A large percentage of B2B buyers are now Millennials, the largest generation at the present. So if you haven’t considered people from 25 and 40 years old your target audience, you definitely should because of their tremendous spending power, which reached $1.4 trillion, making up about 30% of all retail sales in 2020.
But they are also younger, more computer literate, and demand a seamless shopping experience because they have received terrific service as a B2C buyer- why would they expect less when it comes to B2B buying, with much larger deals, more vendors to choose from, saturated information on the Internet and a larger group to decide the final purchase? That’s the reason why many B2B businesses are forced to make changes.
Even though you can tell that they are trying to treat their business buyers differently, business buyers are still looking for a user experience like Amazon, Tmall and the like where they can access and make a purchase 24/7 at convenience. These patterns stir quite a topic for a lot of hot debates: Is B2C the future of B2B eCommerce?
You may argue: It’s totally different, starting from the most basic: the audience. Different audiences, different approaches - yeah right, but is B2B and B2C THAT different after all?
The mindset for B2C and B2B selling is not the same at all. The risk that one person takes when buying something for themselves with their own money is poles apart from buying something as part of a team, using the company's money. The authority, accountability, and responsibility are totally unmatched.
But when it comes to approaching customers, any business model must do the same thing: they have to develop a buying journey and thus, target a specific persona to build a marketing strategy. You will have to define the same information: what are the customers, what are their interests, their pain points, behaviors and triggers.
A great example of this similarity is the domination of account-based marketing (ABM) in B2B. ABM is a marketing strategy focusing on a specific group of decision-makers. Marketing activities start by defining who they are, what concerns them and how can we fill marketing material onto their journey.
This is the foundational reason that strategic brand development has long-term ROI. The more crisply articulated and presented your brand’s target audience becomes, the more consumers understand who you serve and whether or not they fit into the market you serve best.
B2B needs trust more than any other model, mostly because of its huge scope, time and budget. So, just like a salon employee who makes friends with her customers or your regular coffee shops, the first and most important thing that B2B businesses have to do in order to sell something is to build a relationship relayed on trust with their target customers.
B2B sales count on trust, industrial referrals and reputation.
However, in B2B, this process is much longer and more complex. For example, to build trust, most SaaS (Software as a service) companies offer a free 30-day trial demo. According to a COO at Katalon, the number of failed sales rose the highest after this trial period as they know how the software unfolds in a real business environment and whether it fits in their business model. Katalon understands this and builds a whole Customer success team to guide and support customers through this one-month trial.
Behind the “trust” in B2B selling is much more complex planning, requiring serious investment and human resources. Today, it’s not enough for sellers to stand behind their products. They need to become partners in ensuring success for the individual buyer and the organization.
According to Forrester, 62% of B2B buyers develop a finalized vendor list based solely on digital content. As B2B buyers become accustomed to the intuitive and intelligent shopping platforms commonplace in the B2C space, they have raised their expectations for a digital-first experience. B2B companies offering a seamless eCommerce customer journey increase their chances of making it on that final vendor list.
The issue with customer experience doesn’t just stop there. 73% of B2B buyers want personalized experiences that are similar to B2C-like customer experience (According to the Experience of Commerce 2020). Research has also found that 50% of B2B buyers identified improved personalization as a key feature when searching for online suppliers with whom to build relationships, with consumers spending 48% more when their experience is personalized.
The customer experience management market is expected to double, reaching $14.9 billion by 2025. If there's one thing these numbers are saying, it is the changing nature of customers. B2B customers want the same impressive experience that B2C shoppers are getting — and brands can't deny it.
Of course, we understand that the buyer personas, the buying journey and arguably all other aspects of B2B businesses are more complex than B2C. That’s because while B2C customers value your products, B2B customers are mostly driven by statistics and success stories that they can share with their team. But when the landscape is changing, we see many trends from B2C that are making shifts in B2B segments.
The problem with B2B customers is that they don’t just buy your products - they are buying from you because they trust you as a brand. That’s why expertise blog posts, webinars with thought leaders are all the rage in B2B business.
Throughout the whole journey, B2B customers need to receive the right information at the right time. Customers and prospects want to read superior content that will inform and educate them. Content should help buyers make better-informed decisions while demonstrating true expertise and building authority.
