It’s no secret that the B2B landscape has changed drastically in the last few decades.
At the forefront of these changes, of course, is technology. Whether directly or indirectly, technology has changed the way companies do business with one another.
What this means for your company is:
If you haven’t kept up to date with the current trends in the world of B2B commerce, you run the risk of losing out to competing companies who are more prepared to meet the expectations of their clients and business partners.
That being said, this article will take a look at five major trends in the B2B commerce world you need to stay on top of in order to stay ahead of the competition and keep your customers not just satisfied by your offerings - but actually excited by the value you provide them.
Let’s get started.
5 Trends That Are Changing the B2B Commerce Landscape
As we mentioned, many of the trends we’ll discuss relate, in one way or another, to advancements in technology that have changed the way both individual consumers and companies do business.
However, rather than focusing on the actual technology, this article will focus on how B2B customers’expectations have changed because of said technology - and how you can meet these new expectations by using the new tools available to your company.
Let’s begin by discussing the customer experience as a whole.
Focusing on Customer Experience (CX)
The modern B2B relationship is much more than the simple transactional relationship of years past.
Nowadays, any company worth their salt can produce and offer a product that meets the typical expectations of the modern B2B consumer (of course, companies that can’t won’t get very far).
At a time in which multiple companies offer products that are, for the most part, identical in terms of quality, the main thing that differentiates one company from another is the overall experience they provide their customers.
A variety of aspects factor into the overall customer experience, such as:
- The intake and onboarding process
- Support offered throughout numerous touchpoints
- Payment/checkout process
- Follow-up communication
It’s essential that you understand all of the major (and minor) touchpoints and milestones throughout your relationship with your B2B clients in order to create customer experience and service blueprints that:
- Match the needs of individual clients
- Document how your company intends to meet these needs
Once you determine the touchpoints that matter most to your customer’s overall experience, you can define your One Metric That Matters, as well as other KPIs that relate to this main metric.
In turn, you’ll be better able to pinpoint specific areas in which your company is able to meet the needs of your clients - as well as areas that are in need of improvement.
(As a quick note, the remaining aspects we’ll be discussing all play into the overall customer experience. Keep this in mind in order to pinpoint ways in which you can weave them into the experience you provide your specific customers.)
It’s commonly believed that, by the time the modern B2B consumer actually approaches a specific vendor, they’re already more than halfway to making a purchase.
The main reason for this is that this modern consumer doesn’t need to rely on suppliers for information - they can access whatever they want, whenever they want, at the click of a button.
The question is:
Are they going to get this information from you - or from one of your competitors?
Needless to say, if competing companies offer information vital to your target consumer’s purchasing decision - and you don’t - you don’t stand a chance of attracting this new clientele.
So, you absolutely need to produce valuable content (such as blog posts, white papers, and landing pages) that both informs your prospective customers, and persuades them to do business with your company.
When creating such content, keep in mind that your customers will be at various points in their journey as buyers - and will desire a variety of content specific to their needs. The better able you are to provide exactly what a specific consumer is looking for (without their needing to ask for it), the more likely you are to impress them - and gain their business.
To go along with the previous section, the modern B2B consumer expects certain aspects of their experience to be automated (or, at the very least, moved along with as little need for human interaction as possible).
(Note: We’ve talked about some ways in which B2B companies can automate content delivery and the checkout process for their clients in previous articles.)
Another way in which you can streamline customer experience through automation is through the use of chatbots. A chatbot can essentially act as a search engine, as well as a personalized service and sales representative for individual customers looking for specific information about your products or services. In the event that your customer has a more nuanced question, chatbots can take in queries and ensure that the message is delivered to the correct department quickly and efficiently.
It’s important to note that consumers tend to only appreciate automated service when looking for a quick-and-easy answer to a question or solution to a problem. As mentioned, they’ll expect human-to-human interaction for their more nuanced issues - and you need to be able to give it to them.
Omnichannel Support and Connections
You probably don’t need to be told that there are a ton of ways to communicate with your customers by today’s standards.
While one client might prefer to interact via the standard phone call, another might prefer communication via email or social media.
More realistically, though, each of your customers will want you to be available through whichever medium is most accessible to them at the current moment. Which means you need to have at least some sort of presence in each of these areas - and more.
According to data collected by The Pedowitz Group, 65% of marketers use at least two communication channels, while 44% use three or more. In other words, the more channels through which you’ve made yourself available, the more you’ll be able to differentiate your brand from your competition.
Of course, spreading yourself too thin can be detrimental, as well. In fact, 90% of marketers “struggle to seamlessly connect more than three channels on the buyer journey.”
The takeaway here is: do what you can to make your company accessible in ways that cause the least amount of friction for your customers - but also don’t overexert your own resources in the process.
One of the most obvious advantages technology has provided B2B companies is that they’re now able to do business with clients all over the world.
But there’s more to successfully doing business internationally than contacting prospective clients on the other side of the globe.
In order for your services to be well-received by client companies from other countries, you need to have an understanding of a number of things, such as the current market for your product in these countries, as well as the cultural climate of these areas. In short, you need to understand how the marketing mix of foreign countries compares to that of your home country.
By taking these factors into consideration, you’ll be better able to align your services and marketing initiatives with the needs and expectations of your target clients in various areas throughout the world.
One of the main lessons to take away from this article is the idea that the modern B2B consumer expects a personalized experience at all times throughout their journey as a customer of your brand.
Sometimes this personalization comes via automation, and sometimes it comes from unique, human-to-human engagement. Regardless of how it’s expected, it’s up to you to provide your customers with a personalized, streamlined experience whenever - and however - they engage with your brand.