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Traditionally, B2C and B2B selling have been seen as relatively separate areas of expertise.
After all, a business that’s about to purchase an $80,000 piece of equipment has very different concerns, and a very different purchase journey, from a consumer who’s looking to buy an $80 pair of jeans.
In the age of the connected consumer, however, those differences are no longer quite as different as they used to be.
The reason? It’s not just individuals who can be called connected consumers these days. Businesses are connected consumers as well—and the B2B companies that are able to harness certain B2C tactics are the ones that will succeed in the long-term.
The power of social media for B2B buyers
In the B2C world, a brand’s social media presence is critical for reaching and engaging potential and existing customers.
Keeping those Twitter and Instagram profiles fresh and active is an ongoing concern, and brands have realized just how powerful these tools can be for showcasing their company’s authenticity—something that is hugely important for connected consumers.
What we found through our proprietary research into the connected consumer, however, is that social media has become a crucial element in the B2B buyer’s purchase journey, as well.
We conducted an exploratory B2B survey with respondents who were involved either in the employee recruitment process, or who were involved in the purchase of products or services from one business to another. When we asked these respondents whether they used social media to research business purchases, two-thirds of them—66%—responded that they used social media between “occasionally” and “always.”
This is important data for B2B companies to embrace, as it proves that B2B customers do turn to social media to learn about potential vendors, and therefore expect to be able to find some kind of information about them via that channel.
B2B businesses that ignore their social media presence are missing out on a real potential source of business, and potentially even discouraging potential customers from researching them further.
Streamlined web design can mean the difference between a B2B conversion and a bounce
For connected consumers who patronize B2C businesses, making the purchase process as pain-free, streamlined, and reassuring as possible is of paramount importance.
Here’s why: While connected consumers have access to unprecedented amounts of information, which gives them similarly unprecedented power throughout the purchase process, that same power can be paralyzing as they move closer to making the purchase. B2C respondents to our survey reported feelings of anxiety over making the wrong purchasing choice—even simply not making the best choice.
The solution for B2C businesses here is to make that online purchase process as easy and pain-free as possible, with options like free returns, try-before-you-buy, and comparison tools.
While our B2B respondents did not report feelings of anxiety over the purchase, per se, they did report that poor web design or a site that was difficult to navigate would discourage them from buying from a particular company.
Just as B2B buyers want to be able to locate information about a B2B brand on social media, they also want those brands to offer them a clean, uncluttered website. They want easy navigation, including things like a search bar that’s accessible from every page.
Another important point respondents mentioned was that they often look for company reviews before they start narrowing down their search by product or price. This indicates that including reviews or ratings within a B2B brand’s own website could be beneficial.
Many B2B buyers want to learn about a product or service on their own, rather than from a sales representative
Sales reps will always have a role to play in B2B purchasing, as these purchases are necessarily more complex than most B2C purchases.
Our respondents stated that they still preferred receiving information on bulk pricing and shipping options, warranties, and product usage from sales representatives.
However, there is a large amount of information they want—and expect—to access on their own from a product or service page on the B2B brand’s website. Product specs, availability, and price, among other things, are a few of the items that B2B consumers do not want to ask a sales representative for.
This mirrors the paradoxical hands-on, yet digitally native approach that characterizes connected consumers.
While connected consumers want a large degree of autonomy and independence when researching purchases, they still display a desire to interact offline with the brands they’re interested in—for B2C consumers, this usually means going into a brick-and-mortar retail store.
For B2B consumers, this often means interacting with a sales rep—an ambassador for the brand who can offer that highly personalized touch that still (despite chatbots’ best efforts!) can’t be totally recreated online.
Connected consumers in the B2B and B2C camps share a lot more in common than B2B businesses may think. To download our full report, Marketing to Gods: The Definitive Guide to Reaching, Engaging, and Retaining the Modern, Empowered Consumer, visit the Zen Media website.
March 14, 2019 at 04:11PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs