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Designing a differentiated B2B experience – a 22 step challenge

CX design is no longer just about aesthetics. It’s a strategic tool that helps B2B companies create meaningful difference in saturated markets. But, many European firms still have a long way to go to reach the levels of CX maturity seen in B2C. A maturity driven by hyper personalisation, empathetic human relationships and intuitive digital experiences – all accelerated by the pandemic. If you need to rethink your CX offer, or haven’t got started, time is not on your side.

Business buyers have changed the way they behave and buy. The buying journey has become more complicated, and longer. Expectations and needs are constantly on the move. The pandemic has only speeded up these changes.

Look at these findings, for example:

 

  • 7 in 10 B2B decision-makers are will spend over $50,000 in new purchases through self-serve or online channels (McKinsey)
  • 100% of B2B buyers want self-serve options for part of the buying process (TrustRadius)
  • 74% of B2B brands say that receiving personalised offers has a major or moderate influence on their loyalty (Convince & Convert)

But … CX programmes have gained limited traction in a sector that is still working out how to shift to customer-centric business models. This is urgent. There’s little to differentiate from others on price and product alone. The question most B2B firms should ask themselves is ‘how do we stand out when our products and prices are similar to our competitors’?

The way to differentiate is through a superior experience rooted in helping customers use products and services to achieve their business goals and overcome their challenges. Buyers are also often seeking a strategic partnership and thought leadership to help them solve their biggest problems.

Has your business designed a differentiated experience that matches this fundamental shift in who your business customers are and how they buy? No? Not yet? Maybe? Read on.

Investing in experience design is essential for any company looking to drive customer-led growth. It’s the foundation for building brand loyalty, adoption and providing customers with an unforgettable, consistent experience. However, designing a successful experience requires a root and branch approach. In this article, we want to walk you through 22 essential steps that will help you design an experience that sets your brand apart. Let’s get started.

 

Start with with your customers

  1. Conduct thorough research – revisit your customer data to understand your target audience, their needs, and preferences. How have they changed since the pandemic? What do they value most? Is your customer data out of date? Are there any data gaps you need to fill?
  2. Create a customer persona – creating a persona will help you tailor your messaging and design to meet the needs of your target audience. A persona is an archetype of your ideal customer. You will need to analyse real-world customers to get to the actionable insight you need. Think about demographics, culture adaptation, their values, decision-making, goals and priorities, preferences, and pain points. How do they consume content? Which sources of information do they trust?

 

What does your business stand for – what makes you unique?

  1. Define your brand values and messaging – having a clear set of brand values and messaging is essential to creating a consistent experience across all touchpoints. How does your messaging build trust? How does it align with your customers’ values and needs? How does it make you memorable and stand out from the competition?
  2. Develop a customer promise – creating a customer promise tells customers what experience they can expect. And they’ll hold your feet to the fire on it. How do you ensure that your people – across the business – are able to use the promise as a guiding light for everything they do? How can you find out when you are falling short on your promise? Don’t forget to include your promise on your website.

What do you want to achieve?

  1. Set clear experience goals – defining clear experience goals will help you measure the success of your experience design. Which metrics should you use to track to measure performance and demonstrate ROI?

How do customers experience your brand – across touchpoints?

  1. Develop a customer journey map – (re)mapping the customer journey will help you identify areas where you can improve the customer experience. How have journeys changed since Covid? Where are the pain points? Are there any gaps that need closing? Where should you prioritise investment?
  2. Use consistent branding and design elements – consistency in branding and design elements will help create a cohesive experience across all touchpoints.
  3. Prioritise mobile – as we mentioned earlier, B2B buyers want to use their mobiles to research and buy. You’ll need to make your website and content mobile friendly. A seamless digital experience that quickly provides answers will set your business apart.
  4. Conduct usability testing – testing your design with users will help you identify any usability issues and make necessary improvements.
  5. Utilise user feedback – listening to user feedback can help you identify areas for improvement and make necessary changes.
  6. Focus on accessibility – ensuring that your experience is accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities, is essential to creating an inclusive experience.
  7. Ensure fast load times – slow load times can negatively impact the user experience, so it’s important to ensure fast load times across all touchpoints.
  8. Use effective calls-to-action (CTAs) – CTAs are essential for guiding users through the experience and driving conversions.
  9. Utilise visual design – effective visual design can enhance the user experience and create a memorable impression.
  10. Incorporate interactive elements – interactive elements can engage users and create a more immersive experience.

 It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

  1. Use clear, concise, persuasive copy – using clear, concise, persuasive copy – wherever a customer interacts with your brand – will help users understand your messaging and avoid confusion.
  2. Create a consistent tone of voice – a consistent tone of voice across all touchpoints will help make your brand memorable and create a cohesive experience. Use your customers’ language in a conversational style and avoid jargon and industry-speak.

 Get ahead, and stay ahead

 Invest in employee training and experience – providing employees with training on how to deliver a great experience will help ensure a consistent experience across all touchpoints. Your people will most likely need to think and behave differently. How do you ensure your people understand the part they play in improving what your customers experience? How can you empower them and give them the skills and knowledge they need to deliver this?

  1. Continuously test and iterate – continuously testing and iterating will help you stay ahead of the competition and create a better experience over time.
  2. Incorporate emerging technologies – staying up to date with emerging technologies can help you create a cutting-edge experience that sets you apart from the competition.

