B2B commerce often follows the successes of B2C commerce when it comes to technology, but there are differences that must be considered.
I posted an IdeaXchange blog last month about the B2B digital transformation that is now underway. In that blog, I cite Michael Treacy, author of Double Digit Growth, who spoke at a recent event I attended. Treacy discussed how a revolution has begun in the way the businesses do business with other businesses. This is a continuation of the revolution that has already taken place in the way businesses do business with individual consumers.
Though consumers now take for granted the benefits of e-commerce and digital communication for their everyday lives, business often seems to be a step or two or more behind. Part of that is due to resistance to change (“things have always worked this way, so why change now”); another is due to concerns regarding cost and time of technology implementation and training.
Even so, companies are moving inexorably toward a growing dependence upon and use of technology and digitization in all aspects of their business, from back-office functions to manufacturing and production functions to customer service and relationships.
So what are the major differences between appealing to B2C and B2B customers?
Ultimately, of course, customers are human beings so a focus on good customer service and quality control of products matter in much the same manner. But there are considerable differences that companies must consider when finding and servicing B2B customers
Target audience – Certainly targeting is part of both B2B and B2C marketing efforts. In B2C, you can definitely focus on defined groups (women, 25-35 years of age, with two children, and a household income of $100,000 who also love yoga). That sounds quite specific but could include hundreds of thousands if not millions of potential customers. With B2B, you may target CFOs of companies with revenue of $1 billion to $10 billion and that will be an infinitely smaller universe even though your requested variables are less. Here your messaging will need to be industry-specific rather than personal preferences and you will need to provide as much information and knowledge as possible.
Price consideration – B2C consumers do not negotiate when purchasing online. The price listed is the price they pay (along with any coupons or volume discounts). B2B prospects, however, usually only become customers after negotiations have taken place and contracts are signed, so the price of the product or service will likely vary based on the individual customer’s agreements and relationships.
Logic vs. emotion – Impulse buying – buying a product based on emotion and a need for immediate gratification – is the cornerstone of sites like Amazon. But B2B buyers are not buying for themselves; they are buying for the company. Uunlike B2C customers who have no restrictions on their purchasing other than the amount of money in their checking account, B2B customers are ruled by policies, procedures, and budgets that dictate how they purchase and when (often that is determined by inventory). Since the B2B customer is not buying on emotion, sellers have to focus on features and benefits that make their product and service more desirable for these ‘discernible’ customers.
These are not the only differences between the two groups but I stress, whether you are appealing to a B2C or B2B customer, you should always dedicate yourself to maintaining the best service possible. In the end, the trust that results from good service can keep a customer with you for the long term.