Personalization Also Relevant for B2B Shopping: What We Can Learn From Consumer Brands
Wholesalers are masters at putting the customer first. Account managers, customer cards, and store employees ensure this. How do they provide that same personal touch online? As the expectations of B2B shoppers continue to shift towards online shopping, this is a crucial question. The answer lies in always offering a relevant selection, tailored to the expectations and needs of each individual customer. In other words: personalization. In this article, you’ll learn why every successful wholesaler is now making the move towards personalization and what they can learn from B2C, a market where this shift has already taken place.
Those were the days: the grocer on the corner who knew each customer by name. Who knew exactly what product Henk or Piet needed, how often and who would suggest something new. Since, he knew it would also suit them. Such a shopkeeper just around the corner ris long gone. In fact, the landscape of retail and B2C has changed beyond recognition compared to then. The big shift to online has already been underway for years, partly due to pressure from disrupters like Bol.com and Amazon.
B2B Buyers Research Online.
As a metaphor, the grocer on the corner is not yet completely passé in B2B. The account manager still fulfills the role of a personal advisor who knows his customers well and can provide them with tailor-made offers. Offline, that is. Because online, that personal touch is often still missing, and therein lies a significant risk. Nowadays, B2B buyers gather their information mostly through digital channels. Based on what they find there, they compile their list of suppliers. To get on and stay on that list of suppliers, it is important to ensure that every customer always gets the right message, both online and offline and at the moments they need it.
The transition to an omnichannel approach in the consumer market wasn’t without its hiccups. Some retailers simply moved their entire offline inventory online and then left visitors to their own devices. Others let their marketeers use segmentation to target specific customer groups, but the return on investment fell short. Working with segments is a bit like shooting a shotgun. Sometimes you hit the bullseye, but often you miss because it’s not tailored to the needs of each individual at that moment. This can result in customers getting frustrated and, worst-case scenario, walking away. These are valuable lessons that wholesalers can learn from as they make their way towards B2B shopping.
Digital Natives Take the Lead in B2B
But wait a minute, does it really all have to be online? The answer is yes. Digitization has reached a point of no return, even in B2B. That is partly because:
● Buyers in the business market are also consumers. They experience the convenience of online shopping, anytime, anywhere, and quickly finding what they are looking for, thanks in part to personalized tailored offers.
● Buyers and decision-makers in B2B are increasingly millennials and other digital natives. People who grew up with the convenience of everything that is possible online. Without thinking twice, they switch from device to device and do almost all transactions – as far as possible – online. In addition, they are much less likely to pick up the phone for a question or advice than older generations. No, this generation prefers to do their own research.
Completely in Self Control
A selling party must facilitate a high self-service level by aligning well with the needs and desires of their customers. Take customers by the hand and guide them easily and quickly through the vast online offering, just as an account manager does offline. This is where personalization comes into play.
Personalization simply means always and everywhere meeting the needs and desires of the customer. At every touchpoint throughout the entire customer journey, both online and offline. Reactive is good, but being proactive is even better. In this way, a wholesaler can transform online from just a supplier to a digital advisor who is just as indispensable as offline. A party that optimally senses, informs, inspires, and serves the customer’s company online and offline. A place where they make their purchases with confidence and return time and time again.
B2C Learnings: Personalization is a Must
The move to personalization was (and is) a big step for many existing parties in the consumer market. Focusing on the customer is a change in mindset that cannot be made overnight. However, this is different in the B2B market, where the customer has always been the focus of attention. Thanks to the efforts of account managers and the use of customer passes, a lot is already known. Making the move to personalization is therefore much easier for B2B than for B2C. Furthermore, the path is already paved thanks to the pioneers in the consumer market. Instead of making leaps and bounds from all the unfiltered online offerings for all customers and working with segments, wholesalers are now immediately checking in at the level of personalization.
In short, digitization offers great benefits for wholesalers. It gives them the opportunity to translate the personal attention they already provided offline into a strong online presence. With artificial intelligence, they convert the knowledge they already had about customers into a flawless offering tailored to the buyer, omni-channel, and on-demand. By inspiring individual customers proactively with products that may also interest them, wholesalers not only ensure customer loyalty and retention but also boost their revenue and increase their share of the market.