Consumers are so lucky; they can go online, do a little product research, then simply click to pay and arrange delivery.
But what about business-to-business purchases? Don’t those same people expect comparable purchasing experiences? Instead, the purchasing experience can be vastly different when buying B2B products. Are those purchasers gathering information differently? Do they expect a different engagement process?
Traditionally, companies have engaged with different marketing methods based on internal needs rather than based on when prospects are truly researching a product. Account engagements are based on a quarterly schedule, service calls are either break-fix or preventative maintenance and production requirements, based on forecasts that are never quite perfect and very difficult to change.
This is a model that no longer works. Why? Because the B2B customer is used to a business-to-consumer (B2C) transaction and rightly expects to receive the same – or better – service from a B2B transaction. But B2B is different, you might say. There are long-term contracts, strategic collaboration efforts, and on-going product quality and delivery issues to manage.
This is all very true and these issues are part of the new digital customer experience but the goals are the same for both B2B and B2C (and for business-to-government or B2G) buyers. They want to understand their requirements through research, have a simple purchasing process that matches their needs, and easily order products through the method most conducive to these needs at a particular time. They want the products to show up reliably in the requested quantity and agreed-upon quality and then be able to rely on the product supplier to provide them with information to better utilize their products on an as needed rather than fixed time basis.
This is what is called the digital customer experience (CX) model.
- To conduct online research and have the right content given to them at the right time
- Their products, components and equipment delivered in the right quantity at the right time
- Omni-channel – getting the same answer when they call, search online or email suppliers
- To get information but not be bothered by sales reps, yet understand that when a rep is contacting them it is because there is a benefit for the interaction
- Flexible pricing models; pay-by-hour or pay-by-outcome
- Their entire value chain optimized to ensure lowest possible cost
- Data and lots of it, so they can better perform for stakeholders
Understanding, organizing and planning for these engagements will separate the “haves” from the “have nots” in B2B. This is not limited to a single aspect of the enterprise but envelops marketing to production, sales, supply chain and procurement to finance.
The B2B side has to be as nimble as, if not more nimble than, the B2C side. Being “always on” poses large challenges for manufacturers of all types; logistics services providers, commercial transporters, telecoms providers, retailers or any commercial enterprise.
In the next few weeks, I will discuss what it means to disrupt the digital CX experience. It is the next digital revolution.