A survey of 1,000 B2B sales executives reveals the crucial factors that forward-thinking B2B organizations should prioritize today. B2B companies increasingly recognize the importance of delivering high-quality, personalized, and innovative customer experiences across all digital channels. Although B2B organizations are still in the early stages of their customer experience (CX) journey compared to B2C companies, the consumer market’s rise in digital commerce has irrevocably raised B2B customer expectations. Accenture Interactive’s recent survey examines the current practices and plans of over 1,000 B2B sales executives, shedding light on how these companies adapt to this changing landscape. The survey’s most significant CX takeaways provide valuable insights into what forward-thinking B2B organizations should focus on today.
1.The Surge of Digital Commerce Is Driving Change in B2B Industry
B2B companies have slowly adopted digital channels such as the web and mobile apps for transactions, relying primarily on personal relationships their salespeople build with clients. Accenture’s research indicates that over 50% of B2B firms have recently started implementing a digital strategy within the last three years.
This sluggish pace could be due to hurdles such as outdated technologies, rigid organizational structures, antiquated legacy operational processes, and information security concerns. However, the Accenture report predicts that digital commerce will represent nearly 50% of the total B2B revenue within the next two years, up from 29% in 2020.
To take advantage of this shift towards digital-focused customer experiences, 42% of the B2B leaders surveyed by Accenture plan to introduce online-only loyalty programs, 35% will offer online training for both their internal teams and customers, and 32% will provide incentives to boost sales completed through digital channels.
2. Demand for Multichannel and Omnichannel Customer Experiences
Customers today expect to be able to interact with businesses through multiple channels. For B2B companies, providing integrated customer touchpoints and seamless online access is essential to succeed, especially since multichannel customers are 15% more profitable than those using digital-only channels and 25% more profitable than those relying solely on human interactions.
According to Accenture’s research, 90% of B2B leaders recognize that customer experience is vital to their companies’ strategic priorities. Many are already investing in understanding their customers’ preferred channels and methods of interaction while implementing the necessary technology to capitalize on these opportunities.
3. B2B Customers Initiate Buying Process Online and Through Social Channels
Today’s B2B customers begin 61% of online transactions, with 50% starting their research on social media. These customers expect to use online and offline channels seamlessly when interacting with businesses throughout the product life cycle and towards purchasing decisions. This modus operandi, standard in the B2C world, is rapidly spreading to the enterprise.
To respond to this trend, 65% of B2B companies now provide online-offline multichannel support across all transactions. Smart B2B companies also leverage big data and artificial intelligence to enhance their omnichannel customer experiences. By analyzing data from customer interactions across all channels, companies can gain insights into customer behavior and tailor their efforts to offer personalized and fruitful experiences at every touchpoint.
4. Mobile Continues to be Neglected Despite its Potential
Surprisingly, only 42% of B2B organizations have a mobile strategy; for many, it is merely offering a responsive web experience. However, less than 10% of companies admit no mobile strategy. This situation is somewhat understandable, given the complex nature of B2B products and services and the traditional emphasis on client relationships over online outreach. However, B2B companies that overlook investing in mobile CX strategies miss significant opportunities for unique interactions.
For example, companies can use app notifications to inform customers of automated product renewals. Augmented reality capabilities can provide visual interfaces to simplify ordering or enhance installation instructions. With the ubiquity of mobile devices, the mobile platform is expected to become more crucial as a CX strategy for B2B companies. There is still time for B2B organizations to take advantage of this trend and stay ahead of the curve.
5. Technology is Revolutionizing Sales and Customer Support Experiences
B2B organizations are exploring new sales and customer service approaches that rely on emerging technologies. For instance, 42% of companies surveyed currently use chatbots, with 79% using them for customer service. However, adoption has been slower for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), with only 24% of B2B companies leveraging their potential. Of those that do, two-thirds use AR and VR in sales.
According to Accenture’s survey, 88% of B2B companies intend to use chatbots actively in their CX efforts within the next two years, while 83% plan to implement an AR or VR solution. These statistics indicate a massive shift on the horizon: chatbot usage will double, and AR and VR tool usage will triple compared to current levels.
B2B leaders are also increasing the share of marketing, and IT budgets dedicated to investing in new technologies from 12% to 21%. This additional spending will likely be allocated to advanced marketing technologies such as natural-language-based tools and contextual analytics search solutions that enable companies to understand their customers and their behaviors better.
6. CX Personalization Emerges as a Top Priority for B2B Growth
B2C marketers have long been focusing on delivering personalized, context-based experiences to their customers, and B2B leaders now recognize the need to make similar efforts with their customers. According to a different Accenture study, 33% of customers have abandoned business relationships due to the lack of personalization. B2B leaders surveyed for this report are prioritizing efforts to gain a 360-degree view of their customers, leveraging customer knowledge to inform how they serve and sell to them.
It is worth noting that B2B companies implementing digital customer experience strategies effectively can gain an immediate advantage over their slower competitors. However, this gap is likely to narrow in the next few years.