This time last year, we wrote about our observations on the state of eCommerce in a mid-COVID world.
Why Personalisation Matters in B2B
We’ve probably all experienced it – being presented with so much choice that we find it impossible to decide. We live in a veritable land of plenty, with more choice now (in every facet of our lives) than we’ve ever known. Understandably, analysis paralysis is a common feeling.
But it wasn’t always this way.
In our grandparents’ day, people shopped locally and had personal relationships with their greengrocer, fishmonger and butcher. These businesses were part of the fabric of the local community. They knew their customers by name, knew their likes and dislikes. They gave each customer suggestions of what was good that day, what was on special, what was in season. And they tailored their recommendations around the needs of that customer and their family.
Then TV advertising, mass marketing and online shopping became the norm, and we faced a sort of de-personalisation of many facets of our everyday lives. What we gained in terms of varied choices, countless brands, myriad offers, multiple features... we lost in personal interactions that made us actually feel like individuals.
As a result, a lot of the noise from product marketing and media now sounds like static to jaded consumers – we’ve become adept at ignoring sales pitches, no matter how well-intentioned or sophisticated they may be.
So how do businesses cut through all that noise? The answer is actually the same as it always has been: Personalisation.
Personalisation is not just for B2C
It’s a commonly held belief that in B2C there are ‘shoppers’, whereas in B2B we have ‘buyers’ – which implies a difference in behaviour and intent. We’re all human however, and the solution to buyer apathy & analysis paralysis is essentially to have our needs and interests recognised - whether we’re wearing our business or our consumer hat.
A recent Forrester study found that 73% of B2B buyers want personalised experiences, similar to what they experience as a B2C consumer. But most aren’t getting it. Only 22% of B2B customers report having completely personalised online experiences.
So why is that?
In B2B eCommerce, the art of personalisation relies heavily on the customer’s industry, organisation, and role. For one B2B customer segment, personalisation might mean custom catalogues filled with contracted products, special pricing linked to their account code, product configuration options, and accessory recommendations.
For another customer, personalisation may look like PunchOut, a custom-skinned portal experience, or a complex order approvals hierarchy.
If your eCommerce platform isn’t deeply integrated, robust and flexible enough to support those kinds of features, then true B2B personalisation is going to be nearly impossible to implement.
Personalisation increases customer loyalty and retention
eCommerce personalisation can elevate your customer experience (CX), which in turn helps keep your customers happy. A recent PWC report showed that 32% of customers will abandon a brand they love after a bad experience - so it pays to get your personalised CX right. Increased engagement and a better experience will have buyers seeking you out when it’s time to do product research or procurement. With 70% of product research done online before buying, being a buyer’s first port of call is a powerful position indeed.
Personalisation also makes your customer’s job easier. Automatic or templated reordering of common products, downloadable spec sheets, and customised payment options take the friction out of working with you. Imagine being able to search a supplier’s website using YOUR own product code rather than their SKU – now that’s personalisation!
Personalisation helps B2B distributors add value where manufacturers cannot
For distributors looking to inoculate themselves against disintermediation, personalisation in B2B eCommerce can be a powerful ally. You undoubtedly know your customers, local market, and users far better than any manufacturer. So leverage this relationship to personalise the eCommerce experience for your users, bringing value to the procurement process not just for your customers, but for your suppliers as well.
eCommerce personalisation has been shown to increase order value by up to 20% - which means the manufacturers who supply you will be reaping the benefits as well. Gartner predicted three years ago that B2B companies with eCommerce personalisation would outsell their non-personalising competitors by 30%. You can only imagine what that discrepancy looks like today. Quite simply, personalisation translates to sales.
Our experience over the last 20 years has been that companies who get personalisation right do it because they’ve worked hard to understand their markets, their customers and the products that suit them.
Their eCommerce platform is the logical technology to support that knowledge, and the right platform can take personalisation efforts to the next level.