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B2B in transition: new customer needs require change

The numerous changes caused by the pandemic have hit the B2B market just like every other area of business. But what does it mean for companies and their customer relationship management?

Self-service is more popular – but only if it is efficient

American customers in particular have been purchasing more frequently via digital channels since the start of the pandemic (source: Pros., 2019). However, the type of product/service influences the use of self-service offerings. For example, shopping exclusively digital is preferred when products and services have fixed prices, implicating that simple actions are better done digitally whereas more complex processes are still better accompanied by sales and service agents.

In addition, shoppers expect ease of use, sufficient product, payment and contract information, and the ability to customize products and services according to their own needs.

Feedback times pose challenges

The biggest challenges B2B customers face in purchasing are slow response times to inquiries. Contact forms (and any other contact channels) need to be fully integrated in sales and service systems, so the agents receive requests and can react immediately.

Additional hurdles for customers:

  • No uniform prices
  • Lack of transparency about product scope
  • Lack of product information
  • Prices are not relevant to the market
  • No possibility to order something without contacting the sales department

People switch providers faster

According to the Pros.-study, three-quarters of all shoppers surveyed have switched providers during the pandemic. Shoppers named reasons such as attractive prices, product offerings, and a better digital shopping experience. In addition, many providers were switched due to delivery problems. Interesting to note is, that the study was published in the Summer of 2020, which was during a major reduction of air and other traffic due to the pandemic which affected many supply chains and therefore caused slow deliveries or even complete stops for certain products.

Virtual meetings will be part of everyday life for a long time to come

According to a study by sales platform Groove, nearly two-thirds of all sales teams do not expect to schedule face-to-face meetings with customers until the end of 2021 or even as late as 2022. Only 6% of respondents currently meet with customers in person. This is consistent with the popularity of video meetings, especially in sales.

According to a McKinsey survey, these digital interactions are also popular with many customers. Only 20-30% of all (German) customers want to continue personal sales meetings after the pandemic. In fact, 90% assume that digital channels are here to stay. That’s no surprise, since digital meetings safe a lot of resources (budget, time and carbon footprint) and create a more flexible scheduling for all parties involved.

Did you know? In 2 out of 3 cases, video meetings are more popular with customers than audio meetings and phone calls.

Rethink and re-package offerings

Accenture recommends companies take a hard look at current customer needs to identify which messages and which products can reach customers right now (PDF). However, it is not always necessary to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it could be worth combining existing products and services in such a way that they generate new added value.

An example from the B2C market: Many restaurants in the high-price segment offer vacuumed menus including drinks for pickup or via delivery service. Customers get the restaurant experience in their own home without the difficult process of shopping, prepping and cooking.

Equipment for vacuuming already exists in many kitchens for food preparation, so restaurants don’t need to invest as much in new equipment, they just need to use existing resources differently.

Shorten feedback times, support marketing, sales and distribution, and complement your offerings with attractive e-commerce offers. We support you in digitizing and optimizing your processes and advise you on a successful long-term strategy.

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