B2B Customer Experience – Positive Customer Experiences as a Competitive Advantage

In the online retail landscape of 2024, an appealing B2B customer experience is just as crucial as in B2C. With the increasing digitization of the B2B sector, competition is also growing. In our blog post, you'll learn exactly what a successful digital customer experience brings to B2B companies. What influence does user experience have? Where are the similarities and differences between B2B and B2C? And with which KPIs can you measure the success (ROI) of your customer experience?

[Translate to Englisch:] B2B Customer Experience

1. What is B2B Customer Experience?

B2B Customer Experience (B2B CX) refers to the comprehensive experience that business customers have with a B2B company across various touchpoints. This includes aspects such as the quality of customer support, the user-friendliness of a website or online shop, communication, and the products or services offered by a company.

Customer Experience plays a crucial role in the B2B sector, as businesses are evaluated by business customers, much like by end consumers, based on their overall positive experiences. A positive Customer Experience can lead to stronger customer loyalty, fostering long-term business relationships and repeated transactions. In a competitive business environment, this is a significant advantage.

If you have any further questions on the topic at the end of the article, feel free to reach out to our experts in Customer Experience Consulting!

Sitenavigation:

  • 1. What does B2B Customer Experience mean?
  • 2. Differences in digital Customer Experience between B2B and B2C
  • 3. Factors influencing B2B Customer Experience
  • 4. Customer Experience vs User Experience: What is the difference?
  • 5. UX Design Methods that improve your Customer Experience
    • 5.1 Qualitative UX Methods
    • 5.2 Quantitative UX Methods
  • 6. Measuring B2B Customer Experience with ROI
  • 7. B2B Customer Experience KPIs
  • 8. How to improve B2B Customer Experience
  • 9. Conclusion

2. Differences between digital Customer Experience in B2B and B2C:

To improve your customer experience, businesses must first understand what their customers want and need. Customer-centricity is currently a buzzword, but there still exists a significant gap between consumer desires and what businesses offer them. In B2B eCommerce, studies show that 60% of B2B customers find online shopping more appealing than traditional buying methods. However, it's essential to remember that there are significant differences between B2B and B2C companies, impacting the customer journey experience and overall customer experience. These differences arise from the specific contexts, needs, and dynamics of each market.

[Translate to Englisch:] Studie B2B Customer Experience Vorteile

A Thought Leadership study by Forrester Consulting, commissioned by Adobe in June 2021, titled "The Business Impact of Experience Investments: How experience-driven companies survive and thrive in uncertain business environments.

[Translate to Englisch:] Kaufentscheidungsprozesse

1. Purchase decision processes:

B2B: Are more complex and lengthy. Multiple stakeholders make decisions, and the focus is on functionality, efficiency, and Return on Investment.

B2C: Typically faster and more emotional. Consumers often make personal decisions based on emotions, preferences, and needs.

2. Customer Relationship:

B2B: Typically deeper and longer-term. Personal contact between businesses is more frequent, as collaboration is based on long-term partnerships and trust. Life cycles are longer.

B2C: Often shorter-term and characterized by individual transactions. Companies must focus on customer retention, brand presence, and resulting brand loyalty.

[Translate to Englisch:] Kundenbeziehung

3. Decision Making Units:

B2B: The decision-making process can involve various departments and hierarchies. Accordingly, more people are involved. Financial considerations, functionality, and meeting business requirements often play a central role.

B2C: The end consumer is typically the primary decision-maker. Personal preferences, brand image, and emotions influence the purchasing decision.

4. Product complexity:

B2B: Products and services are often complex and specialized. The focus is on meeting business requirements and integrating into existing business processes.

B2C: Products in the B2C sector may be simpler and targeted at broad consumer groups. Here, the emphasis is on meeting individual needs and desires.

5. Communicationchannel:

B2B: Communication in the B2B sector often occurs through face-to-face meetings, business networks, and professional communication channels. Long-term partnerships require comprehensive and professional communication.

B2C: Communication in the B2C sector can be more diverse and often includes digital media, social networks, advertising, and influencer marketing to engage directly with end consumers.

Despite these differences, the fundamental idea of Customer Experience remains the same in both areas: providing a positive, customer-centric interaction that leads to satisfaction, loyalty, and repeat business. Therefore, companies should tailor their strategies to the specific requirements of their target market.

3. What factors influence B2B Customer Experience?

For B2B Customer Experience, several factors are crucial to ensure a sustainable and positive interaction with your brand.

 

 

1. Transparency:
First and foremost, transparent communication plays a central role. Clear and understandable information about products, services, and processes builds trust and facilitates interaction between business partners.

2. Personalization:
Another significant factor is the individual customization of solutions to meet the specific needs of the customer. The ability to personalize products or services and consider individual requirements contributes to creating a tailored Customer Experience.

