What the region’s B2B businesses can learn from B2C models
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What the region’s B2B businesses can learn from B2C models

What the region’s B2B businesses can learn from B2C models

Involving your customer in your product-development cycle is a strong start

James Petter - VP International - Pure Storage - lowres

We live in the age of “experiences”. A good customer experience can turn a one-off consumer into a loyal brand advocate. Given that we now live in a digital-first world, businesses across the region are investing heavily in building digital capabilities that allow them to adapt quickly to customer demand.

This is obvious in the success of B2C companies such as Apple and OSN, but what about B2B organisations? Many see significantly slower growth regionally than fast moving consumer-based online businesses. So, what can B2B enterprises learn from B2C that can accelerate their growth?

Customers, not competitors

The first step is to become customer-obsessed. Retailers bond with customers through the nuances of psychology that make them choose a brand and remain loyal to it. Consumers are less tantalised by product features than they are by buying experiences, and e-tailers have capitalised on that.

In B2B, enterprises should be emulating this. If they can understand the business their customers operate in — the opportunities and challenges — and design solutions and services that meet these needs and solve those challenges, they are within reach of a winning proposition. The need to nurture relationships is vital in the B2B world.

So B2B entities must put customers first and foremost. Similar to the way the designers of the iPhone were obsessed with the user experience and were constantly asking “How can we make the phone more user friendly”. They understood that customers respond to a company that improves their lives in some noticeable fashion. In the age of social media, even for B2B companies, if you can get people talking about a service or product of yours and how it helps their business grow, you have taken an important step.

Focus on ease of use and flexibility

Involving your customer in your product-development cycle is a strong start. Feedback can lead to discoveries of wants or problems that your customers have that you can solve. Then you can stop being a link in a supply chain and become an industry hero.

A huge part of that feedback process will involve ease of use. In the new normal, where businesses and consumers have ever-changing needs, products and services that fulfil those needs will only be successful if they are easy to use. Getting bogged down in arduous training courses and endless technical manuals does not make for the best customer experience.

An extension of the ease-of-use element is flexibility. A good customer experience is made better by giving customers options in how they consume a product or service. Indeed the “aaS” concept itself is all about turning what used to be products into services and whether it be for security or infrastructure, we are seeing more and more customers pivot to an as-a-service consumption model that helps to address the delivery of aftersales, because the business remains with its customer throughout the consumption journey. Aftersales is, if you like, baked right into the original sale.

Better insights lead to better outcomes

Whether it is Netflix or Amazon, successful B2C companies know full well that their greatest asset is data. These companies use modern analytics on the high volumes of data to create personalised customer experiences as well as cross-sell and upsell subscribers and users on products and services. B2C businesses also look inward to improve their products and services. Everything from network latency to cost efficiency can help to oil operational efficiency and lead to better consumer experiences. Analytics play an increasing role in actionable intelligence for digital businesses.

B2B firms have as much access to extensive stores of high-quality data as B2C organisations do. Now is the time to make use of this potential treasure trove of insight. A sound, modern data-analytics strategy can be a great accelerator for digital transformation in general, yielding actionable intel on everything from the customer experience to energy consumption.

AIOps is another area which B2B organisations should have an eye on. AIOps is the application of advanced analytics to big data to automate IT operations. This means looking into the future to predict business requirements based on current activity. It can take a burden off teams by predicting and automating mundane tasks. The knock on effect is that IT teams will have more time for supporting innovative projects which positively impact customer experience. In fact, a recent study by Pure Storage showed that organisations that are furthest along the analytics-maturity scale, when compared with those that are the least mature, are 3.2 times more likely to be more popular with customers than their competitors.

Take a look in the mirror

In the B2C space, a true measure of success of a product or service is consumer sentiment. B2C companies rely on consumer feedback — be it via social media or forums and reviews. B2B businesses, like their consumer-serving peers, must hold themselves to account. Independently audited Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and industry analyst reports will tell you how likely customers are to recommend you. Use them to optimise operations and offerings.

B2C businesses have been dancing to these tunes for years. Infrastructure that gives customers flexibility; adjustment of business models to suit customer needs; analytics that tell stakeholders when the mood is about to change and whether they have “read the room” correctly. B2B enterprises across the region are starting to see the benefits in implementing parts of these B2C models. Is your enterprise ready to be the next Apple?

James Petter is the VP international at Pure Storage

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