As consumers everywhere become more and more digitally savvy, B2B companies are facing pressure to meet these expectations with "B2C-like" experiences. As a result, there has been a lot of discussion in commerce circles about B2B and B2C convergence - but what does that really mean? Are business models converging? I doubt it, as there are some very different business needs that are required for B2B customers compared to B2C. A good example of this is pricing contracts. Certain B2B customers may have negotiated large volume pricing for items that will be purchased throughout the year that might be different from what another customer has negotiated. In B2C, it is more likely that a brand will offer an item at the same price for all customers.
So I don’t think there is a single simple answer;“B2B and B2C convergence” can mean different things for different situations. For some companies, it means addressing the pressure of providing their B2B customers the same buying experience they have come to expect from their B2C purchases. This means a digital buying experience that provides personalized offers, enhanced searching, and consistent information across all channels. For another company, it could mean providing guided selling tools to walk the buyer through the configuration of complex products and services, making it easier for customers to select the right product for their needs, and enhancing the customer experience.
Whatever B2B and B2C convergence may mean to different individual companies, this change should be treated as an evolutionary process – one that starts small and grows as efforts are successful. For example, B2B companies can use the additional revenue generated from deploying an engaging B2B storefront to fund their next project, perhaps incorporating guided selling to the storefront to drive even more sales. These projects shouldn’t take years to implement and tie up all of a company’s IT resources.
With that in mind, today IBM is announcing the release of enhanced capabilities to support B2B digital storefronts that provide the same compelling customer engagements as B2C storefronts. One of the exciting things about this release is that B2B line of business leaders can deploy these storefronts quickly, with minimal IT involvement. So as you look at how your personal buying experiences are influencing what you expect in your B2B interactions, keep in mind that your business customers are expecting the same and will begin to look at alternatives if your company has not begun that evolutionary process of B2B and B2C convergence.