3. Reliability:
Efficient and reliable processes are also crucial. Fast delivery times, smooth ordering processes, and reliable order processing contribute to customers perceiving their expectations as fulfilled, resulting in positive experiences with the company.

4. Customer Support:
Providing well-functioning customer support is also crucial in B2B. Short response times to inquiries and the provision of solutions significantly contribute to increasing customer satisfaction.

5. B2C & B2B:
Personal experiences developed in dealing with platforms in the private sphere can also impact professional usage. If someone is accustomed to certain user experiences and functionalities, they may seek similar aspects in professional applications.

6. Innovation:
Last but not least, continuous innovation is a key factor. Companies that constantly evolve their products and services, adapting to changing market needs, can build long-term customer relationships and ensure a positive Customer Experience.

[Translate to Englisch:] Grafik B2B Customer Experience und UX Design

4. Customer Experience vs User Experience: What's the difference?

 

While Customer Experience encompasses all touchpoints and interactions a customer has with a company, User Experience, as a subset of Customer Experience, focuses on the design and optimization of the usability of a specific interactive system, product, or service. This includes elements like the user interface of software, navigation and interaction on a website, or the functionality of a product. The primary emphasis is on the end-user, with less consideration for economic interests.

Nonetheless, a positive User Experience significantly contributes to the overall customer experience. It also serves to increase efficiency by allowing users to achieve their goals more quickly and with less effort. A good User Experience further promotes user retention by enabling a pleasant and seamless interaction. Companies that provide positive experiences can strengthen user loyalty to their products or services. This is particularly important as frustrated users are less likely to leave positive reviews or engage in repeat business.

Lastly, User Experience plays a role in shaping brand perception. When users have positive experiences with a product or website, it positively associates with the brand. Thus, the image of a company is also strengthened.

5. UX-Design Methods, which improve your Customer Experience

5.1 Qualitative UX-Methoden:

User Interviews:
Structured conversations with users to understand their needs, expectations, and challenges.

Observation & Usability Testing:
Observing users while they interact with a product to identify issues and areas for improvement.

Prototyping:
Creating simple models or prototypes to gather early user feedback and validate design decisions.

Contextual Analysis:
Investigating the real environment in which the product is used to gain insights into the context of user interaction.

Card Sorting:
A method where users categorize information to improve information architecture and navigation.

[Translate to Englisch:] Qualitative UX Methoden

5.2 Quantitative UX-Methoden:

Surveys:
Standardized questionnaires to collect data and gain quantitative insights into user preferences and satisfaction.

Analytics:
Using tools like Google Analytics to gather and analyze quantitative data on user interactions, page views, and dwell time.

A/B Testing:
Comparing two or more variations of a design or feature to determine which performs better and improves the user experience.

Heatmaps:
Visualizing data to show how users interact with a website or app by displaying heat areas on screens.

The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods allows for a comprehensive understanding of the user experience, ranging from in-depth insights to statistically significant data.

6. Measure B2B Customer Experience with ROI:

Let's return to Customer Experience. While B2B UX Design is more specific and directly measurable, there isn't always clarity on how to measure the successful implementation of B2B Customer Experience. Return on Investment (ROI) is a crucial metric for evaluating the profitability of investments. This metric can also be utilized to measure the success of your CX projects in B2B. The formula is: ROI = (Benefits - Costs / Costs) * 100.

It's crucial to use concrete monetary values for investment and costs in the ROI calculation, avoiding abstract factors that are difficult to convert into monetary values. Surprisingly, only 37% of companies measure ROI at regular intervals (ECC Cologne 2023). Many stakeholders are currently not fully leveraging its potential positive impact on decision-making processes.

Let's consider an example: You are a UX professional working on an e-learning platform. Through interviews with the target audience, you've identified a desire for a feature providing personalized learning recommendations based on their previous activities and interests. The project, including target audience interviews, project management, and technical implementation, is estimated at €25,000. According to your estimates, this new feature could contribute to gaining 150 new users monthly, each spending an average of €200 per month on courses.

The calculation for Return on Investment (ROI) would be:

The positive percentage of 20% indicates that the benefits of the investment exceed the costs of the investment. It is expected that the investment will be fully repaid within one month through the generated revenue and additionally yield a profit. Extrapolating this ROI to an entire year could potentially lead to an even higher total ROI due to the extended timeframe for value generation. For eCommerce managers, project leaders, and UX/UI designers, it's crucial to understand that a positive ROI signals a worthwhile investment, while a negative ROI could suggest that the costs outweigh the expected benefits. The ROI calculation provides a well-founded decision basis for investments in UX projects.

7. B2B Customer Experience KPIs:

However, this calculation does not always fully capture the ROI. Various other metrics also contribute to the results. To comprehensively measure the ROI of B2B Customer Experience, less easily measurable metrics may also be relevant:

1. Customer satisfaction (CSAT):

The average satisfaction of customers after interactions or transactions.

