In the realm of commerce today, a lot of money and effort are expended to answer certain basic questions: What makes a shopping experience good? What are the goals of a website? How do we get there? As brands, businesses, and buyers: What do we want? Is B2C-like B2B-buying worth it?
Naturally, the core of any shopping experience is the same whether selling to a business or selling to an individual: there is a person at the end of every transaction. As with website accessibility, a base mentality supporting universal design is crucial. This includes intuitive and effortless processes, trusted and effective content, and purposeful and easy functionality.
There are differences. The intricacies and adjectives are distinct from business-to-consumer. Business-to-business buying is necessarily more complex, regimented, logical. As an individual, consumers don’t consider price lists, wholesale features, authorized buyers, or purchasing timelines. At its core, B2B is more “strategic than emotional.”
This process-based purchasing involves two customers. The decision-making entity that instigates and pays in addition to the person who is going through the motions to place an order. This ‘double value hurdle’ is a golden opportunity. From pricing and customer service to search and UX writing, your brand approach and technical execution impacts both customers.
Ultimately, the goal for B2C and B2B is the same: Help customers know what they’re looking for before they know it. The three goal pillars could be categorized as: SEARCH (findability) + PERSONALIZATION (merchandising) + USABILITY (processes). The outright differences and nuances of B2B buying include:
User experience: Permissions by buyer type or authorization level to surface only contracted products, brands, and price points. Prioritize refined product discovery.
Post-sales support: A priority across industries, includes order follow-up, accessible customer service, troubleshooting, and frictionless returns. Ensure trust.
Service simplification: Provide automated or simplified reordering, pricing structure clarity, a custom interface, and self-service. Understand the need.
Payment options: Offer net terms, line of credit purchasing, promotions, budgets, and billing system integration. Be the solution.
With these general guide rails, how do businesses move forward? “We consciously prioritized digital transformation,” according to Mike Boswell, VP, Digital & eCommerce Breakthru Beverage Group. Representing a portfolio of premier wine, spirit, and beer brands across the U.S. and Canada, Breakthru Beverage Group drives innovation in the marketplace with a nimble and insightful approach to business and operational excellence. “Catering to a lot of different user and buyer types is a priority.”
Alcohol distribution has a lot of challenges. There are intricate variations by state, rules around price posting and availability; Individual regulatory and business practices differ. As complex as this space is, Breakthru prioritizes a simple long-term strategy: “Be more efficient and effective to drive a better customer experience.” The goal can be to have a 1:1 customer experience – even if you have 120,000 customers. The way: technology, transparency, and trust.
Across more than a dozen markets, Breakthru Beverage understands the complexity and range of needs for a variety of business types and buyers. “We offer solutions to fulfill the entire portfolio from price point to varietal and country, product details, insights, imagery, and knowledge.” How did Breakthru breakthrough? The team decided and committed. “We accelerated our digital transformation,” recalls Boswell. “We're committed to growth and we strive to be the best distributor in all the markets in which we operate.”
For their customer base, discoverability is key. “80% of sessions start with a search,” continues Boswell. “Natural language processing, previous browsing, and ordering history are critical to relevant personalization.” Another key is to provide an opportunity for discovery. Breakthru emphasizes effective merchandising through beautiful imagery, reliable data and pricing, plus superb representation of brands across every interface.
In a very complicated, regulated industry, Breakthru Beverage Group was deliberate. It’s a great lesson and inspiration. Is it time for your business to catch up? Build and benefit from the strongest and most flexible digital foundation. Solve for the user incrementally and overall. The technology exists. Take advantage of every advantage.
Continue the conversation on the latest episode of Commerce Confidential. Mike Boswell, VP, Digital & eCommerce Breakthru Beverage Group joins the podcast for an insightful look at creating B2C-like experiences for B2B customers.
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