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COVID-19 has been a transformative force across all sectors. For B2B companies, the challenges and opportunities that the pandemic brought with it meant a multitude of changes – including a shift to the digital sales manager.
Because of the size, complexity, and speed of most B2B transactions, and the overall confidence buyers have in making larger purchasing decisions in field service models, B2B marketing has traditionally been adopted more slowly than B2C.
But as the pandemic accelerated digital diffusion, the results were more positive than expected. More than 75% of buyers and sellers now prefer digital self-service and remote engagement instead of personal sales processes. More notably, 70% of B2B buyers are willing to make purchases over $ 50,000 without face-to-face interaction.
In addition to the success of B2B sales, digital transformation has made it easier for sales organizations to expand their reach and reduce their cost per interaction. Such virtual strategies are likely to be fundamental in the market from now on.
On LinkedIn, where B2B marketers find around 80% of their social media leads, users posted 900% more articles between February and April 2020 than in the same months in 2019.
In fact, compared to their B2C counterparts, B2B companies were much more successful in creating a rewarding digital customer experience, as research by McKinsey & Co has shown. The results rated B2C companies below 50%, meaning more than half of their customers said they were dissatisfied with their online interactions.
Additionally, customer experience has overtaken price and product as a brand differentiator, according to the same research. Of the people who had below average sales interaction, only 13% said they would return to the same company.
However, it is important for marketing teams not to confuse the success of virtual sales with the need for a purely virtual strategy. As every business increases its investment in digital marketing materials, the virtual world becomes more saturated. Attention is a coveted commodity in the digital arena, and digital strategies can only go so far.
In short, the growing popularity of digital sales is no reason to shift all marketing efforts online.
To avoid losing repeat sales, marketers should focus on mastering the B2B customer experience and reaching their customers through a more memorable, more meaningful experience – be it virtual or in person, or both.
Here are a few places to focus on as the post-pandemic market takes shape.
The power of hybrid offerings
B2B buyers make complex, time-consuming, and highly momentous decisions. The sale itself can take place online, but the task of building trust and fostering engagement is a long and winding road that, at least in part, is best done in person.
To that end, hybrid experiences are perfectly designed to go beyond the screen and engage customers in more immersive, confidence-building ways.
Hybrid offers are also raised to a whole new level through a strategy with Extended Reality (XR). XR refers to the deliberate combination of Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) technologies that help marketers translate on-screen campaigns into personal experiences.
XR is enjoying tremendous excitement among marketers, and the XR market is projected to reach $ 300 billion in 2024.
XR for an unforgettable B2B customer experience
B2B marketers can use an XR strategy in a variety of ways. It has particularly important uses in relation to testing and experimentation. Integrated AR technologies enable decision makers to display products in a real environment. Manufacturing customers can render digital elements in real physical environments and thus better understand how a product would fit into their workflow.
Pharmaceutical companies are using XR to make product developments more layman-friendly, away from pure digital demonstrations and enabling decision-makers to better experience both the problem and the solution.
But XR is a tool that goes beyond product demonstrations. Event-based offerings are a critical part of any B2B marketing strategy as they provide decision makers with the detailed information they need, accelerating pipeline generation and building customer trust.
The restrictions caused by the pandemic forced events and conferences into the virtual sphere. Virtual events have tangible benefits – namely, increasing the number of participants who can attend and access the presentations without flight, hotel and absence costs from their day-to-day operations. But without an XR component, virtual events can be neglected.
As meetings become more secure, intelligent marketers are adding XR to in-person events that are seamlessly integrated into the conference or virtual meeting experience.
Businesses can send their customers on personal tours of a facility or event space guided by augmented reality interactions. You can use an app-driven engagement strategy to bring people together at a physical booth where they then offer an immersive XR demonstration. In-person networking events can be added after the conference or presentation to solidify the information in people’s minds and allow them to make connections.
Such tactics help B2B marketers bring their campaigns closer to the real-world reality of their customers and make their B2B customer experience more fulfilling than any purely digital approach.
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Virtual sales can make transactions easier, but face-to-face sales, meetings, and conferences create high quality connections that are more conducive to respect and long-term relationships. B2B companies that can deliver innovative and engaging customer experiences to drive better engagement are positioned for oversized benefit.
For companies looking to go beyond the task of surviving the COVID era, now is the time to use an XR strategy in their hybrid offerings. Expect increased sales, better customer experience, and renewed customer support.
More resources on the B2B customer experience
The six pillars of B2B Customer Experience Excellence
Can you create a meaningful experience in a virtual conference? | MarketingProfs Guide
Five tips to improve the B2B customer experience to generate more sales