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In Tales of a Commerce Convert, I suggested that today’s businesses have come to expect a different way of doing things when it comes to managing their commerce infrastructure. Many businesses are moving away from using an on-premise solution and in favor of the cloud.

In this installment of Commerce Convert, I discuss the shift away from a traditional ERP-centric approach to one that focuses on the individual, known as customer-first commerce.  

B2B and B2C Buyer Expectations

As commerce continues its exponential growth trajectory, both B2C and B2B customers have come to expect far more from their online shopping experiences. Both crave convenient, omni-channel purchasing options and streamlined, easy navigable online and mobile storefronts.

While B2B and B2C customers behave more similar every day, there are still several key differences between the two.

One of the simplest distinctions: B2C shops; B2B buys.

What does this mean exactly? B2C customers treat online buying much like an in-store experience – browsing, comparing and bundling items to qualify for promotions, like cart discounts and free shipping.

Inversely, B2B buyers develop a precise shopping list based on specific inventory needs and budget. Their purchasing decisions are grounded in business needs.

A customer-first approach to commerce can help bridge this gap between B2B buyers needs and expectations, bringing together the best of both B2B and B2C practices.

Customer-First Commerce vs. ERP-Centric Commerce

Legacy commerce solutions of the past are unable to meet the complex and technical needs of B2B sellers – e.g., customer accounts, contract pricing, user-specific catalogs and entitlements.

These ERP-centric commerce solutions provided limited customer information, making it difficult for buyers to complete or process a sale without the support of an external call center or sales representative. The entire purchasing process was time-consuming, leading to lower customer satisfaction and higher operational costs for B2B companies.

But with customer-first commerce, businesses can reframe their relationship with buyers. Businesses gain a single view of their customers across all channels and functions, leading to more informed customer interactions and a unified buyer experience across all touch points.

A customer-centric approach to commerce understands that customers are dynamic, ever-evolving buyers – not static records on a table – and should be treated as such.

By learning more about a customer’s history and lifetime relationship with the brand, companies can drive sales and improve customer service by better understanding their pain points, more effectively anticipating their needs, and nimbly moving to meet those needs.

Final Takeaways

Today’s customers hold businesses accountable by talking with their wallets. If businesses can’t provide a tailored and convenient online buying experience, customers will spend their money elsewhere – such as with a competitor who does provide the desired digital experience. This ‘have it your way’ mentality consumers have come to expect extends far beyond burrito fillings or fro-yo toppings.

As B2B customers continue to buy more online, companies must move beyond a one-size-fits-most solution. And meeting customers’ expectations require multi-level insights that span the full customer lifecycle.

But customer-first commerce goes one step further. Instead of focusing on “simple” personalization, a customer-centric approach uses the robust customer data from the sales lifecycle to help anticipate customers’ wants and needs.

The future of commerce lies not in columns or rows, but in people and personalities. That future, seen through this customer-first lens, is available now with CloudCraze.

Start your journey now by downloading our B2B Commerce Playbook.