New technologies and the generational change have led to a blur between the expectations of B2C and B2B customers. This presents new challenges for many companies that have come to terms with the fact that B2B customers think differently from B2C customers.
It suddenly seems as if the differentiation between B2C and B2B customers is no longer quite as black and white as it appeared to be a few years ago. So, who are your B2B customers today?
How are B2B customers different from B2C shoppers?
While the abbreviation B2C (business-to-consumer) describes the relationship between companies and consumers, the term B2B (business-to-business) stands for the relationship between two or more companies. Consequently, B2C companies sell directly to the consumer. While B2B companies sell to other companies. Right?
The truth is, B2B and B2C are basically about the same thing — selling goods to people. The difference can be understood by distinguishing between a ‘customer’ and a ‘shopper’ – one group will ideally return to your web store, have a relationship with your organization independent of an impulse need. The other group has a far higher likelihood of acting on impulse or momentary desire.
The vital difference is that B2C customers make purchasing decisions as private individuals. Whereas B2B customers (mostly) do not act out of private interests; they act on their company’s behalf, catering to the company.
Find out what B2B customers want.
Read the independent research in our B2B Buying Process Report.
How have B2B buyers changed?
Today, millennials make up the vast majority of B2B customers. Millennials, also known as Generation Y or people born between 1980 and 1995, account for 73% of all B2B purchasing decisions.
Generation Y is the first generation to grow up with the internet and mobile phones, making this generation much more technology-oriented than its predecessors. This means:
- Product and service research is done online
- Videos are the new white papers
- They prefer teams over hierarchies
- Being happy/satisfied at work has replaced prestige and status
It’s a generation that brings about change because millennials embody a change in values. The B2B world isn’t excluded from this generational change.
How do B2B customers make buying decisions today?
According to research from the new B2B Buyer Report, in which more than 1,000 B2B customers across industries were polled, transparency and accuracy are among the most important differentiators kept in consideration when choosing between B2B web stores.
Millennials only want to talk to a sales representative after they have thoroughly researched the solution. This means that in most cases the first contact they have with a company and its products is online. In fact, during the purchasing process, almost 90% of all B2B buyers use the Internet to identify new suppliers, while 74% use it to evaluate new suppliers.
What are B2B buyers looking for in online purchasing?
What if your company doesn’t list all your products online, or — worse — you have no online presence at all?
Then it’s very simple: Your products won’t be included in the majority of customers’ purchase decision phase. That’s because two-thirds of companies are spending more online now than they did prior to the pandemic.
The expectations of the new generation of B2B customers don’t stop there. Many want their suppliers to improve the performance of their online store to offer: more information, easier and faster checkout, easy repeat ordering, quicker delivery, and improved tracking.
The results of the research make this much clear: B2B buyers’ spending behavior clearly shows that e-commerce and online sales channels play an important role in B2B customers’ buying process.
6 best practices for better B2B customer experience
For manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors going online today, a top-notch B2B customer experience is essential. Ensuring seamless navigation and engagement on your web store can make all the difference.
Here are six actionable practices to boost customer engagement and elevate your online B2B journey.
1) Prioritize accuracy on your web store above all else
91% of B2B buyers have at least one reason that prevents them from being able to place orders online, and most of the time, that reason has to do with confusing or inaccurate data. An ERP-integrated e-commerce platform can ensure you have a single source of truth your web store is drawing from, minimizing the risk of this occurring.
2) Create a digital customer portal that keeps purchase-critical information at your customer’s fingertips
An integrated customer portal can make all the product information that’s stored in your ERP available around the clock. This allows your potential B2B customers to access your product range 24/7 and use this information to make their purchasing decisions. It also enables you to make all other information, such as delivery times and inventory levels, accessible online.
3) Ensure your sales teams are aligned with the web store, and have time on their plate to offer tailored support
B2B e-commerce not only has advantages for your potential B2B customers but can also relieve your sales department from their heavy workload.
Thanks to the digital customer portal, tasks such as customer administration, order creation or quotation negotiations are mostly automated. Giving your sales department more freedom to focus on advising strategic customers with high sales potential and complex requirements.
4) Set up frictionless experiences to build trust and web store authority
79% of B2B buyers say they prefer to place repeat orders online. Now imagine if a customer on your web store registers for the first time only to find their favorite product assortments and regular orders waiting for them. Convenient, right?
That’s the kind of frictionless experience certain integrated e-commerce options can allow you to provide, and it’s what will drive referrals and returning customers.
5) Leverage customer feedback and data
Using a holistic approach that combines both customer feedback as well as their purchase behavior can provide you with a comprehensive view on what on your web store needs optimizing.
For instance, if user feedback mentions an overly complex purchase page, and this is corroborated by a high drop off rate at check-out, you might confidently be able to identify it as a page due for optimization.
6) Incentivize repeat ordering and customer loyalty
Rewarding your customers for their loyalty, even if it is a 10% discount as a gesture, can go a long way in creating a positive B2B customer journey on your web store. Offering rewards, exclusive discounts, or loyalty points for recurrent purchases can transform occasional buyers into brand ambassadors, driving both retention and advocacy, which are paramount in the competitive B2B landscape.
How do B2C and B2B needs overlap?
We’ve just looked at some of the ways in which B2B web stores require a distinct strategy of their own when compared to B2C. Of course, it’s also true that there are some areas in which B2C and B2B customer expectations overlap.
B2C and B2B customers have begun to have exceedingly similar expectations and demands on web stores from which they purchase products and services.
To remain competitive, it is therefore important that companies meet this challenge. Here’s a summary of the most important requirements for digital web stores:
- Usability: B2B customers expect their B2B online experiences to be on par with B2C web experiences.
- Self-service: An absolute must-have is to provide your customers with insight into product specifications (the more complicated the product, the more important it is to have detailed descriptions), delivery times, inventory levels, invoices, order confirmations, price lists, etc.
- 24/7 support: Just like in B2C, B2B customers want to have 24/7 access to all product and service information and to be able to place orders around the clock.
- Mobility: From customer data to orders and delivery dates, B2B customers want to have access to all processes on the go. That’s why you must make sure that all information can be accessed on the move.
The lines between B2C and B2B customers have certainly become more blurred over recent years, especially with the increasing influence of new technologies and the generational shift brought about by millennials. As the distinctions diminish, it becomes imperative for businesses to understand the evolving needs and expectations of B2B customers.
An online presence isn’t just a luxury but a necessity in the current B2B landscape. Beyond mere online visibility, businesses must ensure that they provide accurate, transparent, and comprehensive information, easy and fast checkouts, and robust post-purchase support.
It’s evident that while B2B and B2C are rooted in different transactional foundations, they are growing more and more alike in terms of customer experience and expectations. As these worlds continue to merge, businesses must adapt, innovating their strategies and leveraging the best of both worlds to cater to their clientele effectively.
In the end, whether B2B or B2C, it all boils down to providing a customer-centric experience that prioritizes trust, convenience, and value.
What do your B2B customers want?
Overcome your buyers’ challenges before your competitors do. Stay ahead and read the latest insights from our new B2B Buyer Report.