Why Customer Experience Matters for B2B

Better omnichannel experiences mean more sales on consumer sites, but this logic is often neglected when it comes to B2B.

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Business-to-business customers are people too.

An obvious truism? Perhaps, but you wouldn’t know it from the digital customer experience in B2B markets. Few business websites deliver the efficient, insightful, and personalized service widely available on consumer websites.

Business-to-business vendors seem unaware that corporate purchasing decisions are made by human beings, who spend plenty of time on Amazon, Expedia, and other consumer e-commerce sites. Inevitably, these experiences shape their expectations for online transactions at work. Corporate buyers accustomed to easy, quick, and customized online transactions from sites targeting consumers now demand the same or better customer experience in digital business transactions.

For most B2B companies, meeting these customer expectations for consumer-level experiences will be difficult. Few business websites offer features that simplify transactions, create deep customer relationships, and drive sales growth. To succeed, they need to personalize and customize their online selling process through high-performance technology and customer-centered business models.

As customer expectations evolve and technological advances create new possibilities, the foundations of an efficient, responsive, personalized customer experience in B2B transactions must take shape. Like their counterparts in the consumer market, B2B companies will need to shift to a human-centered design model and make effective use of artificial intelligence, analytics, algorithms, and other tools to discern customer needs and predict buying behavior.

Three Driving Forces in B2B Markets

E-commerce continues to grow as a meaningful share of B2B revenues. Forrester reports that “nearly 15% of U.S. B2B sales are expected to be via digital channels by 2021, a 15% increase in just five years.”

Digital selling platforms are replacing traditional in-person and phone-based selling, and these platforms are more able to capitalize on omnichannel strategies to capture a greater share of sales. In order to capitalize on opportunities offered by meeting B2B customer expectations, companies need to understand three fundamental drivers of sales and customer experience trends in B2B markets.

Consumerization of customer expectations. Widespread digital technology adoption and automation of many commercial interactions has affected the way businesses purchase products and services. Increasingly, they think and act like consumers — accustomed to fast, seamless online transactions, fulfillment, and account servicing tailored to their unique specifications. Yet according to Salesforce, less than 30% of B2B customers say suppliers provide excellent customer experience.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Kaja Andritzke and Michael Venus for their valuable contributions.

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