It’s 2023, and if you haven’t heard it enough already, we’ll tell you again: millennials are taking over B2B. It's not by accident that this news keeps making headlines: This tech-savvy generation is transforming the expectations of the B2B experience—and doing it quickly, especially when it comes to business buying.
So, what exactly differentiates millennial buyers from their older counterparts? In the days of the B2B past, trust was nurtured through building personal relationships between buyers and vendors. Today, trust is still an essential ingredient in the B2B purchasing journey, but is fostered through different methods: As active information seekers, millennial buyers scour the internet to find third-party articles and reviews before purchasing from a vendor. Finding that social proof is extremely impactful, given that it is familiar to them as consumers.
Now, with personal relationships out the door, millennial buyers are much quicker to express their dissatisfaction publicly via social media. A bad public review can damage a reputation or a bottom line if left unaddressed—so it’s important to understand the behaviors of this new generation of buyers and to make sure your business is keeping up. Finally, millennial B2B buyers are looking for better experiences than their business forefathers accepted, with convenience, speed and ease-of-use as non-negotiables.
If you’re unsure of what to make of this news or where to begin strategically, this piece is for you. We’ll dive into what we’re calling the “era of customer experience” in B2B, as well as share ways to leverage technology to offer an unmatched and seamless experience to your buyers.
Welcome to the era of customer experience
Millennial business buyers are making their demands heard– and better customer experiences is at the top of their list. No longer are the fragmented, slow, friction-filled customer journeys of B2B’s past acceptable to this new generation of buyers. And with so many new players entering the online B2B space, they don’t need to settle for a less-than-amazing buying experience.
Welcome to the era of customer experience: offer a good one, or lose to the competition. Still not convinced? McKinsey recently reported that 80% of B2B decision makers say they will actively look for a new supplier if their expectations are not met. Making sure your customers are satisfied is integral to the health of your business, given that it costs up to five times less to retain a customer than to acquire and nurture a new one.
So, what makes a great customer journey? Just like in B2C, convenience is king. This can take many shapes, like ease-of-use and self-serve journeys, personalization and quick responses. There are many ways to do it– here are two great places to start.
Make the case for mcommerce
Consumers love buying on their smartphones—by the end of this year, mobile commerce (mcommerce) sales will exceed $510 billion. It’s quite understandable that this behavior is now moving to mobile, considering the average person spends between 3 and 4 hours on their phone each day. We do everything else on our phones, from communicating to watching movies to playing games– so why not also make purchases?
Smartphones are a logical channel for business buyers to make purchases: It is incredibly convenient to place an order while riding the train or standing in line for coffee. And with 71% of business buyers reporting wishing that they could buy more easily via mobile, it’s a truth that B2B merchants and marketplaces can no longer ignore.
Given that the market of B2B mcommerce is relatively untapped—as B2B sites account for only 16% of all mobile traffic– optimizing your ecommerce channel for mobile is an opportunity to gain a clear competitive advantage while offering an experience that buyers want but perhaps can’t find easily.
Transform payments into an experience
Self-service is already an established expectation for B2C, and now B2B is quickly following suit. According to McKinsey, 98% of surveyed business buyers are willing to spend at least $50,000 in a digital, self-service model. The message, then, is loud and clear: business customers are seeking the convenience and speed that the self-service model offers, and that they are used to as consumers.
And the most significant place to offer that convenience and speed is in the payment experience: The offline purchasing journey is notoriously fragmented, complicated and time-consuming.
Imagine the value when you offer a self-serve purchasing experience as smooth as Amazon’s 1-click while still incorporating all of the necessary components of a B2B transaction: financing, net terms, flexible payment methods and invoicing.
If you make yourself easy to do business with, people will do business with you—and creating a first-class self-serve payments experience is the ultimate way to do so.
The era of customer experience is here to stay. As millennial business buyers continue to demand the flexibility, personalization and convenience that B2C has already mastered, ecommerce channels and marketplaces will have to follow suit in order to stay competitive.
Here at Balance, we’re experts in B2B payments—and we’ve seen first hand how implementing a self-service checkout can drive revenue and position ecommerce channels for growth. We are excited by the potential of this new era of business, and are investing in equipping merchants with the tools to make great customer experiences a reality in 2023 and beyond.
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