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The application of consumer tactics, such as text alerts, promotions and loyalty schemes mean B2B brands could – and should – be starting to fight for customers like B2C brands have traditionally.
Every customer served by a B2B company is also a consumer. Like a B2C purchase, there is always an emotional level to a business decision. With the B2B mind-set evolving to become more like B2C, B2B companies can smooth the buyer journey by learning lessons from their B2C counterparts.
B2B doesn’t have to be boring, predictable, clunky. Customer experience is critical, and those that can connect with customers on a more human level, can improve loyalty and boost pipelines. It’s time to apply some of the lessons we’ve learnt from B2C to B2B.
Business brands, much of the time, focus their messages around product benefits, but your target audience is much more likely to commit to a long-term partnership with a brand that’s a bit more human.
Take a look at some of these traditional B2B challenges and the B2C tactics that could boost your selling power.
Many B2C organisations, in the DIY or electronics sectors for example, provide vast libraries of value added content, designed to provide technical, how-to or educational content to their customers. For many sectors in B2B, holding on to IP and pricing details has meant that only the bare bones have been presented to customers, until they’re further down the buyer journey and really ready to purchase. By integrating content repositories of high value assets with your product catalogue, you can serve up value when your customers are searching for products, so they can validate their choice.
Typical B2B organisations have access to this kind of content, but many fall at the hurdle of effectively indexing it to serve it up at the right time, as and when customers are online, searching.
With a marketing team taking care of more of the funnel; a by-product of their efforts will be more content. That’s not just the product push: that’s issues based, awareness content that your organisation can use to speak intelligently about issues that are pertinent to the industry, and sell accordingly. Arm your organisation with the ammunition they need to engage with customers, perhaps more softly, but more effectively.
This idea of selling information rather than the brand also translates to your online presence. According to a recent report from the CMO council, 88% of respondents believe that online content has played a major to moderate role in their vendor selection.
Value-added content on your site means that when they seek this information – around issues, not just products - they are more likely to be drawn to your brand. It also provides a “talk-around”, adding context and insight to the traditional list of technical features.
Exclusive giveaways, competitions and prize draws can create a buzz and boost brand loyalty. They also give your sales team something else to talk about. You might find some sectors won’t allow it, but if you can, you should.
It’s simple really: customers will remember you in a good light, and make that first sales touch that bit easier. Utility is key – give them something they will find valuable, such as, free samples or subscriptions. Even down to loyalty points and rewards for repeat customers: take an air miles philosophy, whilst you might travel for business, you can use the benefits for pleasure. Loyalty programmes also provide a great way to capture more customer data, enabling you to optimise your website and content.
Let’s face it: everybody loves a freebie.
Oracle’s 2014 Trends in B2B Commerce report found that 52% of respondents have already, or are starting to implement, a cross channel customer experience, with 25% saying that cross channel experience would be a key focus area in 2014.
Providing a consistent and user-friendly interface across multiple channels presents a challenge, and doing multi-channel integration effectively is possibly one of the most important lessons that B2B can learn from B2C counterparts. Your online shop front needs to be as intuitive and easy to use for the customer as possible – across mobile, apps, tablet and desktop.
Whilst customers will jump from mobile to desktop to complete a purchase, for those that can’t immediately – you need to optimise your mobile site to encourage in device purchases.
So, what are the key elements of a B2C online experience?
Giving your customers a consumer-like experience online requires some specific functionality across a number of touch points. Intuitive search and navigation is key, so that customers don’t get frustrated by the need for too many clicks. Clear category and product pages should be available for easy navigation – and these should translate consistently across all touch points. Regardless of the channel, it should be a personalized and rewarding experience.
Think about going that step further too. Think about the ‘additional’ offerings that you take for granted on B2C sites such as tracking order status, inventory look up and click and collect. This “added value” functionality is what will transform a good cross channel experience to a great one, appealing to your customers’ consumer side and their propensity to purchase.