Commerce professionals in B2B and B2C organisations face surprisingly similar challenges in meeting the needs of today's increasingly omni-channel customer, and the approaches needed to address these challenges seem to be converging, according to the results of two surveys recently conducted by Oracle Commerce.
According to the surveys of B2B and B2C commerce professionals, B2C companies are striving to move beyond acquisition and are working toward building loyalty and retention among their key customer segments. B2B companies, on the other hand, are increasingly looking to deliver the types of commerce capabilities and customer experiences that have been the hallmark of great B2C e-commerce companies.
Both B2B and B2C commerce professionals find integrated, omni-channel customer experiences increasingly valuable to their organisations, and are continuing to invest in technologies and digital content strategies to facilitate them.
The studies surveyed e-commerce professionals in business and technology departments from around the world. Although the priorities, success metrics, and technology investments differed between the two groups, customer acquisition and retention emerged as common themes across B2B and B2C. Growing market share and enhancing customer experience are cited as top investment areas for all e-commerce professionals.
While enhancing the customer experience is seen as a key contributor to success for both groups, B2C organisations are more advanced at delivering customer-centric commerce. They are, therefore, moving beyond acquisition and working hard to build loyalty and retention among their key customer segments.
B2C advancements have spurred similar goals on the B2B side, as B2B companies are looking to graduate from online order taking to extending the existing relationships they have offline to the online channel. According to the survey, 77% of B2B respondents said that customer expectations have been raised due to B2C practices.
B2C is all about loyalty
In 2014, B2C commerce will be all about knowing the customer and building loyalty. Key performance indicators are changing to become increasingly customer-centric. Nearly half of respondents (49%) said customer retention is their most important metric for success, after revenue.
Personalisation is becoming more important as organisations look to combat price competition and develop loyal customer bases. Big Data initiatives are also growing in priority, as organisations seek to learn more about their customers.
B2C companies will focus on unifying content and commerce to improve the customer experience. The majority of respondents (59%) said they are investing in rich digital content to enhance the overall customer experience, in addition to increasing purchase confidence, overcoming competitive sites, and helping with SEO efforts.
The omni-channel experience is critical to success, but difficult to manage and measure. Moreover, organisations appear to embrace omni-channel and its positive impact on their bottom line but struggle to connect the various customer touchpoints to provide improved experiences.
B2B will copy B2C
Customer Experience Strategies Customer expectations are changing to match B2C retail experiences. B2C practices such as search engine marketing, personalisation, social and mobile are increasingly being used to encourage repeat business and drive revenue.
Company priorities and metrics are shifting to include more customer-focused areas such as customer loyalty and retention, as well as omni-channel experience. Only 8% of respondents said customer loyalty and retention was their top area of focus in 2013, but 45% said it was going to be one of their top priorities in 2014. Also, 28% of respondents said they now consider customer loyalty as a key measure of success.
Customer acquisition remains important, and 51% of respondents said it would be an important measure of success in 2014.
Some 40% of respondents said that mobile is a key capability B2B buyers need, but only 2% said mobile is driving significant revenue. Online channel revenue is also expected to increase in 2014. The study found that 70% of businesses saw more than 10% growth in online revenue over the past 24 months, and 39% saw 20% or more of their revenue coming from online.
Complexity across pricing, products, channels, online experiences and back-end systems remains a challenge in B2B commerce, with 98% of respondents acknowledging organisational complexity.
"Consumer expectations continue to change the way both B2B and B2C businesses sell online," concluded John Andrews, vice president of product management for Oracle. "In B2C there is a renewed focus on increasing loyalty as competition grows at a fever pitch. Meanwhile, B2B organisations are still under increasing pressure to adopt B2C commerce best practices. Developing customer-centric approaches and investing in omni-channel initiatives will be key to online revenue growth for both B2B and B2C organisations in 2014."