We are now entering a digital-first era that has already started to reshape customer expectations and behaviors. For many manufacturers, delivering a superior customer experience (CX) is a top priority, not only because superior CX is a key differentiator, but also because it helps them unlock new revenue streams. So, what is next for CX-focused manufacturers?
Beyond creating a competitive edge, the CX-focused manufacturers of today will be the CX leaders of tomorrow who will reinvent the ways in which the industry engages with customers. Furthermore, they are already shifting to new, innovative business models that open up an array of untapped sales channels.
The B2B2C model is gaining momentum
Digitalization and the state of business during the COVID-19 pandemic have blurred the lines between the B2B and B2C realms. Online transactions during the pandemic, the emergence of B2B self-service, and the evolution of B2B e-commerce platforms have disrupted the status quo and shed light on a new business model: B2B2C.
According to The State of Customer Experience and Engagement Within Manufacturing, “B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer) is an e-commerce model where businesses access customers through another business but are able to interact directly with customers under their own brand. B2B2C differs from a channel partnership in that customers are fully aware that they are buying from the business.”
E-commerce platforms such as Amazon are a great example of the B2B2C model in action, demonstrating the success of extending B2B businesses to include e-commerce for consumers.
Today, more and more manufacturers who are looking to deliver superior customer experiences are turning toward the B2B2C model to help them achieve that.
As the report shows, precisely 25.49% of survey participants pivoted successfully to a B2B2C model, adopting a more forward-thinking mindset in their CX strategy. However, opinions are still divided among the majority of the respondents. Up to 39.22% of manufacturers are currently making efforts to adopt the B2B2C model while the other 35.29% are ruling out the possibility of investing in it.
This may change sooner rather than later, as most manufacturers, nearly 56%, have noticed that customers are shopping online more frequently in recent years. Although they have revealed that some clients still favor offline channels, the shift towards B2B2C, and the new tech-savvy generation of B2B buyers and end-consumers will undoubtedly steer the industry toward a digital-first sales strategy.
This is also echoed by the nearly 11% of survey respondents who have noted that buyers have transitioned to digital platforms for purchases over the past few years. Furthermore, they continue to head to online stores today, proving to manufacturers that investing in e-commerce solutions for optimized CX should be a top priority.
According to 61.76% of manufacturers, customers are also reaching out to manufacturers online to request remote service and support. And at least 50% of manufacturers revealed that their customers demand simpler and faster service.
The B2B2C model and CX ownership
Drawing from the potential of omnichannel commerce, manufacturers are leveraging B2B2C platforms to go beyond the business buyer and reach the end-consumer, get to know their needs better, and consolidate a stronger relationship with them. This simplifies the CX of the end-consumer who can now buy directly from the manufacturer.
With the B2B2C model, manufacturers can choose to sell directly to end consumers but outsource order fulfillment to a distributor, having full ownership over CX delivery. They can also choose to sell to all consumer segments via an e-commerce platform, which is the most common example in the manufacturing industry.
This option involves a unique omnichannel commerce platform for transactions that can be accessed by distributors, sales reps, and end consumers. It also allows manufacturers to offload their inventory through different channels, thus enabling them to generate more revenue.
Last but not least, manufacturers can partner up with large-scale marketplaces that will handle all their transactions and own the CX for the end consumer using their platform. Although this gives more control to the third party, it also decreases risks for manufacturers. For example, all sales occur through the online outlets provided by the third party, and inventory management in such a scenario is the task of the distributor or the marketplace itself.
Likewise, most aspects of the CX, from customer support to self-service UX, are handled by the third party. And in the case of giant marketplaces, those are often fully optimized to provide end consumers with seamless interactions, easy self-service access, enriched product information, and an overall positive experience, decreasing the heavy pressure put on manufacturers to meet those expectations on their own.
It’s important for manufacturers to cater to these consumer demands. As 41.18% of survey participants have stated, their buyers are demonstrating a greater willingness to utilize self-service portals. What’s more, a whopping 58.82% are keen on making an informed buying decision and they demand transparent, real-time information for their product research and price comparisons.
Communication is Key
|Partnerships with online sales outlets and fulfillment businesses will inevitably require serious consideration into how information systems between the parties are connected. This is a fundamental requirement in delivering a seamless customer experience. An example of this is the management and allocation of available stock. When the customer is placing their order they expect to be given an indication of delivery timeframes. Front-end order taking systems need to have near real-time visibility of the available stock position and to be able to reserve stock to the order. Other aspects that need special attention are product configuration and complex pricing methods, which may not be fully supported by mass online sales platforms.|
Adopting a CX-focused mindset
Organizations that put CX at the center of what they do will experience a shift in business models. The B2B2C model is emerging as a favored option for CX-focused manufacturers who would rather share ownership of CX with an established third party than compromise the experience of the customer.
Such a paradigm shift demands organizational alignment and a cohesive understanding of customer behaviors and expectations. This means that manufacturers need to optimize their data collection and analysis capabilities and facilitate information exchanges with their partners.
B2B2C manufacturers need to be open to collaboration for seamless CX delivery. Otherwise, the experience will be fragmented due to a lack of visibility and access to customer data. Likewise, data related to stock levels, inventory, and pricing need to be in sync, so the customer receives consistent information on all platforms and not mixed messages from the manufacturers and their partners.
The survey report by Columbus and Copperberg provides a deeper understanding of the B2B2C model and why it is growing among CX-focused manufacturers. Download it today and access the actionable insights that will help you put the customer experience at the center of your business.