How are you doing? Measure the impact of improvements

  1. Define your goals – set one or two goals that you can link to CX investment. Are you looking to increase referrals or repeat business for example?
  2. Choose the right metrics to measure success – measuring success through analytics will help you identify areas where you can improve the experience. And where you need to change strategy.

 

What can we learn from B2C brands (with business customers)? 5 examples of brilliant CX design

  • Volkswagen – German automobile manufacturer Volkswagen has developed an online configurator that allows customers to design their own car and visualise it in 3D, providing a personalised and engaging experience. This has resulted in an increase in sales and customer satisfaction.
  • SNCF – French state-owned railway company SNCF has implemented a mobile app that provides real-time information on train schedules, delays, and cancellations, as well as personalised travel recommendations based on the customer’s preferences. This has again resulted in improved customer satisfaction and increased loyalty.
  • BBVA – Spanish multinational banking group BBVA has implemented a mobile app that provides personalised financial advice, easy account management, and digital payment options. This has resulted in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, and has helped BBVA become a leader in digital banking.
  • Samsung – the South Korean multinational electronics company has transformed its product experience through experience design. The company has implemented an intuitive user interface and seamless integration between devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs, providing a seamless and convenient user experience.  The result? Higher sales and a more loyal customer base.
  • Airbnb – the American online rentals marketplace has implemented a user-friendly website and mobile app that provides personalised recommendations, easy booking, and seamless communication between hosts and guests. This has resulted in increased bookings and customer satisfaction, and has helped Airbnb disrupt the hospitality industry.

That’s a lot to think about for now.

To wrap up …

 

Creating a differentiated experience through design is a comprehensive process that involves multiple steps. From conducting thorough research to incorporating emerging technologies, companies must take a holistic approach to designing a successful experience. Covid accelerated changes in your customers – forever. You’ll need to do your research to know your customers and focus on their needs and expectations, as they are today.

Your customers are seeking experiences that match those in B2C – hyper personalised, rooted in human connections and partnerships, and driven by cutting-edge technology. Companies that rise to the challenge can stand out by creating meaningful experiences that foster loyalty over time.

By following these 22 essential steps outlined in this article, firms  can create experience by design that makes them competitive beyond product and price. Don’t stop there. By continuously testing, listening to feedback (customer and employee) iterating, and investing in training your people – you can get ahead and stay ahead.

What next?

 The European Customer Experience Organization (ECXO) understands the complexities of designing B2B experiences and is here to help. ECXO is a fast-growing and evolving professional business network, created to bridge the gaps between the different cultures across Europe, the Middle East and Africa to create a new set of standards. We aim to educate practitioners and companies while generating a unified customer experience model with a European regional focus. Find out more here. Ends

 

Sources:

https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/these-eight-charts-show-how-covid-19-has-changed-b2b-sales-forever

https://www.trustradius.com/vendor-blog/2022-b2b-buying-disconnect-the-age-of-the-self-serve-buyer

 

  • “The Essential Guide to User Experience” by Paul Boag
  • “The Elements of User Experience” by Jesse James Garrett
  • “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman
  • “Designing for Interaction” by Dan Saffer
  • “Designing B2B Brands: Lessons from Deloitte and 195,000 Brand Ratings” by JP Kuehlwein and Wolf Schaefer
  • “The Business Value of Design” by McKinsey & Company
  • “B2B Customer Experience: A Practical Guide to Delivering Exceptional CX” by Jane Hiscock
  • “The Power of Customer Experience in B2B Markets” by Accenture
  • “Volkswagen’s Journey to a Customer-Centric Experience” by CX Network
  • “Prada’s Retail Revolution” by Forbes
  • “SNCF’s Customer Experience Strategy” by CX Network
  • “Tesco: the supermarket that came back from the brink” by The Guardian
  • “Samsung Design Philosophy” by Samsung
  • “Coolblue: A Customer-Obsessed Online Retailer in the Netherlands” by Customer Think
  • “How BBVA Is Transforming Itself Into a Digital Business” by Harvard Business Review
  • “Airbnb and the Unstoppable Rise of the Share Economy” by Wired

About the Author:

Ricardo Saltz Gulko is the Eglobalis managing director, a global strategist, thought leader, practitioner, and keynote speaker in the areas of simplification and change, customer experience, experience design, and global professional services. Ricardo has worked at numerous global technology companies, such as Oracle, Ericsson, Amdocs, Redknee, Inttra, Samsung among others as a global executive, focusing on enterprise technologies. He currently works with tech global companies aiming to transform themselves around simplification models, culture and digital transformation, customer and employee experience as professional services. He holds an MBA at J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Evanston, IL USA, and Undergraduate studies in Information Systems and Industrial Engineering. Ricardo is also a global citizen fluent in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew, and German. He is the co-founder of the European Customer Experience Organization and currently resides in Munich, Germany with his family.

A diabetic who wants to wipe diabetes from the Earth for all of us, the proceeds from his forthcoming book will be going to the Faustman Lab. The Lab is working to eradicate it, based out of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. You can also support and donate to The Lab. It would mean a lot to me, and millions of others struggling with diabetes.

You can learn more about him, his passions, and his charitable causes at his LinkedIn or Eglobalis or Facebook or Twitter.

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