B2B. B2C. B2B2C. D2C. R2D2—okay, so that last one has nothing to do with marketing, but I bet some of you had to think about it for a moment. It seems the list of marketing acronyms grows daily as the differentiation between them becomes more and more difficult to define. That’s certainly the case for B2B—Business to Business—and B2C—Business to Consumer. The practices of business buyers have made a monumental shift since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking a swing towards the practices of individual or personal consumers.
“B2B commerce increasingly will look more like B2C commerce as businesspeople continue to look for the same kind of online experience in the workplace that they have as consumers.” —Adobe
This shift is a major contributor to the re-emergence of the omnichannel marketing strategy in the B2B sector. Therefore, the B2C model of omnichannel marketing is a sound model for B2B marketers to reference when starting out their own omnichannel strategy.
Now, obviously the two (B2B & B2C) are still very different situations. There will be differences in the way that the elements of B2C omnichannel are applied to B2B omnichannel, but they still provide a solid outline for where to begin.
3 Elements of B2C Omnichannel Applicable to a B2B Omnichannel Model:
If you’ve followed our previous blogs about omnichannel marketing, you’ll likely notice this as part of a trend. No matter what type of industry you’re in, the first step to any omnichannel strategy is to bring your consumer to the center of your focus.
BigCommerce suggests that B2C marketers follow the following steps to find their personas:
- Review your customer database to identify similarities in geography, age, shopping habits and more.
- Collected detailed information from your customers to see what brought them to the store and which channel they use most.
- Look over your products’ cost, quality, and purpose to see which segments of society would benefit from them most.
Now, in a retail or B2C setting, consumers are (for the most part) individual—meaning there’s one final decision maker to pinpoint, analyze, and cater to. In B2B we know that the number of scenarios including multiple decision makers for a single purchase are on the rise. So, rather than focusing on an individual, B2B marketers will have to modify these steps to account for each persona that has a vote in the final decision.
For B2B marketers, we suggest following these modified steps to bring their consumer into focus:
- Identify important roles within your target industries/organizations that are likely to be included in a purchase decision for a product or service like the one you offer.
- Analyze data collected from previous prospects—both those that dropped out of the funnel and those who were converted to clients—to determine how, when, where, and why certain decision-making roles have been successfully/unsuccessfully engaged.
- Do industry research to learn which channels personas in those roles typically interact with and what type of content they access within those channels.
Traditional & Digital:
The adoption of digital channels was gaining traction prior to 2020. The pandemic simply increased and accelerated adoption, as online operations became a necessity while storefronts were closed. The rapid transition, and subsequent success of digital proved its necessity, but it also left consumers longing for the human—or traditional—channels.
The next step is joining two channels that have long been perceived as rivals—traditional and digital. For a retail or B2C omnichannel strategy this step can be boiled down to providing consistency across brick-and-mortar stores, apps, websites, etc. The team of Omnichannel Retailing experts at OroCommerce gave the following examples,
- When there is a discount offered in-store, the same percentage should be offered online.
- If inventory in-store is sold out, it should also be reflected to the online product.
B2B organizations don’t have brick-and-mortar stores, their traditional—physical or human interaction—marketing channels come in the form of in-person sales meetings. Human interactions have been a mainstay for B2B industries for years, sustaining their relevance even into the beginning of 2020. B2B organizations have been slower to picking up digital channels, but they were forced to rapidly adopt and adapt, too. Now, as things slowly creep back to some sense of normalcy, B2B organizations new to digital will have to merge the two channels to deliver exceptional omnichannel experience.
In a previous blog, we offered several recommendations for creating connections between your channels, including consistency. Along with those recommendations we suggest that B2B marketers take the following steps to bring harmony among two previously clashing channels.
- Sales and Marketing alignment. Similar to the departmental alignment recommendation, but with an emphasis on two specific departments. Traditional activities are generally executed by salespeople, and digital is often run by marketers. Alignment of these specific departments will be vital to connecting digital and traditional channels.
- Utilize a sales enablement platform, like Triptych, that can automate and ensure brand and legal compliance. Achieving consistency amongst a large, distributed salesforce will be next to impossible without one.
A living, breathing, & growing strategy:
There are two steps to achieving this element of a B2B omnichannel strategy.
- Start small. One of top challenges of omnichannel marketing is resources, if you start too big, with too many channels, you’ll waste already limited resources.
- Continuously analyze real-time data collected from your channels to inform additions and adjustments to the foundational strategy.
These particular steps are universal, they can be applied to both B2C and B2B. However, maintaining an evolving and advancing strategy will require ensuring that its components are also progressing and anticipating threats to that progress.
According to McKinsey, the “reemergence of siloes” is the greatest threat to a progressive strategy. We’ve shared a few suggestions for solving misalignment among departments in previous blogs including, integrating technology, and tasking department leadership with instituting regular interdepartmental activities. Each of these are structural changes that should help with preventing the reemergence of removed siloes, but you should take the following steps, also suggested by McKinsey & Company, to further ensure they’re removal is permanent.
- Implementing performance targets that encourage collaboration instead of competition.
- Continuous reassessment of interdepartmental collaboration activities and progress.
The B2B Omnichannel Triad Model
These are the elements that form the B2B Omnichannel Triad Model. Three essential elements drawn from models utilized in B2C marketing, analyzed to identify their relevance, and modified to fit the unique characteristics that separate B2B from B2C. B2C marketers have already been experiencing success and reaping the benefits of omnichannel marketing. Taking a page out of their playbook will help B2B marketers set themselves up to successfully execute their own omnichannel marketing strategy, deliver excellent omnichannel experiences, and produce superior results in 2021.
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