November 18, 2018
Unifying B2B and B2C Customer Experiences
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There is an invisible assumption around B2B commerce that B2B is purely about businesses and should stay within that domain. This is particularly not true within the manufacturing and distribution world. Businesses do have consumers seeking out their products. They just might not be available for purchase. With the customer buying expectation evolving and with disruptive technologies posing a silent threat why wouldn’t B2B merchants not consider creating a unifying experience as it pertains to anyone who wants to buy their products?
The biggest mantra of customer service is to turn no one away. This also does not hurt businesses because a sale is a sale is a sale.
The biggest advantage to creating a unified customer experience and the one that helps make a business case is that a unified solution for B2B and B2C customers results not only in successful penetration into new markets but also results in an increase in footprint in existing markets with an ultimate increase in sales.
This is practically a no-brainer. Case and point - Amazon. Amazon uses a B2C platform to cater to their B2B customers. But that works really well for Amazon because they are already an established brand. When it comes to traditional B2B merchants creating brand awareness is more of the advantage that goes hand in hand in creating a unified experience for the end user who wants to make a purchase.
Another advantage is in meeting the increasingly changing customer expectations to buy in a consistent, cohesive and uniformly branded online store. With the power to be able to make a purchase 17 inches away from you (mobile) and the derived satisfaction of the purchase resulting from no more than a couple of taps the buying behavior of B2B customers is rapidly changing. While the nuances of product, accounts, supply chain and the day to day of running multiple businesses can be complicated, there is no reason why the shopping experience needs to be.
Let’s talk about operational efficiencies. This is up for debate. We can argue.
The fact is that most B2C platforms cannot handle the complexities of B2B business needs. There is not a single B2C commerce platform that can completely address all complex B2B commerce needs. Thereby there is no true unification from a platform perspective because there is always some integration involved as is true when bringing any two technologies together. There is definitely the ability to repurpose some of what has already been built as in the different integration interfaces to various legacy and non-legacy systems. But that is the whole purpose of application interfaces. So this advantage carries less weight than some of the larger overarching benefits.
On the flip side, there is the ease of maintaining a single catalog. While in the pure retail space catalogs can be maintained/managed on a commerce platform the complexities and volume within the B2B space entail the use of Product Information Systems to house a catalog. Maintaining a single master catalog and flagging what is exposed to different audiences makes long-term maintenance and upgrades relatively easy.
Most importantly at the end of the day as B2B merchants we care about all our customers and would therefore not want to turn any one of them away but need to convert every interaction into a sale without compromising the customer experience. That is the litmus test that needs to be passed. This means that as part of the overall customer journey different personas need to be accounted for in order to make the customer experience personalized. Personalizing the content and simplifying the buying experience to be able to cater to the audience at hand is at the heart of this.
Mostly, at the end of the day as a business you most importantly do not want to spare any competitive advantage whatsoever. It is in the interest of B2B merchants to create a unified experience for their customers and prospects that is simple, seamless and gratifying leaving them wanting to come back.
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