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The Most Important Element for Increasing Leads and Sales

by Tom Pick  |  
February 12, 2014

We've witnessed a spate of recent articles proclaiming the "consumerization" of all things business—the consumerization of sales, of IT, and of business-to-business (B2B) marketing most prominently. McKinsey's David Edelman has referred to the consumerization of B2B marketing and sales as a "massive disruption" on the horizon.

Although there's no questioning these trends, it's worth taking a step back and asking what "consumerization" exactly means in a business context: What is it precisely about consumer marketing and sales that B2B professionals are seeking to emulate?

Clearly the suggestion isn't that enterprise software vendors should start running print advertisements in Vogue magazine, or that machine tool manufacturers should invest in splashy TV commercials on The Golf Channel.

Upon closer examination, the move toward consumerization seems to boil down to embracing one key concept long pursued by B2C brands: minimizing friction across the promotion and buying process.

In the consumer-products world, minimizing friction explains why soup is sold in microwavable single-serving containers, why gas pumps have credit card readers built in, and why convenience stores can thrive within blocks of the nearest supermarket, despite their much higher prices.

Arguably the ultimate in friction-free consumer commerce, though, is Amazon's 1-Click ordering. Once a site visitor has searched for and filled an online shopping cart with desired items, competing the purchase requires literally one click: Amazon knows the customer's preferred method of payment, credit card details, shipping address, even preferred shipping mode. Compared with the typical B2B purchase... well, there is no comparison.

The Amazon experience is clearly beginning to influence the world of B2B purchasing. Within the past year, nearly half of B2B buyers have purchased common business items from Amazon Supply, the Web giant's online store for business and industry, because their regular suppliers don't offer an online purchase channel.

Business suppliers who want to survive the coming "massive disruption" will have to find ways to compete with Amazon, likely beyond price—by offering flexible payment options, volume discounts, deep product expertise, or value-added services, perhaps. But for low-value commodity items, as other online retailers have learned, Amazon will make the landscape increasingly challenging for B2B suppliers.

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  • by Bryn Adler Wed Feb 12, 2014 via web

    Hi Tom,

    Phenomenal article. This is spot on - creating a frictionless experience is really quite essential in harnessing the attention of consumers today. Making the purchasing process easy and fluid means more in the end. I'd like to add that part of creating this frictionless experience is having a fast, personalized site. Too many prospects are turned off by slow websites, downtime, and poor mobile performance, so much so that slow load times is the biggest factor in shopping cart abandonment. Optimizing performance to engage users is the missing link here for many marketers, something we wrote about in this blog post on

    Thanks again for the great article. Here's to making everything easier!


  • by Steve Patti - CMO Wed Feb 12, 2014 via web

    Tom - your article aligns with a series of blog posts and comments I've made publicly about the illusion that B2C and B2B buyers are somehow different people. We are all B2B buyers from 8am to 6pm and then B2C buyers from 6pm to 8am (arguably, we are even B2C buyers while at work as we transact over lunch hour, etc.)

    The same decision journey that we use to research products are carried into the workplace. The same frictionless expectations we have when buying shoes on Zappo's are applied to buying IT equipment from Ingram Micro. Sure, there are small differences in the pre-sales information we require and the mediums in which we might consume that content, but the overall expectation is the same: frictionless, personalized, right-the-first-time.

    You are correct that many B2B brands somehow think they got a "pass" at having to be as responsive as omni-channel B2C brands but they are finding out they were wrong. I venture to say the Edelman and McKinsey also figured this out when they renamed 2010's "Consumer Decision Journey" to the "Customer Decision Journey" in 2011 to reflect the application of the model to both B2C and B2B buyers.

    Nice post.

  • by J.R. Newell Wed Feb 12, 2014 via web

    This was a very informative article and a great read for B2B marketers. Thank you so much for posting!

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