[Translate to Englisch:] Kundenzufriedenheit (CSAT)

2. Net Promoter Score (NPS):

A measure of the likelihood that customers would recommend your company.

[Translate to Englisch:] Net Promoter Score (NPS)

3. Customer Effort Score (CES):

How easy or difficult customers find interacting with your company.

[Translate to Englisch:] Customer Effort Score (CES)

4. Costreduction

An efficient CX can lead to cost savings by processing customer inquiries faster, minimizing errors, and reducing the need for support.

[Translate to Englisch:] Kostenreduktion

5. Customer loyalty and repeat business

The frequency with which customers make repeat purchases from your company.

[Translate to Englisch:] Kundentreue

6. Referral Marketing

Satisfied customers recommend your company to new customers without incurring additional marketing costs.

[Translate to Englisch:] Empfehlungsmarketing

A careful analysis of these metrics allows for additional quantification of the ROI. Overall, improving CX in the B2B sector is not only meaningful but also financially rewarding. Companies that invest in the satisfaction and loyalty of their business customers demonstrate long-term tangible value. Various studies have already shown this:

UX-focused companies significantly increased their revenue over a five-year period, growing 32 percentage points faster than their industry peers, with a 56 percentage point higher total shareholder return growth for the entire period.

McKinsey & Company, 2018

 

8. How to improve your B2B Customer Experience:

UX experts and their decision-makers often come from divergent professional backgrounds and consequently communicate in different languages. While marketing, sales, and product development are integral parts of most corporate strategies, CX, in many B2B organizations, still needs to prove its significance to decision-makers. The truth is that most companies simply cannot afford to redesign their customer journey experience from the ground up. Instead, prioritizing what can be improved at existing touchpoints and practices is essential. This approach also aids in making the case to stakeholders to secure budgets. However, before you can enhance your customer experience, you must first convince your internal stakeholders within the company that it is necessary.

8.1 B2B Customer Experience secure investments:

A promising strategy is to meet decision-makers where their current challenges lie. The performance metrics (KPIs) mentioned in the previous subchapter serve, depending on the project goal and ROI calculation, both as a component of the Return on Investment (ROI) formula and are often closely linked to corporate objectives. For new or repeated investments, it is crucial to assess the status quo: What was the starting point? What investments were made in the optimizations? What impact did these measures have on the KPIs, and what influence did this have on the company?

Concrete example: Through comprehensive user experience analyses and resulting CX optimizations in the past, we increased the conversion rate during the purchase process by an impressive 35%. These improvements led to an estimated Return on Investment (ROI) of 48:1 over the current fiscal year. The investments made are expected to pay back 49 times. For our current example, based on our user experience analysis, we anticipate a similar increase in the product group. Therefore, we can also expect an ROI of approximately 48:1 for the project.

8.2 Know your key-customers:

Companies need to know how the customer journey looks for different personas. Which touchpoints are relevant for each persona, and what is the value of each touchpoint to deliver a positive experience to the customer and generate financial value for you. Once you know which individuals you are designing the analog or digital customer experience for, you can determine how to shape the journey and how to measure its effectiveness.

[Translate to Englisch:] Schlüsselkunden

8.3 Understand how your customers want to interact:

How individual B2B customers prefer to communicate with you can depend on the industry, the type of service, or the specific customer journey. Some may want to stay in constant contact, especially if they have devices regularly serviced by a provider's outside sales team. Other customers may only want to communicate when making a purchase. In any case, a company can leverage its existing customer interactions to identify pain points and decide which communication channels should be enhanced.

[Translate to Englisch:] Kundeninteraktionen verstehen

8.4 Customer Journey Mapping:

Another key aspect in optimization is Customer Journey Mapping. By visualizing the interactions and experiences of customers throughout their entire purchase process, companies can make targeted improvements.

[Translate to Englisch:] Customer Journey Mapping

8.5 Employee training:

Last but not least, employee training plays a crucial role. Trained staff, especially those who interact directly with customers, are capable of providing top-notch service and handling customer inquiries more efficiently.

[Translate to Englisch:] Schulung von Mitarbeitenden

9. Conclusion:

In total, these methods form a comprehensive toolkit for B2B companies to perfect the customer experience and build long-term customer loyalty.

A positive customer experience is crucial in the B2B sector as it directly impacts customer retention and revenues. Companies should consider both customer experience and user experience in projects and business strategies to achieve long-term success and competitive advantages. B2B companies that listen to the needs and expectations of their business customers and provide an outstanding B2B customer experience will ultimately be more successful in an increasingly competitive business world.

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About our author:

Ronny Mai is a UX/UI and Customer Experience Designer with a passion for his work. He has been working in the consulting team at Smart Commerce for over 1 year, advising clients on all aspects of the customer experience. At Smart Commerce, he has been a key contributor to the design and implementation of the fischer DIY App, among other projects.

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