Today's Most Confident Sales Teams Have Embraced Digital Transformation, Capgemini Finds

As business-to-bussiness and business-to-consumer buying experiences become increasingly similar, sellers will have to use technology to enhance and personalize the customer's buying experience, according to a new Capgemini report from Rich Lyons, executive vice president and partners and channels lead at Capgemini North America.

B2B and B2C markets were already undergoing unanticipated seismic shifts, according to Lyons, and then the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the global commerce ecosystem overnight. B2B commerce now looks more like B2C than ever before, thanks to new buyer expectations driven by modern changes to the B2C experience. B2B buyers now require a modernized digital commerce experience.

"B2B buyers increasingly expect a B2C experience, and there are consistently new expectations that organizations need to meet to compete effectively," Lyons says. "Optimization efforts can include front-end creative design and user experience, personalization and individualization programs, guided selling options, product configuration, subscriptions, loyalty programs, delivery options, and several other B2C options now expected for B2B"

The report emphasizes the importance of providing this modernized digital commerce experience. Those who offer clients optimal flexibility and exceptional customer experience will perform best during periods of uncertainty and stress, like the COVID-19 pandemic, it states.

This modernized digital experience is comprehensive and takes the customer from start to finish in a frictionless, personalized, and feature-packed method, according to Lyons. "More than ever, B2B buyers expect you to know who they are and create an experience that addresses their unique buying needs across every channel and in every interaction and touchpoint (whether that is digital or physical)," he says. "It also needs to cross the entire B2B customer journey to include marketing, sales, service, and commerce."

The report backs this statement. In researching the report, Lyons found that 89 percent of sellers who think they are leading the pack also consider themselves significantly ahead of their peers in terms of adopting technology that benefits customers or their businesses.

Although the merging of B2B and B2C capabilities increases customer expectations of a modernized B2B experience, customer service and sales teams remain critical to the success of B2B sales, he also asserts.

Though buyers increasingly turn to online channels to research products, most continue to cite customer service as the single most important factor in their final purchasing decisions. Almost all (95 percent) told Capgemini that customer service plays a critical role in their final decisions to purchase or retain a service.

Along with a personalized experience and good customer service, buyers also place value in a frictionless experience, one that offers features like autofill and procurement options. The research found that 43 percent of buyers will be loyal to suppliers who offer these capabilities.

While both are important, Lyons notes that most customers have a slight preference. "The procurement officer seems to value a frictionless experience slightly more than a personalized one. Procurement officers appeared to place the most importance on accurate product description and inventory and pricing transparency. These two factors had the biggest influence on trust and loyalty. And similarly, inaccurate product descriptions (49 percent) and a lack of insight into available inventory (42 percent) were the top experiences that make buyers less likely to return."

B2B sellers will have to find the optimal balance between personalization and technology-aided lack of friction, and Lyons notes customers are eager for both. "Personalization is clearly important. Personalization includes features such as subscription commerce and auto-refill, personalized offers and recommendations based on past purchases, advanced pricing options, unique offers, and a personalized online portal that also contributed to trust and loyalty."

As traditional B2B touch points fade away, and sellers ramp up self-service digital capabilities, automation will play a large part in removing friction for customers. According to Lyons, this will help free up resources for human-driven services that will enhance customer experience. "Automation can help with specific [artificial intelligence-based tasks, as well as reduce the time spent on administrative tasks, leaving more time to focus on customer relationship-building and value-added interactions. This will make the sales process more efficient, more seamless, and reduce friction," he says.

This, however, does not mean humans are no longer necessary in the B2B ecosystem. In fact, Lyons notes they are as important as ever. "Human connection will never be eliminated from the sales process. The relationship is so important and always will be the most important aspect in all sales pursuits," he concludes.

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