B2B Vendors Need To Play Catch Up In A “B2E” World

Photo of a group of young people entering a tram on a bus stop or tram stop in a city of Cracow (Kraków, Poland).

Adobe recently published a report detailing the findings of a survey Marketo conducted of 1,215 marketers and B2B buyers in the UK, France, and Germany.

The findings reveal that European business buyers expect vendors to display traits traditionally associated with consumer brands, demonstrating B2B and B2C landscapes are no longer distinct.

The “Creating Epic Customer Experiences” report shows how the B2B buying experience is more similar to B2C, giving rise to a “Business To Everyone,” or “B2E” world. With 70 per cent of B2B marketers saying they can’t differentiate, B2E poses a new challenge for all business in an already competitive environment.

The report highlights three areas of convergence:

Desire For Security, Protection, And Transparency Align B2B And B2C

It’s safe to assume that all buyers—both B2C and B2B—are looking for a great product at a reasonable price. Other buyer must haves are security, protection, and ease of business, are important to both consumers and business buyers. Marketers won’t be surprised to learn that the vast majority of buyers say it’s vital a supplier is serious about protecting both their organisation’s and their own personal data. 85 per cent want to be treated fairly as a customer, and 78 per cent want a brand to be transparent about how they work.

The Rise Of Altruistic Brand Purpose In B2B

B2B buyers are increasingly motivated by other factors. Sustainability is an essential area of consideration, with 67 per cent of buyers seeking to work with companies that are striving to lower their impact on the environment. Of course, a focus on green credentials is hardly a nascent trend. Being eco-friendly has been a hot topic for years, and marketers are well aware of the value of this. What’s interesting is the emerging importance of brands showing their stance on people, ethics, and the “big social issues” of the day. In short: altruistic purpose and brand values.

B2C and B2B buyer sentiments are converging. For example, just as many consumers will no longer shop with retailers whose ethics they disagree with, 30 per cent of B2B buyers will disengage from a brand whose values don’t match their own. 68 per cent of B2B buyers place a high importance on how a company treats its employees. A similar amount (64 per cent) seek to do business with brands that ensure their operations are fair to people throughout the supply chain—and 63 per cent expect suppliers to demonstrate authentic ethical values. Meanwhile, three in five want the brands they work with to take real action to support human rights at home and abroad.

These are big changes that stand to drastically alter the way marketers work, the campaigns they create, and the messages they deliver. In fact, many have already been impacted, with almost half (48 per cent) of marketers agreeing they have lost sales in the last two years because they haven’t demonstrated a strong enough sense of brand purpose. So, for B2B organisations, purpose might not only be thing that sets your brand apart— a lack of it could even stop you from winning new customers.

All Buyers Crave A Personal Experience

Consumer brands are increasingly turning to technology to help deliver personal experiences across all digital touchpoints, and solve business challenges like driving first to second purchase, notifying visitors when products are back-in-stock and deploying relevant messaging based on behavioural data. This report indicates personalisation is crucial to keep B2B buyers too, with 49 per cent saying tailored offers and communications will encourage them to stick with a provider.

Accounting For The Generational Divide

B2B marketers face an additional challenge in that not all buyers feel the same way. The study shows, younger buyers are more likely to feel passionately about working with a company whose brand purpose aligns with their own values and beliefs. But for older buyers and board members, the landscape changes significantly.

Just 42 per cent of board members are looking for suppliers to stand up for something bigger than their own product and services, in comparison to 64 per cent at the sub-board levels. Meanwhile, only 34 per cent of board members expect a brand to invest in and engage with cultural issues, next to 57 per cent of sub-board employees. Finally, the board is 20 per cent less likely to think it’s important that a company shows genuine engagement with diversity and inclusion for employees. However, board-level buyers are more likely to be concerned about being treated fairly as a customer and having both their organisation’s and their personal data protected.

It’s a complex situation. There’s no point pushing this messaging on a big-ticket investment that will require board approval, when factors like security, privacy, and the promise of efficiency savings are more likely to be appealing. But if they don’t include brand purpose in “top of the funnel” marketing sent to younger/sub-board buyers, they may risk being passed over for RFPs. Marketers must have a nuanced understanding of when to bring out purpose-based messaging—and they have to find a way to create a customer experience that factors all of this in.

CXM And The Importance Of Lifecycle Engagement

39 per cent of B2B buyers won’t switch providers if they’re doing a good job, so vendors need to adopt a robust full lifecycle engagement strategy and focus on customer experience, not just in marketing but across an organisation. Whether it’s analysing data to provide funnel-tailored messages, creating engaging experiences across different platforms, or delivering multichannel customer communications, marketers need to ensure they’re providing the end-to-end experiences that customers seek.

With all these challenges, it’s little wonder that marketers are finding their task harder across the funnel. To survive and thrive, all businesses should be looking at creating the same engaging emotional connections already prevalent in B2C because in a B2E world vendors can’t afford not to. Marketers in all arenas must adopt a robust CXM strategy and focus on engagement and experience to build trusted, long-lasting relationships.

Click here to download the full report: “Creating Epic Customer Experiences”.

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