August 18, 2016

A digitally enabled B2B customer experience lets you tap into a huge market

Jaakko Hallavo

Lead Business Consultant, Tieto Corporation

With the B2B e-commerce market being more than twice the size of the consumer market, and with a growth rate surpassing that of the B2C market, businesses selling to other businesses cannot overlook this potential. Jaakko Hallavo explains how to extract maximum benefits from B2B e-commerce in the future.

Traditionally, business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce has evolved faster than its business-to-business (B2B) counterpart. In recent times, however, the balance has begun to shift for multiple reasons.

  • Increasing global competition forces businesses to look for new markets, customers and sales opportunities.
  • Customer expectations, carried over from the consumer side, are putting pressure on B2B sellers to match the consumer experience.
  • Advancing servitization, the higher income potential of selling service-based entities where the product is only one component, is an attractive proposition.
  • B2B sellers need to focus on reducing their cost-to-serve through operational efficiency.

Why present efforts don’t produce results

Even with its slower adoption rate in the B2B realm, digitalization has already shown its lucrativeness. The B2B e-commerce market is more than twice the size of the B2C e-market, it is growing faster, and the conversion rate in B2B e-commerce is more than double the rate in B2C.

Some companies have already embarked on the journey towards digital, but often with a limited view of how it should be done. Taking existing sales and service processes online with limited customer value has not proven successful against the customer demands of following the customers’ purchase path and understanding their pain points. Innovation and customer-centricity for new business models or growth strategies has been lacking.

Customer experience is a sum of all interactions: how customers experience the brand, product or service in multiple touchpoints or interactions. That is why simply building an online service channel is not enough. You need a more holistic view on the customer journey and must meet whatever expectations your customer has, regardless of channel, place or time.

To match a large number of expectations with a large number of alternative responses, the only way you can succeed is to digitalize the relevant parts of the interaction.

Success advances along four avenues

At Tieto, we have identified four key themes to provide a seamless customer experience across channels in a way that adds value to the customer. They cover the entire customer journey from need to fulfilment. Although the split to four themes is a great simplification, this enables companies to assess opportunities for efficiency improvements and growth areas in a systematic way.  

Intelligent marketing

B2B buyers expect personalized service also from marketing communications. Successful B2B business integrates efficient data analysis and lead generation into marketing and continues into efficient resource use in sales.

When marketing feels like a service by creating personal and engaging dialogue with customers, it becomes more granularly segmented, automated, consistent and relevant in all channels to create leads, accelerate sales and increase loyalty.

Accelerated sales force

In B2B sales, you’re often dealing with complex customization requirements, and your salespeople must be able to provide immediate answers. The growth of highly automated online sales for relatively simple products simultaneously increases the need to provide consultative sales to support more complex sales initiatives. In this scenario, only when the salesperson can quickly bring together all the information available on the customer’s purchase data and history, installed base, service agreements, the product catalogue and pricing options, can she form an overall picture that enables a relevant response in a sales situation.

For all the real-time information to be available on the go, the tools must be mobile-enabled – by definition requiring digitalization.

Online enabled commerce

As the “age of the customer” is already upon us, you must cater for the market’s demand for adequate product and pricing information online, and 24/7 availability. When 90% of buyers prefer to buy online when they have made the purchase decision, you also need to enable easy ways to buy digitally.

When you enable selling products online, you will increase your share-of-wallet while increasing the buyers’ convenience and reducing churn.

Connected customer service

Similarly to the consumer businesses, self-services are now expected among B2B buyers. A consistent customer experience across all touchpoints, regardless of channel or device, is emerging as one of the most important competitive advantages. Supply chain visibility and customer tools for business process configurations provide added trust with customers and tighten the relationship.

Digitalizing your business allows you to form your service channels into a product in its own right. Proactive customer service not only enables seamless support at a lower transaction cost while helping increase sales, but also introduces opportunities for personal one-on-one dialogue through proactive chat, screen-sharing or even video meeting.

Utilizing this type of themed approach enables you to assess concept opportunities and solution target architecture scenarios in a systematic way. Combining innovation and themed concept roadmaps with an agile development methodology and Enterprise Architecture alignment, you have the tools for business renewal for added efficiency, growth and disruption.

To uncover the secrets of a successful customer experience in B2B in more detail, let me invite you to the Tieto Industrial Experience web pages and to discover more in our downloadable presentation.


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