The coronavirus pandemic will leave an imprint on B2B commerce for decades to come. In what lasting ways remains to be seen. There will be permanent changes as well as evolutionary changes. What we know now is that traditional buyer-seller interaction is undergoing its most significant change yet in the 21st century. The COVID-19 pandemic has set off a tectonic shift in how B2B companies buy from and sell to each other.
According to a number of recent surveys, we are seeing an enormous shift in sales turning to remote selling. B2B buyers are also embracing the remote model of interaction. In a recent McKinsey study, nearly two-thirds of B2B buyers indicated that remote interaction was equal to or better than before the pandemic. While it may be too early to state for certain, it appears that buyers will make remote digital interaction a permanent preference. Depending on which surveys referenced, 60% to 80% of B2B decision-makers see remote as a permanent change. Transformative it is.
The future of work will be a strong correlation as B2B companies return less of their workforce to offices due to the pandemic. Big tech and other industries are preparing their workforces to remain working from home remotely throughout 2021.
As the shock, awe, and daze of the pandemic give way to long haul realities, B2B companies will need to adapt. And, quickly.
Buyer Interactions Need An Overhaul
The pandemic is now accelerating digital commerce plans B2B has put into place. What may have been a 5-year plan now has shifted to a 1-year plan. With B2B companies scrambling to implement full-scale e-commerce, digital capabilities, and reinvent marketing and sales.
In our own Buyer Outlook Study consisting of qualitative interviews with B2B buyers and decision-makers, we see this acceleration highlight gaps. Here is one example:
“Our secondary supplier is woefully underprepared for the pandemic. Their sales reps are out on an island all by themselves and we can’t get what we need online easily. It is extremely frustrating.” – Ben, Sr. Director Procurement
Such insight on shortcomings amounts to a clarion call for the overhaul of buyer interactions between B2B buyers and sellers. B2B companies, forced by the pandemic, must accelerate their thinking on reinventing traditional buyer-seller interactions. In essence, they must embrace Buyer Interaction Design℠.
What is Buyer Interaction Design℠?
Buyer Interaction Design℠ (BxD) is the design of interactions between buyers and an organization’s marketing and sales communications. The purpose of Buyer Interaction Design℠ is to enable the buyer to gain (digital) interactive information that helps them to achieve a purchase decision that solves a problem or attains a goal.
While this definition may appear simple, the weight behind it is extensive. What the pandemic has made evidently clear is that B2B has a design issue on its hands. An issue that has proven to be inherently stubborn for the past two decades. An issue that has kept the marketing and sales misalignment conversation ongoing.
Buyer Interaction Design℠ Essential to Buyer Strategy
A significant gap today for B2B companies is the lack of connection between Buyer Interaction Design℠ and Buyer Strategy. Now exacerbated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Buyer Strategy is concerned with the overarching goals of buyers and what interactions are necessary to enable buyers to achieve their goals. Buyer Interaction Design℠ thus becomes a crucial component to Buyer Strategy and enriching Buyer Experience.
Buyer Interaction Design℠ follows principles of design thinking meant to address complex problem-solving. The essential 5-stages to BxD are:
Stage 1: Conduct Buyer Research – gain insights into buyers via qualitative buyer interviews
Stage 2: Create Buyer Personas – create archetypes of buyers that translates buyer research into defined buyer goals and insights
Stage 3: Identify Buyer Requirements – define interactive information requirements enabling buyers to meet their goals
Stage 4: Design Buyer Interactions – design (digital) interactive assets and processes enabling buyer-seller engagement
Stage 5: Implement, Test, Operationalize – test and embed in buyer-facing functions (marketing and sales)
Buyer Interaction Design℠ Enables Both Buyers And Sellers
Buyer Interaction Design℠ matters to both buyer enablement and sales enablement. Since the pandemic, the desire for buyers to self-direct their buying digitally with little to no sales interactions is even more pronounced. On the other hand, when they do interact with sales, they are seeking a meaningful buying experience. According to several research studies, buyers are twice as likely to engage as well as choose a company that provides a superior digital buying experience.
What this means now more than ever is designing the end-to-end digital buying experience is imperative. It also means that a deliberate focus on buyer engagement that delivers a rewarding buying experience is of utmost importance. B2B companies can no longer afford ad-hoc or siloed approaches.
Buyer Interaction Design℠ or BxD thus becomes a mandate for 2021 and 2022.
Are you, as a senior leader in marketing or sales, and your B2B organization focused on a Buyer Strategy? On the design of the buying experience, buyer engagement, and buyer interactions due to COVID-19? If not, it may be a good time to get started. 2021 is fast approaching. And, the pandemic will unfortunately remain a force to be reckoned with.
(For B2B companies seeking guidance on how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and how to design their buyer interactions, please schedule a free 30-minute So Helpful consultation.)