There has been no greater impact on B2B sales in the last decade than the online consumer-buying process.
Business buyers purchase far more B2C products in their lives than work-related solutions, therefore they’ve become used to the convenience of hopping on the web versus dropping into brick-and-mortar stores. Forrester, in fact, predicts that online sales will account for 17% of all US retail sales by 2022. Up from 12.7% in 2017, this means a 27-trillion-dollar web sales industry by 2020.
This fast growth is precisely what’s leading B2B and B2C to merge to become B2ALL.
Your business buyers now expect the same experience purchasing industrial equipment as they do consumer goods. They employ the same approach to inform their decision to buy. They want ease of access, better selection and instant gratification, backed by bulletproof payment and investment options, and reinforced by solid brand recommendations from other buyers.
Take my recent need, for example, to purchase a new light for some video production work. A supplier of mine referred me to a company online and, naturally, I also went to Amazon for a price comparison. And this is when the buying process shifted from B2B to B2ALL.
I started reading the buyer reviews for the specific light I wanted, and then looked at the overall feedback from everyone who had bought from that company. I checked out other businesses based on those reviews, which eventually led to browsing other products based on the “people who bought X also bought Y” recommendations. After an hour of research and gathering advice from complete strangers, I bought my light and also added two extra items to my shopping cart. Overall, I estimate that no fewer than 20 people were involved in my buying decision even though I spoke to none of them directly.
Your buyers are also having this same B2ALL experience. And not just with Amazon. Google reviews, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Flyer Talk and other online forums also enable buyers to consult with fellow buyers about company products and services. In fact, recent studies show that 70% of buyers refer to online reviews before deciding which suppliers to engage with. Complicating this fact is that as a seller, you can’t control what’s being said about you. Or that these reviews can result in losing a new customer before you’ve even had the chance to earn them in the first place. You’d be seriously mistaken to think reviews aren’t important to your future success!
Through web reviews, discussions and research, buyers are building a relationship with your brand before they build a relationship with you personally. That’s why it’s essential to make yourself and your company as visible as possible in this online B2ALL climate. Having a niche in the market and offering loyalty programs to incentivize customers definitely helps, but most gains are tied tightly to brand awareness.
A strong, vibrant and pervasive brand means more qualified buyers find you, engage with you and buy from you. And a solid, corporate brand can correct a lot of shortcomings in a business. It’s why airlines, coffee shop chains and cellphone carriers—all notorious for uneven customer service at specific locations—still manage to succeed at growing in their respective marketplaces. Because they’re everywhere, they’re often the dominant player in the market and they’re convenient. So, regardless of the buying experience delivered by one seller, the overall experience, availability and presence in the marketplace offered by a brand are what matter most. They have the strongest and most direct effect on sales growth.
After purchasing my light, I researched a new service for my business and found myself yet again looking at recommended brands and at customer feedback. After all, why shouldn’t I be able to buy business products and solutions the same way I enjoy buying my consumer goods? It’s a B2ALL world out there.