Personalization is different in B2B compared to B2C. As a manufacturer or wholesaler, you not only have to ensure that your customers know how to find their way around the multitude of products, but the services you provide in addition are also crucial. So, how can application leaders ensure a highly convenient buying process across their digital commerce channels?
In this article, you'll learn:
For years, personalization has been all about selling more products. B2C brands offer their customers exactly what they need on all channels, based on the data given. This way, they increase turnover and strengthen the relationship with their customers. B2B customers are consumers in their private lives. So they know how digital commerce experiences can be like! They have increasingly higher expectations of their B2B suppliers. Personalization is a necessity for today’s B2B brands to increase revenue and strengthen customer relationships.
The prerequisite of B2B personalization: Collecting data
To perform effective personalization, a key requirement is to know your individual customer well. In B2B, you have much more knowledge of the customer than in B2C. Since you most likely already know the user and a login is required to browse your online store, data on purchasing behavior is already present and can easily be supplemented with real-time click behavior. That’s a good starting point for personalization.
Here are four tips on how you can personalize the digital commerce experience in B2B, with a focus on increasing the buying convenience:
1. Personalize for the buying center or on individual level?
How to then use this data effectively is trickier in B2B. First, because the person who makes the orders on your platform is not always the one who decides what exactly should be ordered. Chances are that this is determined by their supervisor or at headquarters. Moreover, it may be multiple people (the buying center) responsible for orders for the same company, branch or department. Personalization therefore needs to be customized to be effective.
In B2B, it makes more sense to personalize at the company or branch level, rather than at the level of an individual business buyer. This is due to the repetitive nature of B2B orders and the fact that as a manufacturer or supplier, you have a lot of knowledge about the products you have already delivered. For example, based on someone's order history, you know exactly when consumables are about to run out or when a machine part needs replacing. So, the degree of what you can predict for the customer as a manufacturer or supplier is high. It is precisely this B2B proprietary premise that creates plenty of opportunities for personalization and helps to improve customer satisfaction, strengthen the customer relationship, and boost sales.
2. Make things convenient for your customer
The best way to successfully apply personalization in B2B is to make things more convenient for your customers. The easiest way to do that is to offer an intelligent on-site search.
What is intelligent search?
Intelligent search is a synonym for AI-powered on-site search. Typically, an algorithm finds information or data based on a knowledge graph, wherever it is stored. Structured, unstructured, first party or open data, anything goes. To train such an algorithm, you need to apply machine learning (ML) methods in a dedicated environment. Modern cloud-based and API-based commerce solutions like Intershop support those on-site search engines out-of-the-box.
Take, for example, a wholesaler of construction materials and machines. Over the years, his customers will have purchased many different machines of different brands from this wholesaler. With those come countless manuals, warranties and certificates. Instead of having the customer keep them all themselves, you can also help them by making all the documents relevant to them findable in the search bar of their own digital customer portal. In essence, this is also a form of B2B personalization, at the company level. You can also take this form of personalization even further, by creating a personalized customer portal for each contact within such a company, in which he or she only finds those documents, products, instructions and information that are relevant to them from their specific position within the company.
3. Help your customers serve their end customers
Another way to personalize in B2B is to help customers serve their end customers. After all, the better your customer can serve their own customers, the more successful he becomes. And as a supplier, you reap the benefits. To help your B2B customer strengthen their own customer relationships, you ideally know their customers well, too. However, customers will be hesitant to share this kind of information with you, for fear of cannibalization, for competitive reasons or due to data security issues.
Today’s digital-savvy application leader can use market insights to do their own research into the (end) market. What is its demographic structure, what trends are going on? If, for example, you are a wholesaler and you supply retailers, you can use the data you have collected to help your client think about which products will sell better at which locations, or what the optimum shop layout is.
4. Unburden customers with convenient digital self-service tools
Another way to personalize B2B: unburden your customers with self-services that relate to what you sell. For example, if you supply building materials to smaller construction companies and contractors, then you can offer these customers an online calculator on your platform that they can use to configure building specifications for their customers. Such a tool makes their work easier and simpler, while its use provides you as a supplier with more valuable data about the projects your customers are working on. This data, in turn, forms a perfect basis for thinking along with them, advising them and perfecting cross- or up-selling.
Other options for personalized self-services in the after-sales phase could be subscriptions to consumables that match the installed base, the booking of service appointments with technicians that are contracted by your customer, or intelligent widgets that inform your customers about product updates available for their machines.
The core principle: Personalization in B2B needs to add value for the customer
What is pivotal with all these examples is that personalization in B2B, unlike in B2C, is much more than a digital commerce tool to sell more products. Of course, it certainly makes a lot of sense to personalize commodities like assortment, price and payment methods on your platform as well. But personalization in B2B can go even further than that. Successful B2B personalization is something that takes place throughout the customer's lifecycle, even offline, or after you've sold something. B2B is all about continuously adding more value for the customer. Value as an advisor, as a source of knowledge, as a provider of overview and as a strategic partner in the challenges they face. To be able to take on this role, it is important to gain knowledge about your customers, the industries and their current and future challenges.
Organizations would therefore do well to capture as much data as possible, from all possible channels, and to start combining them intelligently. The knowledge you gain from this data can then be used in numerous ways for yourself and your customers, making you increasingly valuable to them. Those who are able to deliver this kind of value to their B2B customers will sell more, retain customers longer, strengthen the customer relationship and always stay one step ahead of their competitors.
Learn more about B2B personalization, why it matters and what you need to do to set up a perfect personalization strategy for your business, in our whitepaper: Personalization in B2B.