What does the future hold for B2B?
Choose your favourite marketing buzz words: Human to human…People to people…Peer to peer… and it’s likely that they will be about human, personal interaction.
Of course the words themselves don’t really matter. What’s important is the new era of marketing...
Of course the words themselves don’t really matter. What’s important is the new era of marketing they describe – an era that’s a result of a sea-change in consumer behaviour.
Today’s anytime-anywhere connected customer expects a brand experience centred on their personal convenience. And if that means crossing channels between online, social, contact centre, and in-person transactions – or ignoring sales, service, and marketing boundaries – so be it. These distinctions don’t really mean anything to customers, it’s convenience that wins out.
Feeling the impact
To me, this spells good news for marketers. The connectivity that’s driving today’s consumer choices is also creating an explosion in customer data: just think of all the information to be had in the thousands of tweets and shares about your brand. These priceless insights into behaviour and desires are fuelling precision marketing to a degree that has never been possible in the past.
At the same time marketing technology platforms are enabling integration between all these different channels, finally enabling B2B brands to access a single view of each individual customer.
This single platform view, combined with sophisticated data analysis is also enabling a much more authentic view of each customer. Ultimately I believe it will result in the end of inflexible B2B and B2C marketing, and the birth of a simpler, more streamlined model – business-to-individual (B2I) marketing. B2I will access a vast wealth of integrated, actionable intelligence in the future, helping marketers deliver a quality journey of choice for every customer.
The success of B2I relies on capturing and analysing a truly comprehensive range of customer information including: contact data, purchase data, connected data (from products and devices), and social data (from across the social web). This data should create a base of intelligence, enabling companies of all types and sizes to engage with their customers at every stage of their journey.
It’s also critical to connect across multiple channels, in order to identify and reflect changing customer behaviour. Customer conversations are happening more and more on messaging apps. But what will be the next trend? Analysing customer behaviour across a single platform can help businesses identify and then adapt their marketing right at the outset of a trend.
A personal journey
Today’s consumers are also looking for a high level of personalisation in their brand experience. The combination of data, analytics and the single flexible platform, can power planning, personalisation, and optimisation of each customer journey. Such a platform should be able to create real-time relevant communications that guide customers through their one-to-one journey delivering content that evolves with each customer’s interactions across the entire organisation.
Take the US furniture and accessories company Room & Board, for example. Their marketing team used predictive intelligence to enhance the overall customer experience by making its e-commerce site more like the in-store experience. They did this by using customer traffic data and predictive analytics to suggest additional purchases to online customers based on their previous traffic on the site. This move significantly improved the company’s digital channel with an ROI of 2900 percent, a payback of two months, and an average annual benefit of over $2.7 million.
It seems to me that the sea-change in customer behaviour, coupled with advances in technology, is disrupting our traditional marketing approaches – but it’s a change that we are well equipped to meet, thanks to technology.
As we focus more on improving individual customer journeys, we are moving towards higher precision marketing, regardless of whether the person we are selling to represents an organisation or not. It’s all about each person’s overall experience of the brand. And that’s the very essence of marketing, isn’t it?