One of the essentials of modern-day marketing is the division between B2B and B2C. The key difference in audience meant two completely different marketing approaches – up until recently. However, as time goes by, B2B customers increasingly expect B2C-like experience from marketers and companies. In fact, 80% of B2B buyers will expect B2C customer experience in 2018.
Here is why the lines between the two types of marketing are blurring and what you can do to make your B2B marketing more similar to B2C.
The importance of an omni-channel approach
As can be seen in research by Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership, B2B customers are increasingly expecting omni-channel experiences. They want to be engaged at all times and research before committing to buy. The traditional top-to-bottom sales funnel is no longer viable and businesses need to adapt.
As new technologies develop, it is increasingly important to focus on multiple touchpoints for B2C customers. Before committing to buy, customers will do research across multiple devices, and the typical customer journey may take weeks to months and consist of multiple touchpoints. Omni-channel is actually becoming the norm for B2C, as 85% of people shopping online begin their purchase on one device and end it on another.
Omni-channel has made its through B2B as well, as two thirds of B2B companies state that their customers expect omni-channel initiatives. Furthermore, 68% of B2B customers state that it’s important to be able to view their activities across channels. This entails viewing product information, previous purchases and activities and other relevant information.
Mobile is at the frontier of the omni-channel experience, with over half of B2B executives willing to make purchases related to business on their phones. This shows in sales numbers too, as 19% of digital commerce revenue for B2B comes from mobile platforms. If we compare this to 23% for B2C, it’s clear that B2B is catching up. It is therefore crucial to make your website mobile optimized, or perhaps even convert it to a mobile app.
Personalization on a larger scale
One of the biggest challenges of offering B2C-like experience for B2B customers is the personalization. Namely, consumers now expect services catered specifically to them. We get recommended products and services at the right time, when we’re primed and ready to hit the buy button.
This kind of sentiment has spread to B2B as well. Gone are the times when mass-sent cold outreach did the trick. B2B consumers expect personalized messages reaching them at the right moment in their customer journey.
However, personalization remains one of the biggest struggles in B2B, according to the previously mentioned Forrester research. Those companies that are willing to devote time and money into personalized B2B experiences simply cannot make the move.
The biggest challenge – lack of data. Namely, companies have customer data for personalization in some channels – but not all. As companies don’t have access to all data across channels, this results in lower conversion rates. In the case of software companies, it often leads to much-dreaded churn.
Convenience is the name of the game
Say that you want to order a new laptop online. Once you’ve settled on a model, the usual buying process takes less than a minute – and if it takes too long to check out and buy, you’ll just go elsewhere. In fact, for almost 70% of online shoppers, convenience is one of the key factors for making a purchase. This is yet another trend making its way to B2B. The longer it takes to purchase and the more complicated the process is, the lower the conversion rate.
On top of this, B2B companies also use the internet to research and buy. As research shows, 89% of B2B companies research a brand online before making any purchase. Additionally, there’s an average of 12 searches before they decide to engage and buy from one brand.
Perhaps most importantly, 57% of all buying decisions for B2B purchases are made before there’s any contact with the sales department, as this is simply more convenient. While this stresses the importance of making online purchases as easy and streamlined as possible, it raises another question. Does the sales department even belong in the new B2B model that is increasingly akin to B2C?
The answer is – yes, you still need a strong sales department. There are products and services that cannot be purchased with the click of a button and in many times, an expert consultant is needed before making a purchase. However, convenience is still a decisive factor, as it’s evident that B2B consumers prefer to do their own research before buying. Enable them to make an informed decision before they purchase to make for an experience more similar to B2C.
The advent of account-based marketing
One of the perfect ways of bringing B2C experience to a B2B environment is account-based marketing (ABM). Instead of pitching a uniform message to a large group of B2B clients, ABM focuses on finding key accounts (customers). You would then send unique messages to individual accounts or groups of accounts, just as if you were doing B2C marketing.
So far, the limits to ABM were that it required significant investments in time and resources to do it properly. Manually finding key accounts and sending them targeted, personalized messages is not only impractical, it’s also unscalable. Luckily, new AI-based ABM tools make this a breeze. In this way, ABM delivers a B2C experience to a B2B environment, providing the best of both worlds.
According to industry experts, there are multiple reasons for trying out ABM, ranging from more personalized communications to better use of marketing resources. However, perhaps the most important reason for trying out ABM are the immediate effects on ROI.
Namely, 84% of surveyed businesses said that ABM delivers higher ROI than all other forms of marketing. Additionally, it allows companies to track attribution and see which of their channels contributes the most to their marketing success. As such, ABM is the ideal solution for bridging the gap between B2C and B2B.
Ultimately, company leaders need to realize that B2B buyers differ very little from their B2C counterparts. As such, it’s important to provide them with a convenient, personalized buying experience across multiple channels and stay on top of latest B2C trends. If you’re not keeping up, your competition most likely is.
About the author:
Dave Schneider is the founder of LessChurn, churn reduction app. In 2012 he quit his job to travel the world, and has visited over 65 countries. In his spare time, he writes about SaaS and business at DaveSchneider.me.