The Consumerization of the B2B Industry: What Does This Mean For Your Company?
Business-to-business or business-to-consumer: For a long time, companies regarded approaching private individuals with their products as categorically different to approaching other organizations. However, it’s not difficult to see that this has now changed. Want an example?
Visit the homepage of Flyeralarm, a company that sells printed products and promotional items. It boasts a broadly diversified online marketplace with clearly arranged product categories, seasonal specials and industry-specific theme worlds. The design is appealing and invites you to browse and make a purchase thanks to colorful banners and call-to-action buttons.
Those who need advice can choose between a YouTube channel with explanatory videos, a layout service or direct contact with the company, e.g. via chat. For those who prefer to take action themselves, there is a digital design tool where the results can be ordered promptly with same-day delivery.
So far, so normal. Marketing, web design, customer service – everything works like in an industry standard B2C online shop. The only difference: there is none! Flyeralarm is aimed specifically at business customers.
In this blog post, we will answer the following questions:
- What does the consumerization of the B2B industry mean and why does customer service play a special role?
- What distinguishes customer expectations in B2B and B2C and what can B2B customer service learn from B2C in this respect?
- How do you best implement the insights derived from B2C service in a B2B company using AI technology?
Consumerization: Business Customers Are Also Individuals
The above-mentioned best practice in the B2B sector reveals a phenomenon known as “consumerization”. But what exactly is meant by this?
Consumerization describes a development whereby products, business processes or buying habits that were initially developed for the end customer sector are increasingly being adopted in the corporate world.
The word “consumer” is obviously contained in the term, as everything revolves around the experience and needs of the consumer. With regard to e-commerce in the B2B sector, an important insight can be derived, namely that business consumers are always also private consumers. As such, they inevitably tend to operate within a digital shopping landscape tailored to their needs.
In many respects, this generates high expectations that are transferred to the purchasing process in the business environment:
- Comparability of offers: In a similar way to an end customer comparing the prices of mobile phones, business customers search online for comparable products to ensure they are getting the best possible price-performance ratio.
- Simple, barrier-free ordering and payment processes: With just two clicks, you can put what you want into the virtual shopping cart and pay using the bank details provided. Farewell to order lists, faxes and time-consuming conversations with a salesperson!
- Rapid availability and on-time delivery: It is difficult to explain why e-commerce companies deliver their orders to end customers within 24 hours, but a business customer must wait several days for their delivery.
- Multichannel customer service: Companies also want to receive answers to their questions on their preferred channel. And they want them now, not when the phone is busy next Monday at 9am.
The points mentioned are largely standard in the B2C sector. However, B2B online merchants have now realized that they need to catch up in terms of marketing, customer contact and customer service if they do not want to watch their customers jump ship.
What we are experiencing right now is the rapidly increasing consumerization of the B2B sector. This development has clearly been triggered by digital technologies and services, which are blurring the boundaries in the market, allowing comparisons and accelerating the proliferation of new standards.
E-commerce companies in the B2B sector face a number of challenges in the field of consumerization. In order to implement the necessary changes effectively, a change in mindset is necessary first of all.
B2B and B2C Customer Relationships: Are They Really So Different?
For a long time, it was assumed that end customers were primarily driven by emotions when making a purchasing decision. By contrast, it was expected that business customers would act in a more rational and logical manner. These were the assumptions on which the different marketing approaches, customer contact and level of advice was based.
Today, however, we know that customers, whether in a private or business capacity, tick in a similar way. Be it subconsciously or consciously, both B2B and B2C buyers pay attention to whether their needs are understood and whether they feel they are in good hands with their problems. In order for this to be the case, both consumer groups need the following things:
- The individual attention of a contact person
- A rapid response to their concerns
- The possibility for them to handle as much as possible in an autonomous and automated manner i.e. empowerment.
This is why the most crucial factor for online merchants is customer service, as it helps to strengthen the relationship between a company and its customers. What is the best way to do this? Looking at B2C will be beneficial here.
What Your Customer Service Can Learn from B2C: Treat Companies Like Customers
Customers want to shop in the B2B environment in the same manner in which they live: uncomplicated, direct and fast. The nature of your customer service determines whether the shopping experience on your online marketplace meets these expectations.
E-commerce companies should consider the changing expectations of their customers as an opportunity to learn from B2C. When it comes to engaging in direct contact with your customers, using artificial intelligence will provide you with multiple benefits.
Create digital access to customer service
Permanent availability and real-time communication are strong competitive advantages for your company. You can ensure them by leveraging your customer service across many different channels:
- Website chats
- WhatsApp chats
- Social media
Businesses should allow customers to use all media and combine them as they wish – without chaos or loss of information in customer service. This enables the use of intelligent automation in customer care. AI manages the channels, supports employees and provides them with the necessary data to ensure case-closing processing of customer inquiries.
Focus on speed
In the past, B2B organizations could be relatively sure of their customers. Customer relationships were more stable and the clocks turned more slowly. It was simply assumed by both sides that processing an inquiry would take a little longer.
Today, however, no business customer will accept inconveniences such as long waiting times or the absence of a contact person. Speed is paramount!
This is where AI unleashes its potential. After a short training period, it can answer many inquiries automatically, which is ideal for business customers. This way, there is no delay in business processes.
Impress with individualization
B2B customer relationships often run deep and require increased attention from customer service. If comprehensive support is lacking, business customers tend to migrate more quickly to the competition. The solution: AI technology.
- Intelligent algorithms assess tickets automatically and prioritize them
- AI recognizes moods and more complex issues that are better handled by a human
- It answers uncomplicated inquiries automatically
- This gives your employees time to offer precise support where it is needed
Would you like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can help your B2B company provide unbeatable customer service? If so, we look forward to hearing from you!
parlamind is a Berlin-based start-up for Artificial Intelligence in Customer Service. The parlamind AI understands incoming messages from customers on a semantic level and thus determining intents, specific content and the mood of the customer in the message. Equipped with these skills, the AI engages in customer dialogue independently and quickly carries out the associated processes. Latest research results from the fields of computational linguistics and machine learning form the basis for the continuous further development of parlamind AI technology. parlamind has been part of the 4TechnologyGroup since July 2018. The 4TechnologyGroup is an association of technology companies from the communications and AI sector. Today companies worldwide in the industries of e-commerce, information and communication technology, energy management, logistics and financial services use parlamind’s AI solutions. More than 20 employees work continuously on the further development and marketing of this unique technology “Made in Germany”.
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