Bringing the B-to-C Experience to a B-to-B Audience
The B-to-B and B-to-C worlds have long taken differing approaches when it comes to connecting and engaging with customers. Over the last 15 years, the consumer space became increasingly powered by e-commerce purchases, whereas the B-to-B world still largely relied on more traditional and direct methods. However, as remote work spread during 2020, B-to-B transactions shifted drastically to online and digital channels. While this switch may have been seen as a temporary response to the COVID-19 pandemic for some companies, it’s becoming a key part of ongoing B-to-B procurement strategies for more enterprises than ever before. B-to-B customers are now conducting more research, relying on vendor websites and online tools to inform their decision making. And as buyer behaviors shift, B-to-B companies are adapting to ensure their digital approach is able to meet growing customer demands.
The Buyer Mindset Has Changed
B-to-B customers have gradually been making the shift toward e-commerce for a while now. However, the disruption caused by the pandemic created a change in mindset for buyers, driving a significant move to purchasing digitally. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic caused businesses to put their purchases under a microscope, seeking to reduce wasteful spending and ensure a product will deliver the most value possible. The added scrutiny has meant that B-to-B buyers are putting more emphasis on the research aspect when looking to purchase new enterprise solutions or extensions for what they have. They're taking matters into their own hands and seeking out content primarily through company websites. In fact, survey data from McKinsey found that 25 percent of respondents identified supplier websites as their preferred method of interacting with suppliers. The research also showed that buyers rely on online materials to supplement their decisions. As time goes on, B-to-B buying behavior is aligning more closely with the behavior of the average consumer.
Meeting the Market With a Digital Approach
The shift toward consumer-oriented approaches to buying have made it clear that B-to-B companies need to meet their customers in this digital landscape. Businesses need to ensure their e-commerce channels are able to guide customers through the buying journey, all the way to the final purchase. It’s important to remember that because buyers are doing more research, they're now exposed to a much larger marketplace of choices. To differentiate from the pack, B-to-B companies should prioritize customer experience with easy-to-use and intuitive websites, smart search, and access to additional resources like whitepapers and product information.
While traditional sales methods aren't going away, digital tools like live chat have proven highly desirable, especially in the current landscape, for customers looking to source enterprise software solutions. McKinsey’s research shows that connecting with sales reps via live chat was preferred by one in four respondents. Finding ways to engage prospects remotely will continue to be an important component of customer engagement, even after the pandemic subsides.
Taking a Page Out of the Consumer Playbook
The B-to-B community’s shift takes a page straight out of the consumer world’s playbook, and the results have been clear. Over 65 percent of brands surveyed by McKinsey said their new go-to-market methods worked as well or better than previous models. Taking a consumer focus to B-to-B transactions has clear benefits for both sides that haven’t gone unnoticed. As we carry on into the future, the process for buying enterprise software can — and will — feel as simple as ordering a new pair of shoes.
Sharon Ruddock is the head of SAP Digital Commerce.