How B2B Customers are Becoming More Like B2C

The difference between B2B and B2C sales tactics used to be stark. B2B transactions are traditionally very complex, happen over a long period of time, and require continual hand-holding from professional services organizations from deployment well past adoption. Consumer purchasing, especially in the digital age, has become a fast, easy, self-service experience where instant gratification is not only expected it is demanded. But the expectations of B2B transactions are changing rapidly, and they are looking a lot more like the demands of typical retail consumers.

One of the big drivers of this is that B2B buyers are also retail consumers. When they leave the office, they make purchases on Amazon, binge watch streaming TV, shop on their phones, and check reviews before doing anything. Honestly, the ecommerce experience is so easy that most people don’t usually wait to get home to buy a little thing here and there, or even make a big purchase like a TV from their office. So, when these consumers change into a suit (or hoodie, depending on the business) and become a B2B customer, will they accept the slow, complex and often unnecessarily drawn-out process of B2B sales and support? The answer is, they don’t, and soon it just won’t be accepted as standard practice.

By 2020 the global B2B ecommerce market will be twice as large as the B2C market—$6.7 trillion vs $3.2 trillion—per Frost & Sullivan. So, the B2B market is going to have to adapt to new customer demands. There are plenty of large and complex business platforms that can’t just be purchased with a click, but many of the expectations and behaviors of retail consumers will still bleed into the buying experience. Here are five of the expectations that are making the B2B world look more like B2C.

B2B Omni-Channel Experience

When you purchase a service like Netflix or Hulu, do you want to go to a dozen different places to buy, get service, or pay bills? No, and neither do your B2B customers. A Forrester survey shows that B2B buyers expect to view product information, analyze activities, take delivery and return or exchange across all channels through one source. Over 68 percent surveyed noted the importance of being able to see purchasing activities across all channels. Providing an omni-channel experience also promotes customer retention—75 percent of international businesses said they would buy again from businesses that offer seamless omni-channel capabilities.

Convenience and Immediacy

People don’t like waiting for things these days. If it takes more than a minute to get to checkout, you see feet tapping all down the queue. Thanks to online ecommerce, B2B buyers are also now expecting immediate gratification with their purchases. Nearly 70 percent of functional spenders say convenience is important when purchasing, according to a Hammerson report. This means you need to provision your services automatically and immediately whenever possible. The longer provisioning takes; the lower adoption rates get. The right billing system can help you by enabling automatic provisioning so your customers can start using your product or service right away.

Preference for Self-Service

Do you like calling someone to make a purchase? Neither do B2B customers, as 93 percent of B2B buyers prefer buying online, with 75 percent saying that buying online is a more convenient experience than buying from a salesperson (Forrester). This does not necessarily make your human B2B salesforce irrelevant as many products are too complex and expensive to be sold with a click. In these situations, salespeople and consultants are expected and part of the deal. But I can’t tell you how many pitches I have heard about marketing communications apps that in no way required a salesperson to come to my office and spend (read: waste) an hour of my time explaining it. If customers won’t need assistance with implementation, they probably don’t want you for purchasing, either.

Reliance on Referrals

Whether you are going out to eat or buying a new grill, you probably ask a trusted friend or check online reviews before pulling the trigger. Same goes for B2B sales today. Prospects will nearly always ask for customer referrals as part of a proposal. Managing online reviews is vital as well, as negative reviews from legitimate customers can be damaging. However, today online review sites for enterprise products aren’t quite at the Yelp level of ubiquity and the quality of many are questionable at best. Soon enough they will become a go-to for B2B customers, though.

Migration to Mobile

Is your website responsive? If not, put this down and go fix it. Mobile is becoming an important channel for B2B. If your online experience does not work well on mobile, you may rightfully be viewed as a dinosaur. It’s just automatically annoying now if a company’s website isn’t responsive, and it could make a prospect walk away.

Get prepared for change

The B2B sales and service expectations aren’t exactly like B2C and they will probably never align perfectly. However, you should be cognizant of changes in the consumer space that are affecting it. Be sure to look at the back office too—as your legacy OSS/BSS systems may not be prepared to work at the speed expected by today’s digital B2B consumers.

Read our Cloud vs Managed Software whitepaper to see how Aria can help you conquer this changing landscape.