Whilst companies in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space have had to rapidly transform in the last decade or so due to shifting consumer habits, the business-to-business (B2B) sector has not seen the same pace of change. But, according to managed services provider Claranet, this is about to change as fierce competition and shifting B2B buyer expectations are forcing organisation’s businesses to change the way they operate, the products and services they bring to market, and how they service customers.
Part of this shift in the dynamics of the B2B marketplace is down to demographics. Whereas in 2013, 18-24 year olds comprised 27% of B2B buyers, that number was already at 46% in 2015 – with the potential to increase further over the coming years. Emily Mann, Head of Customer Service at Claranet explains what this means: “The young generation of consumers have been raised with the convenience of e-commerce, instant access to information, products, and services, and the ability to offer feedback through social media. Their expectations around how to find, research and buy what they want have been moulded by these digital experiences – and as buyers acting on behalf of their employers, those expectations persist.
“However, it’s not just the younger generation who expect a seamless, omnichannel, always on customer experience. Customers of all ages are increasingly using technology to buy. Whilst the B2B market may have been slower to react than businesses operating in B2C, the gap is closing, with all companies now expected to provide an exceptional customer experience.”
For Emily Mann, technology will facilitate the changes that B2B companies must put in place: “The internet and mobile technology has radically changed consumers’ daily habits and business must ensure their platforms are squarely customer-facing.
The key is to find ways to serve customers more effectively via digital technology – whether that is providing a new way of buying products through e-commerce, creating more convenience for the consumer through mobile apps, or innovating with completely new approaches.”
Emily Mann concludes by stressing the need for the right technological infrastructure: “Convenience, instant service, smooth design, and easy access to products from a variety of touch-points are all essential features for B2B companies to match consumers’ expectations.
“B2B companies need to develop their capability to transform their operations, marketing, products, and services to make them fit for competition in the digital age. This emphasises the need to have the right kind of IT infrastructure in place to deliver stable connectivity 24/7, with the bandwidth to handle spikes in customer demand.”