What does an excellent digital experience look like in the B2B space? According to many analysts and insiders, it should closely align with B2C experiences.
Apple provides seamless access to content across devices. Google simplifies search across web, email, and documents. Netflix recommends relevant content. These experiences condition business users to expect that same level of digital excellence when interacting with vendors. This means B2B brands must improve the customer experience they offer business partners if they want to be successful.
How can your brand address B2B digital challenges to offer the best possible digital experience to business users?
Top 3 B2B digital challenges
What makes a B2B digital experience so complicated? What are the most crucial differences between business users and individual consumers? Following are three of the most important issues.
1. Businesses take a collective approach to buying decisions.
The average number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases is more than six, and that number is climbing. With multiple teammates involved, B2B customers are highly informed, connected, and risk-conscious.
Their main goal is making the best decision based on business needs, not personal preferences, and these decisions are becoming more reliant on relevant digital engagements. A 2017 survey found that 75% of B2B buyers said relevant content was very important when visiting vendor websites.
The bottom line for B2B brands: To win market share, digital content must be relevant and make business sense to a range of stakeholders.
2. The digital experience is tied directly to job performance.
From the supply chain to e-commerce, interactions between business users and vendors directly impacts the user’s job performance. They have reports to complete, quotas to fill, price targets to hit, budgets to adhere to, spending limits to comply with, etc. If the product or service they’re working with doesn’t meet their needs by providing seamless and consistent access to resources, they’ll find another brand.
For example, consider the reordering process. Research shows that B2B decision makers overwhelmingly prefer self-service tools for reordering, rather than talking to a sales representative. If your digital experience can make reordering fast and easy, you’ll stand apart from competitors.
3. Security and privacy take on an added layer of complexity.
In addition to personal data protected by privacy regulations like the EU GDPR and the recent California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), business accounts also house a wealth of private information like contracts, inventory, and more.
B2B users need access to this information on an increasing number of devices and platforms, but only as far as their access level justifies. Business partner administrators tasked with setting up access policies need the ability to map entitlements and authorizations to business needs.
The relationship can be at risk if access management becomes too cumbersome. At the same time, if authorization isn’t secure enough, the wrong people could access private information, opening up the brand to lawsuits, criminal action, and damage to brand reputation.
Walk away a fool or a king: The B2B digital experience is a matter of trust
How can brands improve the digital experience they offer business partners? The answer boils down to a key concept: trust.
During the research phase, brands who offer personalized content to prospective clients gain advantages over competitors offering generic experiences. Yet, trust must be part of the equation. Smart brands employ a solution for enterprise-wide profile, preference, and consent data management, driving market-differentiating personalization.
Innovative companies in the pharmaceutical sector are prime examples. Sales rep meetings with doctors are getting shorter. As a solution, they’re placing customer data management at the center of their technology stacks to build a single view of each business customer. This, in turn, powers their content strategy, which is delivered through web, e-mail, and various speaker events — helping to create trusted, personalized customer experiences at scale.
The relationship will grow and sales opportunities will arise if the vendor acts more like a specialized industry consultant and less like a product seller. Making this shift requires a true understanding of business buyers – the global trends affecting them, the local challenges they face, and the potential market opportunities created by the partnership. Customer data management is key to gaining this understanding and applying it during digital engagements with business prospects.
Relationships take work: Keeping B2B customers after the sale
Once a relationship is established, appropriate points of entry into the digital ecosystem become crucial. Business users need seamless and trusted access to content and services, as well as registration and login flows to the resources appropriate for their access levels.
This means easily configurable, pre-defined, and policy-based access management is imperative. Brands also need a system to securely identify business partner users from any touchpoint with a diverse range of authentication factors, including SSO, federation standards, and even social media credentials.
Business users’ trust will increase if their experiences are personalized with data from their unique profiles. For example, a user in Berlin would have her local language, currency, and timezone settings reflected. Another user in Manhattan would have his experience personalized for his region.
To achieve this level of personalization, brands need a strategy for providing accurate identity data management to partner administrators, including the ability to modify the experience as users change regions, jobs, and/or roles.
Data privacy is another major factor in trusted business user relationships. Spearheaded by the GDPR, heightened consumer data privacy has raised business users’ awareness of how brands collect and use their data. In addition, they expect to have personal control over their profile, preference and consent data. This new reality marks a significant shift for B2B brands.
Brands on GDPR: A focus on compliance improves the B2B customer experience
Businesses are using compliance initiatives as a springboard for building trust. They are redefining data management practices to increase transparency and centrally manage business users’ preferences and consent settings – as opposed to managing multiple silos of data – making it easier to honor users’ wishes.
Through these innovations, B2B brands are doing more than protecting the business from regulatory risk. They’re also saving costs by reducing the need for service and call center resources when they centralize and automate business partner preference and consent management processes.