This is not new in the B2C field, for example, when you buy a new television, a modern customer will research on the Internet, read articles that rank first on Google and watch comparison videos instead of going to the local electronics store, browsing the shelves, and believing anything a salesperson says. This scenario is the same for today’s B2B selling. Most B2B customers will visit your website to see what you have to offer, ask their friends, colleagues about your product/service and read what the press says about you, etc. The number of pre-purchase touchpoints has increased dramatically, and you would want to make sure you meet customers where they are.
For the record, B2B journeys are much longer, technical with a lot of back and forth interaction throughout one touchpoint. In other words, the journeys are often fragmented by account and location, involving multiple teams in different departments.
That’s why data-driven marketing must be set up to yield the best outcome.
While B2C sales data is much more widely available as consumers are now volunteering much more information and cross-device tracking is becoming more powerful. But that data is also valuable to B2B companies so that they’ll know what they are doing well and what needs to be fixed. They just can’t rely on the vendor's sole perspective to adjust their product plans.
Today, data is richer than ever, with mobile phone IDs allowing people to be targeted by phone with the same precision as by email. With the advent of Customer Data Platforms (CDP), it is also easier to combine data from different sources and use it to create individual user profiles.
B2C brands have been focusing on personalization for quite a long time, and now B2B businesses are following their leads. Why? Because B2B customers are looking for empathy and problem solving from their suppliers as well. It’s no longer just about the value proposition, but the cultural proposition. They want to work with partners who understand their realities and can solve their biggest pain points.
B2B customer-experience index ratings significantly lag behind those of retail customers. B2C companies typically score in the 65 to 85% range, while B2B companies average less than 50%. This gap will become even more apparent as B2B customer expectations rise.
For B2B business, if you don’t nurture your contacts or create partnerships in the network they will not sustain.
Come to the core of B2B selling, it’s human to humans (H2H) and human, is all about connection and relationship. No matter whether a person that has a specific role in a company deals with other companies (B2B) or goes on a shopping spree and buys new tennis shoes for tennis lessons (B2C), he or she wants the same thing: to be approached as a person.
This leads to the importance of building relationships in both B2C and B2B.
Harvard professor said that 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious, the greatest sales trainer Zig Ziglar, used to say, “People buy on emotion and justify on logic”. But when it comes to B2B, most customers reason with logic then again, apply emotion to justify their logic. What is relevant here is although building relationships start in B2C marketing, it is very important for sustainable B2B. For B2B selling, if you don’t nurture your contacts or create partnerships in the network they will not sustain.
Covid-19 and its dangerous Delta variant have changed both B2B and B2C businesses all over the globe. The changing landscape of technology, customers demographics and behavior as well as the rise of eCommerce has further blurred the lines between B2B and B2C.
This new route requires businesses to understand the situation thus, either building or speeding up their B2C capabilities. Now, experts at Adobe have estimated that around 70% of organizations are now hybrid B2B and B2C - the B2B2C model or B2E, which is business to everyone.
To leverage that, you need first, the right mindset about why you need this B2B2C model and second, technology platforms and solution providers that support your visions - that’s where Magento and SmartOSC come into play.
Get your free B2B2C Whitepaper HERE or see how ASUS Singapore won customers by implementing B2B2C.
Or you can listen to what the insiders have to say by listening to our Commerce Talk podcast ep.2 named The burred lines of B2B2C eCommerce. In this episode, we interviewed Eddie Teng - Head of Marketing and Digital Business Manager at ASUS Singapore, and dive deep into how the lines between B2B and B2C customers have blurred.
A sneak peak of ASUS Singapore's three top tips for B2B2C transformation:
1. Don’t worry about channel conflicts, act like Nike and just do it!
2. Make sure your business (including human resources) is ready for the transition.
3. You need internal or external digital transformation expertise on hand.
Listen to insights from experts and industry leaders and don't forget to subscribe, drop us a rating, and share with anyone you like!
Remember, at the end of the day, people are always the one who makes the purchase, not a brand, not a business. Some of them may be the VP of the company you are dying to sell to, but most of the time, they are themselves - a person with their own names, preferences and judgments. Regardless of which one you’re targeting, you have to always be crisp in describing who your offer is for and the outcome they will achieve from buying your product or service.