Changes have happened in the way B2B buyers look at the process of purchasing goods from their suppliers. And most of these changes are not easy to see, even though some of them are not small, until you dig deeper into the behavior and expectations of modern B2B buyers. But, in order to explain these changes, let's ask ourselves one important question. What is B2B, and B2C, and how they differ?
According to Forbes, main characteristics and differences between B2B and B2C are:
B2B (Business to Business)
Longer decision making process. This means that, in order to sell B2B, and become a reliable supplier you have to invest time in developing a relationship with your potential buyers. Initially, you have to establish a contact, which sometimes may require several telephone calls, and talking to different people from that company. After finding the responsible person, you need to send a proposal to offer your products, with prices and other terms of cooperation.
Greater number of stakeholders/decision makers. The toughest task here is to identify the key decision-makers at your potential buyer’s company, and to make sure they receive your proposal. You need to convince them to accept your offer for cooperation, and if you are refused, to keep trying over and over again, by refining your offer, or finding an easier negotiator on the other side.
Relationships that last longer. It is easy to understand why companies tend to establish long lasting relationships, than consumers. Changing suppliers can be expensive and time-consuming in most cases. Especially for large corporations. And, here you have to be prepared for negotiations, so create a plan with your ideal terms, and also a backup plan if the first one doesn’t succeed.
A smaller number of leads/prospects. In B2B, you will generally work with much lover number of prospects compared to B2C. Amazon, or some other great retailer addresses millions of customers worldwide. But, a B2B company, on the other hand, for example a manufacturer of components for a specific industry, might have only a few companies as potential customers. In this case your customers are well known to you, and your competition also knows them all.
Different type of product knowledge. Manager of the buying company deeply understands the products to purchase, and has strong technical knowledge to help him make decisions about selecting ideal products, and also ideal suppliers. This is why he needs higher level of support from the B2B seller, detailed technical specifications, revisions, ongoing support etc.
B2C (Business to Client)
Shorter decision-making process. The decision-making process is relatively shorter compared to B2B. Because of this, it is important to capture the attention of potential customers right now, this very moment. You have to generate the need, and the desire for your products, and customers might instantly decide to purchase them. You target a large number of potential buyers, knowing or hoping that you will hit certain percentage of them with the right offer.
Smaller number of stakeholders. In B2C, it is all about establishing an emotional connection between you as a seller, and your buyer, who is in most cases a single person, or at maximum two persons.
Shorter relationship. Even though you want your B2C buyers to become loyal customers of your online store, fact is that most of these purchases are one time transactions, as the buyer usually doesn’t return to your shop to purchase more goods.
So, the next question that we have to answer is: What is the difference between B2B and B2C experiences? And is it still so noticeable?
The differences certainly exists, but when customer experiences are involved, we have to consider the technological impact that is stronger each day. With the development of internet, B2C and B2B companies started approaching their customers in a new way. The convenience of researching, comparing offers, and making decisions about purchasing products online, changed the perspective from which both types of buyers look at their buying process.
While the main differences between B2B and B2C that we have just explained still exist, the frontier between them becomes blurry in the recent years. Evolving needs of B2B buyers might be explained as them becoming spoiled, and requesting the similar digital experience to the one that B2C businesses provide to their customers. They are becoming more eager to do detailed online researches prior to purchasing products, just as consumers do. This is why B2B suppliers have to invest time and money in making their websites relevant, informative and supportive to their buyers.
Knowing that businesses act more and more like consumers, you have to answer the next important question: Who controls the purchasing experience, and what do modern B2B buyers expect?
No, it is not you as the supplier. Buyers control the purchasing process, as well as their experience. It is up to you to provide that best possible experience, and have them choose you as their B2B supplier. You have to adopt to them, and to their evolving needs, or they will find the supplier who had done this job better. Buyers expect the same kind of engagement as consumers do. Learning about their preferences might make a difference between growing your customer base (and developing long lasting customer relationships), and experiencing a noticeable decrease in revenues and profits.
Finally we have come to the main point of this article, as well as the main point of a successful, modern B2B business: The necessity of having a B2B portal as a supplier.
Is it necessary to have a B2B portal as a supplier, is not a question anymore. It is happening quickly. Companies operating under a B2B model recognize changes in their customer’s preferences, behaviors, and new digital habits. Not having a B2B portal nowadays might lead to losing customers, and to even more serious consequences to the business.
Modern B2B buyers request a rich omnichannel experience, that is seamless, both online and offline. B2B buyers cross channels before making final decisions about purchasing. According to Forrester Consulting, 38% of buyers only use digital channels. There are 32% of those who use both digital (online), and offline channels. One of the most interesting information is that 44% of B2B buyers purchase goods on the web, using PC’s, laptops, tablets, mobile phones. And here’s another one: 98% of them do the research online for purchases they make offline.
Finally, if you want to create a remarkable experience to your B2B customers, you will have to provide them access to your B2B market place. But, not just any kind of market place. You need a B2B portal that is better, more functional, more feature rich, more user friendly, and supportive, than the ones of your competition. So, choose wisely.