Consumerisation is a strong trend in B2B, as you can read from Emmi Tervala’s excellent post about B2B e-Commerce Trends for 2017. Every B2B buyer is also a consumer and expects similar customer experiences from digital B2B services as they are used to in B2C context. Whereas a consumer is often the only decision maker in a purchase process, B2B sales is often much more complex.
B2B commerce is about managing value networks
Value is created when a company and its customer interact with each other – that interaction is all that should matter. This is why investing into good customer experience often pays off. In the increasingly digitalized world we see more and more companies focusing only on owning that interaction. However, B2B sellers operate often in complex value networks with several interactions impacting the overall product or service delivery and customer experience.
For example, an interior company might think of moving their sales, completely or partly, from dealer channels towards architects or end-users to get better margins and provide better customer value. Aiming to focus on interaction with architects, companies can get involved earlier in the decision process. For certain customer groups dealers might remain as a relevant and more efficient channel, and thus the company has an opportunity to create different experiences for different buyers.
Optimising B2B sales is about leading the value network and managing interactions between various value groups. The interaction might be human-to-human, automatised or capability for BIM (Building Information Modeling) integration - whatever makes buying easier and provides best total sales.
Simplifying the difference between B2C sales vs. sales in B2B network
Make buying easier
A typical purchase process includes several buyer personas that all have a role in decision making - e.g. procurement, IT, business & budget owner, topic expert influencers, etc. The sales cycles also take much longer and include several phases such as searching for solutions, evaluating partners, negotiating and comparing, mutual adaptation and need fitting, evaluation between solutions and managing the order-to-delivery process.
Since the purchase process is often complex and includes several dimensions, it might become painful. Instead of building new ecommerce layers, it is often a good idea to start with eliminating pain points in the buying experience. To simplify, think about the Uber experience; at the end of the ride you don’t need to think about paying -– you just hop off and it’s all taken care of.
Define the vision for the buying experience for each value group first: How do we want our customers and partners in the value network to feel and act in each phase of the funnel. Then create and - this is important - prioritise the buyer personas to map the most important journeys from the business point-of-view. Mapping really means mapping, without forgetting the back-end side of things including processes, organization’s responsibilities, technologies and systems.
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