For years, established business-to-business (B2B) companies have been largely conservative and resistant to change, be they manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors or service providers catering towards enterprises and businesses.
While consumer products and services have been totally transformed by the tsunami of the digital revolution, with the likes of Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb and Uber totally reshaping the market with vision and innovation but always keeping the customer at the heart of everything they do; existing B2B relationships have generally been left unchanged.
It’s not that B2B doesn’t change. New players have begun to disrupt the landscape and succeeded but largely it’s been those players that already have experience on the consumer side: Amazon and Alibaba with their business market places or Airbnb with its pro offer. Traditional players have yet to fully appreciate the depth of the change needed and tend to think it’s only about digitalizing part of their processes, yet still stick to the same sales approaches.
The B2B arm of Amazon.com is on track to surpass $31 billion in revenue on $52 billion in gross merchandise sales within three years, an RBC Capital Markets analyst projects.
Digital Commerce 360
But, for those companies who want to embrace change, how should they approach their much-needed transformation? They have to reconsider their sales approach and channels and put customer experience at the heart of the business. As today, traditional characteristics such as price and features are becoming less and less important and experience has become the deciding factor that leads to a purchase.
What is a great B2B customer experience?
It’s way more complex than in B2C and has to be approached at two levels: organizational and individual. Both levels of will significantly impact how companies continue, or cease, buying from their providers.
A good experience will be one that removes friction, accelerates and simplifies all processes, from the earliest engagement to the use of a product or a service (beyond the sale), through the purchase of that product or service.
A good experience will first and foremost be a one that removes frictions and that accelerate and simplifies all journeys and processes
Let's see what this looks like through some concrete examples.
The speedy online journey
B2B relationships are not always about simply buying or selling. Some business processes are just as transactional but more complex. An example is the process for a company to apply and get a financial loan. Kabbage’s proposition is that businesses can apply and be approved for a loan in a matter of minutes via a 100% online experience. This removes friction when compared to the traditional way of multiple in-person meetings with a bank followed by a minimum 20 day wait.
Many inter-company business processes are similar to this scenario and can be dramatically improved by a smart digitalized process: think about a company applying for an account to become an affiliate reseller from a wholesaler in a regulated industry (healthcare, financial product or food), or a company looking to become a certified partner and having to go through a long onboarding process. How much faster, easier and frictionless would it be for them to apply online?
Repurchasing and subscription models
Subscription models with streamlined and accelerated operations make for enduring B2B relationships. Café Royal Pro provides enterprises with coffee solutions. They manufacture and provide the coffee machines that are installed at their customers’ premises, they also sell the coffee capsules for these machines and provide after-sales services and logistics too.
By moving to a service subscription model, enabling their customers to manage their needs through their website, Café Royal Pro simplifies the process without them ever having to worry about running out of coffee. Putting the organization’s experience at the heart of the operation has resulted in greater loyalty, increased sales and contributed to building a leading position in the market.
Priming the buying interaction
Modern buyers are self-sufficient, researching content about solutions and products so they can learn and make informed choices.
Some call this content marketing, many critics the term as a buzzword and think it only successfully applies to B2C. Well, if you are one of these critics, it’s time to change your mind.
Content marketing isn’t new and is just as valuable for B2B as it is for B2C. The novelty is that today, you can finally blend your content marketing efforts with extremely actionable purchasing interactions, blending content and commerce into one seamless journey and one experience by leveraging a technology that unifies both world of e-commerce and content management, and accelerate the value of content marketing.
It's time to get digital, and not just go digital
These examples highlight how important experience has become for B2B buyers and how much it can make a difference and contribute to how B2B companies succeed with their digital transformation initiatives. It’s not just the reserve of startups, it’s applicable for any company that is willing to change in order to remain relevant in their market. They need to get a move on with their digital transformation; to ‘get digital‘, not just ‘go digital‘.
If you are interested to learning more, we at Ibexa would love to help. We provide technology to enables you to build such experiences. Please feel free to reach out to us or to explore more by reading our latest ebook on the topic.