What B2B Organizations Should Know About Personalization

B2B brands are moving online at a rapid pace. According to a recent Accenture Interactive study, 59% of B2B organizations in the U.S. see a third of their customers transacting online.

However, traditional business selling often still relies on personal interactions. For B2B marketers this means every single buyer — who, for instance, visits the company’s website — should feel someone’s communicating with him or her, not just talking to an anonymous mass of customers.

This, of course, is often easier said than done.

As a first step to inserting a personal touch into the digital experience, B2B marketers should consider the four 4 Rs of personalization:

  • Recognize: Know your customer and prospect’s profiles, including demographics, firmographics, geography and expressed or shared interests.
  • Remember: Know your customer’s history, meaning knowing how they act — as expressed by what they browse and buy.
  • Recommend: Reach them with the right marketing, offer, content or product recommendations based on their actions, preferences and interests.
  • Relevance: Deliver personalization within the context of the digital experience based on who they are, where they are located and what time of the year it is.

How does this play out in B2B reality?

Getting to Know the Customer
The next step — and this is really at the heart of personalization — is to determine what you know about the person on the other side of the screen. Many B2B companies require users to create a log-in and a personal profile to make purchases on their websites. They record customers’ purchase, payment and service histories, and track where users abandon a product search or purchase and how much time they spend on the page.

Besides looking at what they already know about their customers, B2B marketers should also take advantage of data management platforms (DMPs) to help them with collecting data and turning it into more comprehensive pictures of their customers.

DMPs gather data from internal and external sources, thus helping marketers digest and translate it into personalized messages for each of their customers in real time. They deliver a sense-and-respond command center by providing the tools to identify and respond to the audience with the right message based upon demographics and psychographics. They are essential to creating a stream of incoming data that are actionable through multiple channels, whether Web, email, mobile, tablet, etc.

It is also important that B2B organizations take time to determine if they capture the right information. Do they have a user’s most up-to-date and accurate demographic data? What is the customer buying from them? Where else has he or she been looking? Filling in the holes may take time, but consistent upkeep makes long-term maintenance easier.

Online Interaction With The Business Buyer
We found that U.S. B2B company websites are one of the top channels available to buyers, second only to dealing with an in-person sales representative. The most successful organizations are using data from various sources to personalize digital channels, such as email marketing to drive more e-commerce revenue.

However, many still struggle to persuade clients to buy online and drive meaningful revenue from existing e-commerce offerings. As a result, B2B brands have plans to add more complex digital strategies to their playbooks. Almost a third of the survey respondents said they plan to implement custom, client-branded e-commerce websites. These websites can, for example, let client company employees access only certain price ranges and payment options. Even something as simple as adding a company’s own logo to its unique page on your site serves as a positive personal touch.

Personalization Equals Mobile
As B2B e-commerce becomes the norm, brands simply cannot ignore the growing impact of mobile. Business buyers are individual consumers, too, conducting business research and making transactions on mobile devices.

Mobile is also one of the most context-sensitive channels. According to the study, some of the most successful mobile personalization tactics include text messaging, responsive design and special features such as the ability to make repeat purchases from a mobile app or filtering content appropriate to the environment and location in which the individual buyer works — for example, a plant.

Personalization remains the name of the game for B2B organizations, but with the rapid consumer movement to online, companies need to reevaluate how they conduct digital business. By applying offline sales techniques in the online world, B2B business will be able to stay competitive in this changing environment.

The author would like to thank Jeriad Zoghby (@jeriad), managing director and personalization lead at Accenture Interactive, for his contribution to this article. 

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