanks to the rise of digital technologies, today’s customers (B2B as well as B2C) rank convenience as a top priority. For example, smartphones have made accessing information relatively easy to do regardless of time and location. If customers want to read interesting content that relates to their industry, business, needs and pain points, all they have to do is type in a few search queries on Google.
If you can make that process even easier for your customers, the more likely they are to purchase (or repurchase) from your company. Investing in digital technology will help you provide a more seamless customer journey and experience.
- Social selling rather than cold calling - your customers are already online so why not meet them where they currently are rather than them having to find you? You could share relevant articles and content on your social media channels, use targeted ads etc
- Following a digital marketing strategy rather than only offline marketing activities - such as running email marketing campaigns, blogging regularly to promote your business as a thought leader and ensuring your content ranks highly on search results
- Personalised recommendations - tailor product and service recommendations based on what you already know about your customers. This AI-driven approach is a great way to up and cross-sell and please your customers with your intuitiveness
- Special treatment for returning customers - everyone loves being treated like a VIP and if a brand can make you feel special, you’re more likely to remember them. This is another example of AI in action - you could greet returning customers by their first name or offer them exclusive deals based on their previous purchases
- Omnichannel customer support - not all customers will want to speak on the phone. Some may want to reach out to you via live chat or social media, for example. So, provide a variety of choices and let customers contact you via the method of their choosing
In short, the modern-day B2B customer experience should be every bit as convenient, intuitive and creative as the B2C counterpart. The B2B buying process might be a little different to B2C but it’s these nuances that give digitally transformed businesses even more of an advantage.
For instance, B2B purchase decisions are more strategic and less emotional. There’s no room for impulse purchases here. So, any product/service recommendations or attempts at cross/upselling you make need to be targeted. AI-driven recommendations can help you ensure this.
And here’s another example.
The B2B buying process is longer because there are more stakeholders involved, evaluations to make, more red tape to cross etc. Help them shorten and simplify that process by ensuring customers get everything they need e.g. a clear one-page factsheet on your business’ offerings and USPs. A video case study to show how you’ve successfully helped another customer. A blog post that compares your product/service to a competitor. See where we’re going with this?
The more value you can give your customers, the better.
A customer-first mentality is nothing new
To summarise, examine your business and the market. Then see where you can implement technology to enhance your B2B customer experience.
According to global marketing intelligence company IDC, two-thirds of CEOs from Global 2000 companies want to focus on digital strategies to improve customer experience rather than traditional, offline methods. So, the thought is there.
The increasingly unpredictable nature of the market is also having an impact. For example, US cloud communications platform Twilio found 97% of executives think COVID-19 sped up their business’ digital transformation and 79% say the pandemic increased budgets for innovation.
But is the B2B e-commerce landscape tackling digital transformation properly?
In our guide to successful digital transformation in B2B e-commerce, we cover the key ingredients to successful innovation, including how to choose the right technology and create a digital-first culture. Click the button below to download the guide.