In the footsteps of Covid-19, the focus has mainly been on retail and the consumer market. At the same time, the pandemic has affected most industries in some way, where even B2B companies have in many cases been caught off guard and now need to prepare for the future in new ways.
The "B2B Digital Experience Report" is a compilation of 600 leaders (in IT, marketing and e-commerce) views on strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities linked to customers' new expectations that Episerver has put together. Together with Episerver's Senior Marketing Manager Mårten Bokedal, our Lead Strategy and Business Developer Fredrik Bergström analyzes five of the trends that will change the B2B business:
Digital commerce opens up new opportunities - and Covid-19 accelerates the transformation
72% of respondents believe that e-commerce's share of total sales will amount to at least 40% in just a couple of years. Despite turbulent times, there are no tendencies towards reduced digital investments and the main goal for these is to reach new segments that were previously difficult to reach / have not been profitable via physical sales channels.
"- The boundary between B2C and B2B is merging more and more. Many players today can be categorized as both since they have a mixed customer group with both companies and individuals. The pandemic has resulted in many companies, who previously did not choose to conduct online sales, discovered the vulnerability in only having a physical store or only sell through resellers. Expectations change as a new generation emerges and new technology becomes the norm," says Fredrik.
"- E-commerce is not just about the ability to make a digital transaction. It changes the whole customer experience, the distribution chain, opens up new markets and creates new business opportunities for the players who do it right. It is about being able to take advantage of the strength of good physical customer relationships and translate these into digital customer relationships where content becomes a natural part of the company's voice", Mårten continues.
The customer experience will play a greater role in the future
The relationship with customers changes as the industry as a whole changes. More B2B companies are trying to take control of the customer experience by building a relationship directly with the end customer. At the same time, new marketplaces are expanding and only 47% of companies claim that they have a direct relationship with their customers today.
"- In the B2B segment, many companies who previously used resellers are starting to sell directly to the end customers. There is a clear shift in business models, where for example the use of Marketplaces and drop shipping is becoming more common. In the new ecosystems that are beginning to emerge the former resellers are more responsible for areas such as service, while the responsibility for customer relationsships, and thereby the customer experience, is now the producers' to an increasing degree. An important part of the customer experience is to be able to offer smooth, smart and fast deliveries. One way to optimize deliveries (and work more just in time) is to help customers plan their orders digitally. For example, through calendar functions where the customer and the supplier together can forecast so that production planning can be done based on it. By offering the ability to adjust orders digitally, a common work tool is created for customers, e-commerce administrators, field sales people and B2B store sales people. Companies who, with the help of technology, succeed in creating a good dialogue and customer relationship have the potential to change an entire industry", Fredrik explains.
A race to close the gap between expected and perceived customer experience
Despite the fact that the majority of the respondents in the survey state that they invest sufficiently in the digital customer experience, 95% of the Swedish respondents believe that the experience does not reach customers' expectations. Increased expectations are seen as the absolute biggest threat to growing digital sales.
"- When we as individuals come in contact with a good experience, it sets the bar for our expected experience across all industries and companies. What the expected experience looks like is therefore often governed by companies in B2C that have traditionally invested more in the digital customer experience. It is easy to compare with competitors and other players in the industry, whereupon the investment is incorrectly perceived as sufficient. By better combining customer data with content, B2B companies can go from a transaction-based experience to a purchasing experience that meets customers' expectations," says Mårten.
Integrity and personalization differ between B2B and B2C
As consumers are more hesitant to share personal data with B2C players, B2B players' customers are more sympathetic to receiving customized content. 88% believe that personalized content creates a better experience and shows that the sender cares about the customer experience.
"- The biggest difference between visitors to a B2C site and one for B2B is that the majority of B2B visits do not happen because the visitor wants to visit a particular brand's website, they do it because it is a part of their job. B2B companies were early adopters of personalization. Personalization linked to saved orders, staffed prices, margins, entry and exit prices, tools for calculation, credit, saved shopping baskets etc. have long been adapted functionality for customers. B2B companies are used to working actively with these type of tools in order to provide their customers with increased transparency in order to facilitate their purchase. They work with personalization without directly becoming personal, but rather to remove friction in the customer journey. Customers are usually more positive when it comes to personalization linked to their professional practice and which aims to make their work easier. In their private roles, the view on personalization tends to be more negative as integrity is challenged to a greater degree", Mårten continues.
Social media grows more important in a time of social distancing
When the physical opportunities to meet are limited, the digital channels grow in importance. In the survey, paid social media is ranked as the channel where B2B players primarily reach their customers, followed by the website and e-mail.
"- A general and unsurprising trend linked to channel use is that e-retailers are simply where their customers are. They want to be" top of mind "and appreciate channels that also provide the opportunity to measure effect. Today it is therefore increasingly more important to leave a digital footprint than dominate traditional media such as TV and print. Social media is an important part of many e-retailers' distribution mix and is often more cost-effective than traditional media. To succeed in social media, however, it is far from enough to just have a presence, you must always be extremely relevant and able to offer good content. Most companies have realized that social media is a good channel to in order to create reach. Therefore competition is increasing and it is easy to disappear in the noise. It is important to remember that it is not enough to create good content for social media. It is also important to build a relationship and start a dialogue with your visitors. When it comes to websites, the price of the infrastructure has decreased and today you can create increased availability and more functions faster and more cost-effectively, which makes it more accessible and affordable for companies to conduct online selling. Finally, it is important to continue working with the insight that the customer moves across channels, but that different channels can have different purposes during the customer journey", Fredrik concludes.
Download the full report!
If you want more insights, you can download the report or check out our and Episerver's appreciated B2B-webinar with Brian Rigley from DeLaval as a guest speaker.
Lead Strategy and Business Developer
Senior Manager Marketing