While perusing the Internet the other day, I came across an article1 titled “There is No B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human: #H2H” which caught my eye since that was quite the perplexing statement. The author of the piece, Bryan Kramer, speculates on what he believes to be the most effective means of communication for marketers and his hypothesis is centered around the fast-paced and constantly evolving marketplace of today. In regards to commerce, Kramer suggests that the distinctions between the two traditional channels of business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) no longer exist and thus marketing communications need to be adjusted to “think like the consumers we are, putting ourselves in the mindset of the buyer.” This idea is the basis for a new marketing approach that he proposes, called human-to-human (H2H).
After taking some time to think about this article, I have come to appreciate Kramer’s fresh take on how messages and techniques used by businesses need to adapt to modern-day consumers. There have been tremendous innovations made in the approaches and technologies used in commerce, so similarly the practices used in all aspects of a transaction need refreshing too. He is also spot-on in his analysis of the shifting of marketing channels over the past decades, however he does not mention the reasoning behind why this change has occurred. While I’m sure there are many factors that resulted in this outcome, one obvious influencer in my opinion is the exponential increase in the popularity of ecommerce.
Since its inception, the digital method of buying and selling goods has become incredibly instrumental in the shaping of expectations that are held by consumers when they enter a transaction. More so, as a result of the advancements in ecommerce platforms (shout-out to our friends at CloudCraze), the standards for success that purchasers hold for sellers have risen dramatically. With the impact that the digital marketplace has had on traditional business models, customers now carry over and merge the expectations they have from the plethora of purchasing experiences, both online and in-person, that they take part in. This blending of digital and conventional shopping beliefs relates to a phenomena commonly referred to as the “Amazon Effect;” consumers have become so accustomed with the flawless customer experience involved with market-leading companies like Amazon, Zappos, and thousands of other online retailers that they translate these expectancies over to all their other dealings, often resulting in the loss of sales for conventional brick and mortar stores.
I’ve contemplated each of these concepts (H2H and the Amazon Effect) on their own, but during a recent strategy session for Elevate I began to consider how these two ideas work together within the B2B sphere. Specifically, I was reflecting on what happens when individuals transfer their B2C expectations over to their B2B jobs e.g. one’s personal life spills into their work life. Taking Kramer’s point of the recent amalgamation of traditional marketing channels one step further, since businesses are comprised of people it is safe to assume that all of these individuals’ B2C experiences will influence how they, and subsequently the firm they work for, approach B2B deals.
Distinct stakeholders come together to make the buying and selling decisions for a B2B business, so they could likely approach a multi-million dollar deal with the same mindset they would if they were ordering some granola online for themselves outside of (or during!) work. Thus, it’s imperative that B2B businesses constantly innovate their ecommerce capabilities and communications similar to how brick-and-mortar stores modernized in response to the gain of admiration and market share of their digital counterparts.
Key Takeaway: Since the traditionally silo’d channels of B2B and B2C have merged together as a result of evolving ecommerce technologies, B2B firms need to consider not only the competing online experiences of businesses within their industry but also B2C market leaders so that they can continue to meet and exceed their customers’ continually growing expectations!
1After some further investigating, I learned that the article I read was actually a summary of a Book written by Bryan Kramer with the same title published in 2014.