No more silos

A MarketOne white paper written for web

UBX Unified Buyer Experience

Why CX Matters

CX and its increased currency

Today, 81% of companies say they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX – not product.”

Gartner Customer Experience Survey

Why has customer experience gone from important to front and center when it comes to B2B selling? More than ever before, B2C and B2B digital customer experiences are converging. B2B buyers expect omnichannel and consistent interaction across all brand platforms and self-serve resources for online research to make better buying decisions. But customers are demanding more – even a targeting of emotional needs to help them reach personal goals. Slack, for example, does this successfully by inspiring its audience with stories of empowered comms and achievements using their tool.

We often think of B2B buyers as simply groups of decision makers calling the shots based on price, availability, and value. But these groups are made up of individuals who are also B2C customers. In their lunch hour, they may order coffee pods from Amazon that remembers the brand they ordered last time and offers a one-click purchase. After work, Netflix makes recommendations on what to watch based on the TV show they rated the night before.

Accenture has recently called this strategy the “business of experience.” In today’s market we are no longer simply buying products and services – we are buying experiences. Good customer experience (CX) makes us come back for more and fragmented, burdensome experiences turn us away. Loyal, repeat customers are the foundation of company growth but the B2B buying arena is playing catch-up; not only to match B2C examples of superior consumer service (Tesla, Amazon, Nordstrom, Starbucks and Netflix have die-hard customers for a reason), but to align with how B2B buyers actually want to buy.

It doesn’t help that many companies don’t even know they’re not giving their customers what they want. Research by Bain & Company found that while only 8% of customers of 362 companies rated their experience as ‘superior’, a staggering 80% of companies surveyed believed they had provided a superior customer experience.

Similarly, Emplifi found that 86% of consumers will leave a brand they trusted after only two poor customer experiences, underlining just how critical the experience of buying is in retention, and a clear disconnect between buyer expectations and brand efforts. A positive customer experience is no longer simply nice to have, it’s expected – 90% of consumers look for a consistent experience when interacting with a brand across all channels [Iterable].

Buyer expectations are increasingly liquid, says Accenture. Consumers “no longer compare their brand experiences between two different companies in the same space. Rather, they make comparisons between their brand experience of, for example, a mobile service provider with a best-in-class airline, or even a design and tech-driven play such as Airbnb.” Companies that can’t provide integrated, cross-channel experiences and who can’t compete are seen as having failed.

Non-linear customer journeys…

B2B buying is now a digitally dominant experience, and even more so after the pandemic – CX has effectively become DCX (digital customer experience). Gartner research showed that of 750 B2B customer stakeholders involved in complex ‘solutions’ purchases, only 17% of their total buying time was spent interacting with the supplier sales teams. Independent learning online (27%), independent learning offline (18%), and building consensus across a wide range of internal (22%) and partner stakeholders (11%) comprised their purchase activity.

Digital-savvy customers are in control and interacting with brands through multiple digital touchpoints and it’s crucial to deliver a unified, coherent experience across them all. For many brands, CX is top of mind – of customer experience executives surveyed in the State of the Digital Customer Experience report, 94% said the digital customer experience is either ‘important’ or ‘extremely important’ to their organizations.

The sales development representative too is adopting a digital mindset and using online research about their prospects for insight-led selling, combining one-to-one emails and social selling with the traditional (and still meaningful) phone call to uncover opportunities for sales to close the deal.

Crucially, B2B buyers are interacting with these touchpoints in any order. They may first find a pricing structure or integrations to inform an RFP process, then read thought leadership to find more about the brand. They may go dormant for a few months before engaging. Clearly, the B2B customer journey is far from transactional and simplistic.

Helping today’s B2B buyers buy isn’t a sales challenge, nearly so much as an information challenge (or, alternatively, an information opportunity).

The companies that best provide customers the information they most urgently seek, specifically through the channels they most clearly prefer, are in a far better position to drive commercial success in today’s rapidly evolving digital commercial landscape.

Harvard Business Review

…Mismatched with linear organizations

Broken CX usually arises from linear systems and processes within organizations – teams, tech, data, processes and agencies are arranged to hand the baton over to each other at a specified point in the sequential customer journey. Unfortunately, silos are all too common. Research shows that 80% of companies report high or moderate degrees of data silos and 69% are unable to provide a comprehensive, single customer view.

Of these entrenched silos, data is often the biggest challenge of all. Siloed data results in poor collaboration and trust between teams, wasted resources due to inefficient tech and infrastructure, reduced data quality, hindered analytics and slow decision-making, meaning the organization is less able to compete. For the buyer, this means a disjointed customer journey and therefore poor customer experience.

Siloed Digital and Human activities result in disconnected touches, data and reporting.

B2B buying is hard

Seventy seven percent of B2B buyers say that their latest purchase was very complex or difficult [Gartner] – so it’s the job of marketing, sales and services to work together to reduce friction along the customer journey and help buyers buy in the way they want to.

As hard as it has become to sell in today’s world, it has become that much more difficult to buy. The single biggest challenge of selling today is not selling, it is actually our customers’ struggle to buy.”

Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Advisory, Gartner

Sellers are not meeting buyer’s needs, found Challenger’s B2B Buyer Study. What is missing is an insight-led sale where sales professionals serve as true business partners; helping buyers build support across the organization, come to a decision, address stakeholder needs and make it easy for them to buy. The study found that the everyday sales experience is being overlooked. As a Gartner for Sales white paper puts it: “Digitally-enabled customers, facing dramatically more difficult considerations, are mismatched with today’s sales model, which spectacularly underserves the customer’s most critical need: confidence in making the best business decisions possible.”

This misalignment between how companies sell and how buyers buy is resulting in duplicative efforts in tech, messaging and analytics and missed opportunities for building customer loyalty and maximizing growth.

Companies talk of having a buyer-first mentality. If you dig deeper, you see they have a linear sales process. This creates a gap between how buyers want to buy and selling organizations’ ability to deliver those experiences.”

Mary Shea of and former analyst with Forrester Research

So how do we lead digital transformation in buyer experience? How can B2B sales and marketing models adapt to a non-linear buying process? How can you drive growth and engagement with existing and prospective buyers?

What is required is an approach that unifies buyer experience across a non-linear, multichannel, and complex customer journey. In this new integrated and aligned world, marketing, sales and services provide the right content through the right channel at the right time and create a dialog that shows that the seller understands customer needs, and crucially, is addressing them. Working together, these teams produce data and insights as they track interactions across the customer journey. Get it right and this approach delivers better engagement, more revenue, and superior buyer experience. We call this UBX, or Unified Buyer Experience.

Next: Orchestrating UBX framework: an overview