Episode two of Commerce Talk with SmartOSC is in the books, and this time we explored the blurring of lines between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) commerce, and the B2B2C model.
Host Adrian Wakeham, Regional Manager for Australia and New Zealand at SmartOSC, spoke to Eddie Teng, Head of Marketing and Digital Business Manager at ASUS Singapore, for insights into how ASUS recently transformed its eCommerce business using the B2B2C model.
Eddie has a decade of experience as a digital marketer and an eCommerce specialist, and his efforts have helped his company become the market leader in Singapore for consumer and gaming notebooks. He is currently on a mission to bridge the gap of offline and online customer experience for ASUS’ retail business in Singapore, and expanding the good work in the B2B and B2B2C aspect of the business. When he is not working, he is still on the lookout for the next big thing in marketing and omnichannel experience.
You can also check out this Q&A from the episode (edited for clarity and brevity) for insights into how to successfully blur those lines between B2B and B2C.
Adrian: By the blurring of lines, we mean phenomena like the fact that a lot of business buyers are increasingly looking to get that same online experience that they get as a consumer. Research from McKinsey has indicated 70 to 80% of B2B decision-makers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service when it comes to interacting with the sales reps. So Eddie, what sort of experience do you look for when you're buying consumer goods?
Eddie: One thing to look out for is the personalization in the shopping experience, because I will pay the extra to have that personalized service from a retailer or brand or a store. The majority of my purchases come from impulse purchases, especially online and due to recommendations and suggestions from retailer that got me thinking “hey, I think I need this”.
Adrian: So on the other side, when you’re B2B buying, what sort of experience do you look for?
Eddie: B2B is definitely different. It's definitely minus the impulse because you have to go through different stakeholders and management to actually get approval for a purchase. But right now my expectation of B2B transactions is that I want a similar experience that I have when shopping with B2C platforms.
Personalization and customer support is also very important to me in B2B transactions because the majority of B2B transactions are very personal. We may have someone from the vendor or an agency selling us a product and when we buy that product, we need to converse through multiple emails, or through calls, or even text messaging to get the things that we want.
I believe the B2C experience definitely can be brought into the B2B portion where everything is automated, because being a digital person, I'm a pro-automation guy. I want all things simplified.
Adrian: We’ve heard over and over again that the pandemic has spurred B2B buyers to seek out the B2C experience. But ASUS Singapore’s B2B2C transformation predates Covid, so what changes in the market brought that shift on other than Covid?
Eddie: When we started doing this, we had one key thing that we want to address to improve the digital experience of not just the B2C customers, but for our customers in general. And the second thing was about automation, we wanted to automate the process.
We call out B2B2C offering the ASUS Partner Employee Purchase Program. Customers, companies or employees can come to our ASUS online store to check out items, and at a discounted price or customized pricing specifically for the company. So for example, SmartOSC is part of the program. Any SmartOSC customers with the [email protected] can simply register for an account and they can enjoy the customized pricing and special pricing that ASUS extends to SmartOSC.
Previously before we had this in place, our sales reps had to go to different companies one by one. So to get orders from the employees, it could only be done once in a quarter or twice a year. So with the mindset of automating it and providing a better digital experience, we came up with this employee purchase program. Covid or not, it’s about improving the customer shopping experience and automating the entire process so that we don't have to rely just our sales reps, freeing up their time to do more important things, and always place orders automatically through our online store as part of one single system.
Adrian: What would you say are some of the most important first steps when a business is looking about replicating a B2C experience for their B2B buyers?
Eddie: First of all, identify whether that business process can be translated into a digital manner or way. Translating B2C experience for B2B buyers is a tricky thing, because some B2B purchases definitely require some form of direct human interactions. So not all B2C experiences can be extended to B2B for all kinds of transactions.
The first step in thinking about that is trying to identify the business processes and whether we can have system processes supporting those business processes, then that will form up whether it's a business suitable or capable of replicating the B2C experience to B2B buyers.
Adrian: How did you go about changing both the company and even some of your own internal teams’ mindsets when it came to providing B2B customers the B2C experience?
Eddie: Changing someone's mindset or even the company's mindset is a tough thing to do. To change people's mindset, especially how management views the business, and how team members view the business, is actually data.
As long as there's evidence, people will buy into the idea, as long as I can put forth the rationale, or the reasons for the change, using data, then I can convince people. So we did lots of research to see what B2B and B2C customers want. We use the data to justify to team members and also the company that this can work for us and it actually drives incremental revenues or transactions for the entire business.
Adrian: How has this pivot to B2B2C changed how you look at the B2C side of your business?
Eddie: Over time, we have seen the blurred lines converging in a sense that B2C buyers and B2B to see buyers are actually behaving the same. So the expectation of how we look at B2C right now can be directly applied to how we look at people doing B2B business. There still is differentiation, but their similarities have started to emerge.
Adrian: For people in your position who may be considering moving to B2B2C, are there any notes of caution you want to point out or things to look out for?
Eddie: It’s definitely going to be an internal struggle. It’s getting your management to buy into the idea of pivoting to B2B2C. It’s not a particularly new concept, what the differences right now is actually in the experience or the way you are conducting business.
In this digital age, you definitely need some investment into setting up a system to support your B2B2C business. The toughest aspect will be trying to persuade your management to buy into this idea because they will have to spend money.
Then of course, is the knowledge in carrying out this transition, because everybody can do business but not everybody has the knowledge to carry out a digital transformation. So you need a trusted partner or knowledgeable employee to help.
Adrian: If you could give a business making this transition just three pieces of advice, what would they be?
Eddie: First, just do it. There are bound to be channel conflicts and when it comes to two factors, being your own channel and your reseller channels, there is bound to be conflict. So you have to suck it up and do what’s best for the business. My advice is just to fall back to your main objective of why you're doing this and you'll be fine.
Next, you need to make sure that your business is ready. You need to make sure that you have all the boxes ticked before starting. It's not just whether you have the budget to do this, or whether you have the resources and the skill set to do this, you still need to look at the entire business mindset, whether Is it your team members or management. You can't please everyone but you still need to make sure you have all the resources ready to go when you take on this new business.
Finally, you definitely need someone that you can trust. When we started on this project, one of the key things was our expertise in this area was so small, so SmartOSC being a seasoned player was why we shortlisted you to help us in with our digital business. Dabbling in this field is not just a one-year or two-year thing a one-year thing, it basically spells out the entire future of your company or business.