Modern and personalized customer experiences that rely on cutting-edge technology have played a major role in the business to consumer (B2C) market for many years. However, the business to business (B2B) market is beginning to rely on great customer experiences more than ever, with many companies adopting user interfaces, such as portals, that reflect the personalized and fast experiences most often seen in the B2C market.

These great B2B customer experiences are continuing to grow in importance for companies as more and more processes move online. According to Forrester, B2B eCommerce will account for 13.1% of all B2B sales in the United States by the year 2021, indicating a steady increase for the foreseeable future when compared to the 11% share of B2B eCommerce seen in 2017. Additionally, by the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator

With B2B digital experiences continuing to play an increasingly crucial role in the long-term success of companies, it is important that businesses work to improve and refine their online presence. But the question remains, what makes a great B2B customer experience?

The Influence of B2C on B2B Customer Experience

According to McKinsey research, B2B customer experience index ratings rank far lower than their B2C counterparts, with the average B2B company scoring below 50% compared to the typical 65 to 85 percent scored for B2C companies. This indicates that the majority of B2B customer experience audience members are dissatisfied with their online interactions with companies in the industry. B2C companies are continually providing the latest in digital experiences in an effort to compete with one another in ways that may not be sesen as often in the B2B realm. The result is that consistently rising customer expectations regarding B2C experiences are migrating to the B2B sphere. 

Currently, B2B buyers feel that making a purchase is very complicated and time consuming so it is even more critical for sellers to provide their B2B audiences with well-designed user interfaces that remember their interests, services, and products that predict needs based on past purchases and more features that make the journey quick and easy to navigate. 

What is Holding Back Your B2B Customer Experience?

As discussed by Customer Think, only 17% of B2B companies have fully integrated customer data throughout the organization, which means that the decisions being made by these businesses are often based on flawed or incomplete data insights. Should a company be unable to access customer insights from all departments, such as customer service or social media, they may miss out on specific aspects of the experience that highly influence the overall quality of business interactions, as well as data that can provide a more accurate view of each audience member.

Beyond gathering data to enhance experiences, businesses may not have the capabilities needed to completely control and execute their customer experience strategy. Research by Accenture found that only 21% of B2B companies have total control over their sales partners, who are largely responsible for delivering CX to their audience. If a business is unable to determine how, when and to whom these experiences are provided, even a well-constructed B2B user interface can result in an unsuccessful experience.

Back-end integration that allows greater and more accurate access to customer data, modern interfaces that allow for personalization based on individual needs and improved delivery systems governing how these interfaces are provided to audience members can greatly enhance a company’s modern B2B customer experience.

How Can a Great Customer Experience Impact Your B2B Relationships?

Great customer experience strategies work to create an environment that is free of friction and provides users with a journey that meets their every need as quickly and easily as possible. While B2B audiences may not be as likely to abandon a shopping experience or choose a competitor due to poor experiences as B2C audiences, the impact of experiences on long-term relationships is steadily increasing.

According to research regarding B2C and B2B experiences by The Tempkin Group, 86% of those who receive a great customer experience are likely to return for another purchase. However, the study also found that only 13% of people who had a sub-par customer experience will return. In addition, engaged and satisfied customers will buy 50% more frequently and spend 200% more annually, as found by Rosetta.

The importance of creating great B2B experiences is not just in keeping up with competitors and audiences, it also has a positive impact on company performance. As shown by McKinsey, B2B companies that transformed their customer experience processes saw benefits similar to those seen by B2C companies, including a 10 to 15% revenue growth, higher client satisfaction scores, improved employee satisfaction and a 10 to 20% reduction in operational costs.

The combination of these benefits means a higher ROI on B2B operations, supporting the company as a whole.

This article was originally published in 2018 but has been updated in 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

What Element of B2B Customer Experience Should Leaders Focus On

We surveyed 30 global leaders that drive B2B commerce experience for their organizations about customer experience elements such as self-service, personalization, chatbots, and more. Download this report to learn which they believe are the most critical for B2B success

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