The rising importance of customer experience in B2B industries

desktop sam hobbs
Sam Love Account Director | Client Services

All businesses rely on having exceptional customer experiences. Some would argue that it's the most important part of a successful business ecosystem. The business to consumer (B2C) market has banked on personalised experiences and cutting edge technology for many years now and for good reason. A recent study by MIT has shown that customer experience is often the defining factor for repeat business. 

Now the business to business (B2B) market is following suit and is beginning to count on positive customer experiences. In recent years, businesses have adopted user interfaces and customer-facing portals that reflect the fast-paced, personalised experiences often seen in the B2C world. 

Why Is B2B Customer Experience So Important? 

Outstanding B2B customer experiences are becoming more important and are being adopted by more and more companies who decide to move their processes online. Forrester reports that B2B eCommerce will account for 13.1% of all B2B sales in the United States by the year 2021. This indicates a steady increase in the near future when compared to the 11% share of B2B eCommerce seen in 2017. It's also expected that by the end of 2021, customer experience will overtake product and price as the leading key brand differentiator. 

IBM is a prime example of a company that has implemented a successful customer experience strategy with their B2B clients. They've risen above expectations and have created autonomous, streamlined customer-facing processes that are both intuitive and intelligent. IBM customers have reported higher engagement rates solely due to usability and are immersed in the online process from start to finish. 

Digital Experiences 

B2B digital products and experiences have seen exponential growth in recent years and are set to play an increasingly significant part in the long term success of businesses. Refining and improving businesses' online presence through customer experience is by far the best way to create vital B2B lead generation. 

The best B2B marketing strategies are geared towards fulfilling the customer's journey better than a rival. Businesses are now going above and beyond to deliver exceptional customer experiences whilst trying to provide intuitive tech that is easy to use, streamlines processes and enhances customer satisfaction. 

Softcat is a great example of a B2B business that successfully adopted digital to improve the customer experience. We worked with Softcat to improve the customer experience as they had a complex offering; it needed to become simple & engaging whilst remaining customer-centric. Softcat’s information architecture was difficult to understand and easy to get lost, with pages in hidden layers meaning the user's experience was compromised and confusing. By improving the customer experience alongside some other aspects such as creative and technical build we were able to increase their lead generation by 187%, making the site a valuable sales tool.

The Future Of B2B Customer Experience 

B2B customer experience index ratings rank far lower than their B2C counterparts, according to McKinsey Research. The average B2B company scores a measly 50% when compared to the standard 65-85% score for B2C companies. This means that the majority of B2B clients report low customer awareness and are disappointed with their online experiences. 

That being said, B2B companies have invested huge amounts and are steadily providing enhanced digital experiences for their customers. We're seeing competition rise between companies who seek to offer the best user experiences possible to stand out from the crowd. This phenomenon has only ever been experienced in the B2C world and is a welcome driving force that will bridge the gap between B2B and B2C in the future. 

Processes are becoming ever more streamlined and intuitive to enhance digital strategies and customer experience. The bottom line is that time-consuming and complicated user interfaces hinder performance and hurt morale. Intuitive, well thought out UX designs that reflect interests, products and services are the way forward. Services that use automated processes to predict current needs based on past purchases offer a quick and easy solution that is easy to navigate. 

To read more about our work with Softcat, read the full case study here

How Can A Great Customer Journey Impact Your B2B Relationships? 

Customer experience strategies should provide users with a customer journey that works to meet their needs as soon as possible. The digital environment should be friction-free and as streamlined as possible to achieve maximum customer satisfaction. Long term relationships are defined by successful customer experiences and their impact is steadily increasing. 

Customer journey maps and conversational marketing tactics are a great way to move towards a customer-centric approach. They provide a single outline of customer interaction and push businesses towards an empathetic approach that assists in gauging external customer interactions. Conversational marketing can be achieved through the use of chatbots, live chat and voice assistants. 

Conversion Rate Optimisation 

Businesses are engaging in conversion rate optimisation (CRO) to increase the percentage of users who perform certain actions and complete desired goals on a website. Desired actions and goals can include purchasing a product, clicking add to cart, signing up for a service, filling out a form, or even clicking on a link. 

There are generally two types of CRO, Micro and Macro: 

The Micro 

This definition of CRO is concentrated around small changes and data. Think conversions, percentages, click through rates and page views. Whilst this is a valued approach to CRO you can easily lose sight of an individual's needs behind a barrage of numbers and smaller tweaks.

The Macro

This approach is more user-centric which seeks to understand the driving force behind user motivation and measures what encourages, stops and persuades users, giving businesses the best chance to measure their user experience metrics. 

A/B Testing 

Once sufficient information has been gathered about your client from CRO, A/B testing can be implemented by creating two or more versions of the same piece of content. The content can then be dished out proportionally depending on your target niche and measured. You can then gauge from your analytics data which version increased your KPIs the most and therefore implement it live to ensure your platform remains optimised in terms of performance. 

Conclusion 

It's undeniable that customer experiences are playing a larger role in future B2B relationships. The ever-expanding world and digital culture that we live in today has diversified markets and given us more options than ever before. 

It's now down to businesses to offer their customers something different and a reason to shop with them, otherwise, you can expect a harsh knock on the door from the competition. 

Please see our case study for Bottomline Technologies to see how we at Rawnet implemented these changes.

 

Resources