Last week, ShopVisible co-founder and CEO Sean Cook discussed the future of B2B commerce with 3M’s global digital marketing leader Keith Haig. The two executives were adamant that there are numerous opportunities available for businesses that want to become involved in B2B e-commerce. But, where does a company start?
It’s simple, really.
Just think B2C. Wait, what?
According to Cook and Haig, taking certain B2B tactics and applying them to a B2B initiative will reap serious benefits.
Using The Customer Experience
In their discussion, Cook and Haig explained that the important thing to remember is that B2B companies are filled with people, and those people are going to expect their business experiences to be similar to their personal experiences.
“An expectation in the B2B environment is for that same high quality experience in their roles as purchasing agents and other positions,” Haig said.
For example, the duo compared the BlackBerry to the iPhone. At first, the iPhone was considered a toy, while BlackBerries were meant for work. Individuals often had one of each, the executives explained. But over time, the customer experience won out, the users spoke and “dragged the business world along with them.”
“I think we’re seeing the same thing in B2B commerce,” Cook said. “They will drag us into the modern age of experience and interconnectivity and automation – whether we like it or not.”
So what exactly does this mean? Essentially, customers want control. Starting in 2010 was the “age of the customer.” With technology evolving each day, consumers have access to infinite information at their fingertips. It only makes sense that they’ll expect the same connectivity when it comes to their work life. If a business is unable to move with that, then it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant or extinct.
Omnichannel: It’s Not Just About Commerce
Another key point in Cook and Haig’s discussion was that it’s important for businesses that want to enter the B2B field to keep their customers’ entire journey in mind – not just the buying journey. Essentially, it’s all about serving your customer, regardless of whether that customer is an individual buyer or someone who is part of a larger firm.
“Business buyers will take their business elsewhere if the experience is not streamlined,” Haig said.
According to the duo, this might mean that a business will have to throw their previous organizational chart out the window. Cook referenced the “sales funnel,” and how in an age ripe with technology, that model is not necessarily current. It is not longer as simple as finding a customer and taking them step by step through a strict sales process.
Now, Cook said that the order of operations looks more like the New York City subway chart: there is inner connectivity and the customer interacts at many different points of interest. Additionally, they are able to let themselves on and off as they please.
Convenience and Profitability
Overall, Cook and Haig said that businesses must ensure that they are willing to service their customers like a B2C company. Individual consumers have been introduced to many conveniences in their personal lives, which is why they will expect those same luxuries in their professional lives.
Companies that are unable – or unwilling – to disrupt their previous sales structure will most definitely struggle. With the rise of the internet, it’s easier for organizations to choose a different supplier or third-party vendor. The playing field is leveled online, the duo said.
B2B is no longer a “closed universe,” and it is important for businesses in that sector to understand that fact. Apply a B2C mindset to your B2B commerce, and you will have a better chance in keeping your customers happy.