The pandemic has accelerated a long overdue shift to the digitization of B2B sales. In this environment, seamless digital experiences and a renewed focus on the brand are vital to engage buyers and maintain customer relationships.
For too long, B2B digital customer experience has lagged behind that of their consumer counterparts. The perceived wisdom on this matter suggests that complex products, and the importance of personal relationships, make shifting to a digital sales experience unattainable, which is simply not the case.
Buyers Have Changed
Invest in CX Initiatives to Truly Understand the Buying Process and Digital Experience.
In the last decade, younger and more digitally native employees have grown up and moved into more senior and decision-making roles. With this ascent has come a clear shift in behavior from their B2B buying predecessors, to one which relies far less on upfront face time with sales reps and much greater dependence on individual research and self-service. Although personal interactions and relationships still play a vital role, buyers desire B2B digital experiences that can engage and enable their journey, ultimately providing value for their business.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise; it is simply how customers navigate through their journey. Digital channels act as the first port of call in order to conduct research on products and solutions, collect a myriad of feedback, and learn about the brand, regardless of whether they are business buyers or general consumers.
For these buyers, digital and e-commerce experiences need to match those that they have come to expect in the consumer spectrum, providing tailored and efficient interactions that deliver clear value.
The Digital Investment Imperative
Strengthen the Digital Tools You Currently Have and Develop New Experiences to Facilitate Digital Self-Service and Engagement.
While B2B companies have been quite vocal that digital sales and experience in investments are indeed on their radar, many have been slow to turn this intention into action. With the pandemic and rapid transition to remote working, organizations have upped the urgency and investment in digital experiences. No longer relying on face-to-face interactions or even call center sales support has resulted in a renewed emphasis on improving existing digital channels while forcing an overdue analysis of how the broader digital experience is working for customers.
However, the sales process is a two-way street, and equally important in this equation is ensuring that employees have the right tools to guide customers through their journey. This also requires organizations to assess their employee experience and the digital technology they have at their disposal, from sales applications and digital content to internal communication and tracking tools.
With digital interactions only set to take on greater importance in the B2B experience moving forward, improving and building out new digital sales tools for customers and employees alike has never been more critical.
Human Connections and Brand
Don’t Lose Sight of the Importance of Emotion.
It’s important to state that in no way are the human elements of B2B selling rendering obsolete. Face-to-face interactions and relationships still play a vital role in providing superior customer experience, particularly when solutions are on the complex end of the spectrum. The difference is when this human interaction comes into play in the journey. Organizations need to be prepared for buyers that come to them already informed on the brand and products and knowledge, to a large degree, of exactly what they want. In this environment, human interactions and relationships become less focused on lead generation and sales capture, and more focused on facilitating an engaging and useful overall experience with the brand.
Invest in Brand Building and Effectively Craft a Customer-Focused Brand Promise. Instilling This Throughout the Journey Will Pay Dividends in the Long Run.
Developing a strong brand in this environment is paramount to affirm the experience across touchpoints while tapping into the buying process’s emotional aspect. This emotional aspect has often been downplayed within the B2B space, focusing instead on rational product-driven decision-making.
However, the B2B buying process is, at its core, an emotional one, one that may impact the trajectory of your career or businesses, often involving large and long-term commitments.
Building a strong brand that demonstrates it empathizes with customers is of the utmost importance in this process. It is only heightened as self-service and digital interactions take a greater share of the overall experience.
Establish Metrics Across Interaction, Perception, and Outcome to Measure Your Customer Experience and How to Iterate Accordingly.
The B2B space is changing rapidly and will continue to do so as it adjusts to changing customer preferences and the increased importance of digital experiences and self-service. Although this shift may have pushed face-to-face interactions further downstream, human-focused elements and a strong customer-focused brand are essential to engage and guide buyers through their journey.
In order to remain competitive and grow in this environment, companies must prioritize CX initiatives to gain a thorough understanding of customers’ experience, the buying process, and how the brand can facilitate a deeper and more empathetic connection throughout the journey.