The Consumerisation of B2B: Analysing the impact of the ‘Amazon Effect’ on B2B Sales
“Business buyers don’t go to work and forget what they do as humans. There’s a new normal that blurs the lines between B2B and B2C”
Brian Solis, Principle Analyst, Altimeter Group
The rise of Amazon demonstrates just how far buyer preferences have shifted. Convenience and simplicity are the overriding influences over pretty much every purchasing decision today.
Whilst in days gone by the B2B purchasing process was limited to in-person sales interactions, today more and more business buyers are growing to expect consumer-like experiences. Buyers are demanding more agile and responsive B2B sales practices.
The so called ‘Amazon Effect’ is setting the bar high when it comes to B2B customer experience. Indeed Salesforce statistics on the connected customer reports some of the B2C factors influencing B2B buying behaviours:
• 8 out of 10 business buyers want the same experience as when they are buying for themselves
• ¾ expect vendors to personalise engagements
• 2/3 expect Amazon-like buying experiences
• 2/3 have switched vendor for more consumer-like experiences
• 50% believe most companies fall short of their expectations for great experiences.
B2B customer expectations have certainly evolved, and the more you can do as a B2B seller to consumerise the B2B sales process the better your chances of success. But there is good news, going back to Salesforce data, 74% of business buyers are willing to pay for a great experience, and 77% are likely to share good experiences with others.
The most successful B2B sellers are those who are looking at and prioritising things like understanding customer’s evolving behaviours and preferences, and anticipating their needs in order to deliver more meaningful engagement opportunities.
When you purchase something from Amazon every step of the buying experience is meticulously designed and orchestrated, so how can you make your B2B sales process fell more like checking out on Amazon?
5 lessons every B2B seller should learn from the ‘Amazon Effect’
1. Active Segmentation
Amazon hasn’t built its empire by mass broadcasting its product range to customers. Instead it has focused on harnessing the power of technology to actively segment its consumers and build out customised experiences.
Like Amazon, you too can use technology to segment, target and position your solutions and services, creating an unforgettable, personalised and consumer-like experiences for consumers and prospects.
Thanks to advances in B2B sales intelligence technologies (such as Artesian), B2B sellers can harness the power of AI systems to delve deep and pull out both the qualitative (descriptive buyer-level insights, attributes and sentiments) and quantitative (firmographic) data points that really help understand buyers – their persona’s, priorities and buying dynamics – for improved segmentation.
By actively segmenting customers and tracking them to stay on top of evolving developments in their world and their buying behaviours sellers can accelerate revenue growth, just as Amazon does, by focussing sales efforts in the right places, finely targeting content, and developing clear personalised engagement strategies.
2. Relevance and Timing
B2B buyers want to be approached with relevant offers at the right moments, not when it’s convenient for the salesperson. They have little or no patience for ill-timed, generic pitches, mass broadcast communications, spamming and untargeted, untimely, irrelevant and poorly-delivered engagements.
To deliver consumer-like experiences B2B sellers need to not only accurately identify, segment and target the right customers but hit them at the right time, with the right message. This requires taking a more real-time insight-driven approach.
The implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies within the sales technology stack, such as advanced analytics, machine learning and natural language processing mean that B2B can build not only a deeper understand of buyers, their needs, pain point and aspirations but do so in real-time (or as close as you can get) in order to pinpoint the best time and way to contact them, and which product or service and tailored message will resonate most as quickly as possible to capitalise on momentum.
Without real-time insight you run the risk of engaging them too early or too late in their buying journey.
According to an InsideSales study up to 50% of sales go to the sellers that is first to respond, because the first to respond is best able to frame the conversation and define the value proposition.
3. Anticipation of Needs
B2B buyers are more likely to choose to work with companies that can accurately predict their choices, therefore B2B sellers must be able to anticipate purchasing behaviours and proactively deliver relevant content, product, price and message.
According to Salesforce 75% of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions.
One of the key aspects of Amazons success is that they know what you want before you buy it. I recently read that they even have a patent for an algorithm-based system, which could conceivably ship products to you before you even place an order.
But harnessing predictive technology is no longer only achievable for the likes of Amazon, sellers today have at their disposal advanced sales technologies, like Artesian, that are utilising machine learning and predictive analytics to enable sellers to construct predictive models based on patterns of event types and customer attributes.
Sellers might not be able to identify products and solutions and begin implementing them before the buyer needs it, but by knowing what the next steps are, sellers can analyse which actions are most likely to have the greatest impact, what content will resonate most and will have the highest open rates, as well as the likely customer response to any engagement.
