In B2B business development, marketing and sales pros are focusing on delivering a winning customer experience—from end-to-end. They’re finding ways to attract and engage customers who are ready and eager to buy, with the potential to stick around and increase spend. Similarly, for executives along the supply chain, loyalty-boosting efforts can start with the acquisition of new vendors and carry through the payments process. Industry research and trends reveal that there’s nothing but opportunity for B2B organizations willing to apply B2C loyalty tactics to their B2B customer-facing processes.
B2B Loyalty in a B2C Context
Loyalty programs have been an immensely successful way for B2C companies to connect with their customers. Based largely on discounts and freebies, consumer-oriented loyalty programs are designed to propel in-store as well as online traffic and meet customers’ growing expectations for that “something extra” from their favorite brands. Consider Starbucks, for example, a company earning headlines with its innovative customer loyalty program and mobile app.
Learn more in Customer Loyalty Programs Sweeten the Mobile Payment Value Proposition and explore Starbucks’ strategy in The Perfect Brew: the Mobile Starbucks Experience and Starbucks’ Revamped Loyalty Program Leaves Some Customers Seeing Stars.
Driving B2B customer loyalty is more complex for various reasons, explaining why corporate customers are largely ignored as an avenue for loyalty-building initiatives. But taking a closer look, it’s obvious that like their counterparts in the B2C space, B2B organizations are also chasing goals related to customer satisfaction and retention (and let’s face it, revenue) in increasingly competitive markets. There’s actually significant value in “treating” corporate buyers with advantages similar to those offered to consumers—while addressing the personal dynamics of each partnership that can make a big impact on future sales. See Supplier Relationships Believed Central to B2B Customer Engagement for more.
Toward B2B Loyalty
Tweaking best practices in the consumer marketplace, more companies are implementing loyalty programs to benefit their vendors and suppliers. Their aim is to shift customers’ perspective away from simply the product or service they’re providing toward the “experience” of doing business together. They want to drive home the benefits and value they provide—the relative ease of making purchases and payments, for instance—outside of a great product or price.
The key to crafting a B2B loyalty program, according to Chief Marketer in their The B2B Loyalty Challenge report, is to figure out how to align corporate objectives with the spread of your customer base. This approach can be applied easily to front-end marketing and sales initiatives, when a company can offer a new customer value via anything from referral rewards to specialized educational content, depending on the customer’s profile. But what about when a new supply chain partner or vendor is chosen? The same principles can extend to the more operational functions, including payments processes, where business objectives might include:
- Promoting 24/7 website interaction to help address customer questions/concerns/sales cycles over less-costly digital channels
- Encouraging the use of cost-saving paperless processes
- Motivating repeat purchases and maximizing upsell opportunities
In these examples, the customers’ needs are being met with better, more accessible service using the technology tools being adopted by their organizations. And importantly, visiting the supplier’s website can result in discounts or rebates toward additional buys. Forrester’s research report, B2B Loyalty, The B2C Way, recommends that B2B loyalty programs include material rewards that incent and reinforce desired behaviors.
B2B Loyalty and Digital Payments
Many B2B sellers continue their struggle to get customers to take advantage of online sales and services, making online-only loyalty and discount programs a way to tip the scales in their favor. Read B2B Ecommerce Accelerating, Study Finds for deeper insights.
In payments, the business objective usually mirrors the customer objective—and that’s usually to cut costs. One way to give the company C-Suite and the customer what they want is through a loyalty program that rewards customers for using electronic check imaging solutions, signing up for e-invoicing, or making virtual payments (see Promoting Virtual Cards Among Your Suppliers). The customer can be granted access to a dedicated A/P representative or receive special discounts for future purchases. They may also be open to using other tech-enabled interfaces to help optimize their internal processes (read Exploring AP Technologies, Part 1: Supplier Portals for more).
Each company needs to assess the needs of their business customers—including those along the supply chain—in order to create a truly value-added loyalty program. As these programs pick up speed in the payments industry, we will report on best practices so you can implement winning solutions for your organizations and the customers you serve.