B2B must get closer to the ways of doing things B2C by offering experiences to its customers and by coming out of “cold” profit-oriented speeches. At the time of Covid-19, it is time to enter the era of “Business-to-everyone”, advocates Christophe Marée, EO marketing director of Adobe.
We tend to pit B2B and B2C marketing against each other, as if they were two very separate worlds. On the one hand, there would be professional purchases: cold, technical and slow. And on the other, consumer consumption: impulsive, immediate and emotional. This dichotomy is no longer operative today, I am convinced of it. The convergence between our personal and professional practices is clear, driven by the wealth of new digital experiences, and more contextually by the Covid-19 crisis, which brings the two spheres together. Just imagine how many professional purchases took place from a private space in 2020 to see the erasure of the border. For marketers, it is time to move beyond the old shackles and enter the era of “Business-to-everyone”.
A historical divide
Before getting to the heart of the matter, a point of history is essential. B2B and B2C display traditional differences that are still largely valid today. B2C is the territory of impulse and emotional buying. Here, the brands focus the experience on the pleasure dimension. The act of purchasing is overwhelmingly individual, the cycles are short or instantaneous, and the contractual terms remain light. Result: the productions are accessible, the tone is more direct and the customization easy.
B2B must maneuver with other constraints. Decision-making is collaborative: it involves managers, but also IT, finance, users and of course purchasing. The direct consequence is a noticeable lengthening of purchasing cycles, which can extend over several years (in the construction sector for example). Here, rationality takes precedence over emotion. With suppliers, the effort is focused on demonstrating expertise. As a result, the speech is often colder, profit-oriented, and crafted in more technical language.
An inexorable convergence
After such a portrait, you would be entitled to answer me that the opposition between B2B and B2C deserves to continue. And I would answer you that you have to look at the meaning of the story. Where the oppositions that I have just presented fade away, the points of convergence multiply. The unavoidable presence of social networks has reinforced the influence of opinions and recommendations. In B2B today, our decision-making is largely dependent on expert opinion. They are in a way the “influencers” of our professional purchases. Customer loyalty is also a common issue. It is embodied in B2B as in B2C by an increasingly strong service dimension: support and after-sales service are more than ever the sinews of war.
Most importantly, the convergence of ethical expectations is transforming the way we shop. The Creating Epic Customer Experiences study, conducted by Adobe, shows that 67% of B2B buyers consider a brand’s environmental commitments before making a purchase. In the same way as with individuals, professionals of bitumen importers in india today favor alignment of values, transparency, proximity, authenticity. Purchasing departments are increasingly aware of these issues.
Finally, the most marked convergence undoubtedly concerns experience. In the wake of a generalized digital transformation, professional and private buyers are now showing great demand on this subject. The question of contact points and interlocutors is crucial. The precision, relevance, and personalization of messages are essential. Before choosing a new partner, an element as essential as the quality of the website will strongly guide our a priori.
Only one option: action
For B2B – today less mature in terms of quality of experience – the urgency is for transformation. More resistant to change due to longer cycles, and the victim of a less direct relationship with the user, the sector has fallen behind. Very (too) factual, oblivious of the emotional dimension conveyed by a product and exceptional support, B2B marketing today displays a form of sadness. He must change to become more personal and attractive, and above all aim for a form of blamelessness of the experience. At Adobe, we have done a lot of work on the issue. Our website, which is 98% aimed at B2B, has been designed with a view to constantly renewing and personalizing content, based on visitor profiles. We use the technologies we develop on our own platform. Audience segmentation and the personalization of routes now allow us to optimize the relevance of our communications. On the issue of content, we align ourselves with B2C best practices, around digestible content, short videos or podcasts. In short, we see our prospect for what he is: a human with factual and technical expectations but also capable of emotion, averse to friction and ready to reward quality of experience.