Advances in technology and digitalisation have increasingly blurred the lines between B2B and B2C businesses. Now manufacturers, professional service providers, and wholesalers are increasingly selling directly to consumers. The ensuing disruption has led to the emergence of a new way of doing business – the B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer) model.
B2B2C, and the more hybrid B2B2C models, have opened up a new array of untapped sales channels. As a result, formerly B2B- or B2C-only firms are generating massive revenues and profits. Even new companies that don’t fall into either of these camps can benefit from leveraging strengths of the B2B2C model to scale growth and achieve goals they wouldn’t be able to on their own. However, to take full advantage of this paradigm shift, companies must find new ways to appeal to consumers and meet their evolving needs.
The B2B2C model combines the best elements of B2B and B2C to allow companies to broaden their customer base. In general terms, it’s an ecommerce model where businesses access customers through a third party but are unable to interact directly through their own brand. When implemented successfully, it provides a more holistic view of customers, lowers costs, and increases revenue without having to give up control of the company brand or, just as importantly, pricing. So, let’s have a closer look at this changing landscape.
Digitalisation and Evolving Consumer Needs
Technology is changing how consumers discover and interact with businesses. To leverage this transformation successfully, organisations must first start by understanding how technological advances influence buyer behaviour.
Modern customers have high expectations of a seamless, personalised digital experience. This means that regardless of whether the context is B2C, B2B, or B2B2C, many companies’ first port of call when looking to purchase products or services are ecommerce websites. Nowadays, customer satisfaction actually relies less on affordable pricing and more on the overall experience. In fact, the standard of your CX offering can make the difference between your business’s success or stagnation and failure.
As the shift to B2B2C continues, it is important to differentiate between customer experience (CX) and customer service. The latter is only a small part of the whole buyer experience. On the other hand, CX comprises every interaction that potential customers have with an organisation’s staff, products, and digital assets.
CX typically includes:
- The first interaction potential buyers ever have with the brand (e.g. through web searches, company websites or ecommerce stores, blog posts or whitepapers, podcasts, and webinars)
- Interactions with sales and customer service representatives
- Order updates (e.g. notification emails when an order is dispatched or delivered) and after-sales support services
The success of your CX strategy can broadly be defined by three key metrics:
- Whether your customer achieved what they wanted in their interaction with your organisation
- How much effort they had to put in to achieve it
- How they feel at the end of it
As far as possible, it should be both seamless and effortless from the customer’s point of view. This is why the best CX strategies call on a customer-centric focus across all departments in an organisation as well as its partners.
Challenges in B2B2C Customer Experience Delivery
The B2B2C model presents some unique challenges in getting the customer experience right. The most common ones include:
1. Lack of Alignment
It’s next to impossible for companies and their partners to deliver a consistent customer experience when they aren’t aligned. Everyone involved in a joint CX effort needs to have a common purpose and shared goals in order to deliver a cohesive experience that meets customer expectations. It’s crucial for brand promises to align and for the companies to have the same CX objectives.
2. Lack of Capacity and Resistance to Change
Some companies have only just started making the shift to a customer-focused way of doing business. They’re still building their CX competency and as a result could start placing unrealistic expectations on their CX providers. Unfortunately, this usually leads to frustration as organisations fail to meet KPIs that they don’t even necessarily fully understand yet.
Furthermore, companies must deal with various internal challenges related to this shift in focus. Becoming customer-centric often requires an overhaul of numerous internal processes and operations that could place unforeseen strain on the businesses. Resistance to change can be a problem too; clear and early communication from the top down is key in order to get the entire team to buy into these changes and ensure sustainability and success.
3. Inadequate Understanding of Customers
If a company doesn’t understand the potential end users within its target market, it can’t create an efficient B2B2C customer experience.
The only way to understand specific consumer needs and expectations is by collecting comprehensive and up-to-date insights. This can be as simple as just asking them directly for feedback, which has the added advantage of showing your customers you actually care what they think.
The B2B2C model relies on real-time integration to make the process of sharing data and insights between partners easier. This enables a single, holistic view of customers that can guide efforts to improve and optimise CX. With everyone involved having an accurate, consolidated view, organisations can then make the right adjustments to their customer experience strategy.
Four Tips to Improve B2B2C Customer Experience
A combination of stellar product or service offerings coupled with excellent CX is key to successful business in today’s landscape. In short, better customer experience leads to a better bottom line. Using best practices in CX, companies can reduce customer churn, improve conversion rates, and cut costs. Here are a few tips to help you achieve this.
1. Seek Feedback From Partners
When trying to improve their CX, B2B2C companies can gain a lot of invaluable insight by simply communicating and seeking feedback from their partners. This can produce a treasure trove of information about the end-user experience, the partner experience, and the marketplace.
By listening to and collaborating with their partners, firms can learn about the perceived quality of their products or services and how this compares to the competition. Gathering these kinds of insights is a critical step to developing actionable feedback programs that can improve CX delivery.
2. Share Customer Data
The partnership between both businesses in a B2B2C model needs to be a two-way street. B2B2C companies must be prepared to collaborate with their partners to capture and share information and insights related to their end customers.
As a result of the combined effort, it’s much more effective and easier to achieve a single view of each customer and have the most up-to-date insights to identify opportunities to improve CX. With both parties having the same view, they can work together to produce a CX strategy that addresses their customers’ pain points, respond to feedback, and create a coherent B2B2C customer experience.
To ensure companies are able to deliver a seamless CX - as opposed to a fragmented experience - it’s vital that all data related to customers, stock levels, inventory, pricing, and promotions are synced and kept as close to real-time as possible. This will prevent customer-facing parts of the chain from passing on outdated information or prices, or attempting to sell products when you have already run out of stock.
3. Develop CX Capabilities Mutually
If your firm has a more advanced and effective CX model than your partners, it makes sense to extend the insights that have led to that success downstream. Similarly, of course, it works the other way too. Businesses that have been operating a B2B model would do well to learn from consumer-facing collaborators.
This is a two-way street, of course. All parties involved need to focus on constant collaboration and mutual development. You’ll learn from partners if you have an honest and transparent relationship. But you’d also do well to invest in plugging any gaps in their CX knowledge. Take the best of each model and share it to map the customer journey together.
4. Align Values and Goals
Good partnerships are built deliberately and over time. Companies must provide a conducive environment in which mutually beneficial relationships can be built and maintained with the right partners.
This starts with choosing partners that you trust to fulfil your brand promise. Taking the time to check that they understand your company’s CX vision, share your objectives in that regard, and just as importantly align with your brand’s values and culture, will pay off in the longer term.
If a customer has a bad experience, it will reflect on your brand just as much as your partners’ brands, so making sure you’re all on the same page from the get-go will help protect everyone in the chain.
CX Can Be Make-or-Break
In an era of intense competition, globalisation, and digital-savvy customers, CX can make or break your business. As companies shift from strictly B2B and B2C business models to embrace B2B2C, the fight for customers’ attention and retention is only getting more difficult. The only way to stay ahead of the competition is by giving potential buyers what they want - personalised service and outstanding CX.
B2B2C ecommerce is the next frontier of business development. Download our whitepaper, B2B2C Ecommerce - A Guide to Overcoming 3 Key Challenges, to learn more about this business model and how to overcome its common challenges to effectively attract and retain customers.