The result is more sophisticated sales strategies, campaigns, and product or service development.
As time goes by and the volume of data improves precision and predictive capacity, these models will advance, enabling faster and more accurate anticipation of customer needs, pain, market challenges and opportunities – before customers themselves even realise what lies ahead.
4. Solid engagement strategy
Amazon might not directly contact customers in a one-to-one manner as a B2B seller would, but they still engage with them by delivering content and information that is intent-driven and personalised. It’s a very effective approach and one that B2B sellers need to adopt.
A solid engagement strategy builds rapport and shows customers that you’re proactively thinking about their needs. To achieve a return on engagement sellers seek opportunities to hone relationships with customers and prospects at every stage of the buying journey by engaging with them in the way want to be engaged with and capturing opportunities for personalised interactions.
Utilising machines to automate key activities such as information gathering, research on buying behaviours and trends etc., leaves sellers free to undertake more strategic decision making and human-touch relationship building tasks with an even greater level of clarity. No touch point left unturned, no opportunity missed.
This is particularly important when targeting first-time customers as they are more likely to be looking for direct interaction.
The most successful sellers today are those that have the ability to capitalise on every moment within every B2B purchasing journey in a way that is customer-centric, contextually aware, empathetic and personalised.
5. Perfecting Post Sale
Amazon has said that leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. They believe that part of their success is their obsession with the customer, this means not just knowing what they want and working to help them but sincerely pursuing feedback – they empower their customers to become advocates for their products, their service, and their brand.
Referrals and word of mouth are some of the strongest influencers in B2B buying decisions As social selling evangelist Jill Rowley once said, “Today, buyers place more trust in their peers’ opinions than anything a salesperson can tell them”.
According to an analysis in the Harvard Business Review, 84% of B2B buyers now kick off their buying process with a referral, and 90% of B2B buying decisions are ultimately made with peer recommendations.
So how to build advocates, and how to get them providing social proof of your worth to others as Amazon do?
Use your network
By adding value to your network and providing them with content they believe in or identify with, you will build goodwill and people will reciprocate by sharing it or ‘liking it’ with their network – a positive endorsement or referral, even if only implied.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
Happy customers will have no problem referring you, provided that you’re doing the things that make customers happy enough to talk about your business. Have you solved a massive problem for them? Have you helped them exploit a previously untapped market opportunity? Has working with you boosted efficiency, profits or customer loyalty? Then reach out to them.
People often don’t make referrals unless asked, but more often than not they are pleased to share their positive experience. You just have to give them the opportunity and make it simple. Share information and give them a convenient way to share with their network via Twitter, LinkedIn or by providing a review.
Give your customers an opportunity to contribute. Sharing success is mutually beneficial – your customers, just like you, are trying to build influence in order win new business and build relationships. Talk together about what you have done, why it was a success and the lessons you’ve learned.
Whether someone is writing a product recommendation, commenting on a blog post or contributing to a case study, they’re spreading the word throughout their network.
Likewise, when you share this with your network you are spreading the word for them.
B2B is more complex that B2C but we can all learn something from the ‘Amazon Effect’
Of course, in most B2B businesses, there is tremendous complexity, complexity the likes of which Amazon doesn’t have to overcome – complex customers with sophisticated requirements, longer decision making processes, greater numbers of stakeholders involved in the buying journey etc.
Some even argue that consumerisation of B2B is a concept that doesn’t really exist, and that drawing parallels between B2B and B2C is a fruitless exercise.
Whilst agreeing that inherent complexities exist in B2B that don’t exist in B2C. I would disagree that there is no value in creating consumer-like experiences.
The foundation of Amazon’s success is its relentless pursuit of customers, being vigilant to their needs and perhaps most importantly harnessing intelligence and insight as the power behind sales.
Artesian, the power behind B2B sales in an ‘Amazon Experience’ world
Intelligence and insight are playing an increasingly important role in B2B sales, just as they do in the B2C world, and high-performing B2B sellers are harnessing the immense power of sales intelligence tools to take it to a new level and differentiate themselves from the also-rans by delivering superior customer experiences.
Artesian is helping over 30,000 sellers perfect lead generation, segmentation and targeting, build a deeper understanding of customers, act in real time, anticipate needs, engage in more personalised ways at the right time, build relationships, and communicate in a more contexualised and intent-driven fashion.
We are helping them build best practice sales strategies that deliver the consumer-like experiences buyers crave.