research by Gartner found that 89% of companies expected to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience by 2016. And Walker Information recently wrote that by 2020, customer experience is expected to surpass product and pricing as the key business differentiator.
As marketers, we tend to view customer experience primarily through the lens of marketing communications, and as content marketers, we tend to think of customer experience mostly in terms of providing rich, engaging, personalized, and relevant content to our customers and prospects. It's easy to forget that customer experience is a multi-faceted phenomenon that results from all the interactions that a customer or potential customer has with a company, only some of which involve marketing communications or marketing content.
Recent research by Forrester Consulting provides important insights about what B2B buyers value most in their relationships with suppliers. For this study, Forrester surveyed 1,307 B2B buyers from around the world at organizations with at least 1,000 employees. The overall objective of the study was to explore evolving B2B buyer expectations and demands and the omnichannel practices of B2B sellers. However, my focus in this post is on a finding in the study that reveals what factors are most responsible for making B2B buyers loyal to their suppliers.
Forrester asked survey participants to rank the five most important factors (from seven possible choices) that influenced their willingness to buy again from a supplier. The table below shows the percentage of respondents who included each factor among their top five choices.
As the above table shows, the two most important drivers of loyalty were transparent prices and product details and excellent customer service and post-purchase support. What will probably surprise many marketers is that buyers ranked personalized recommendations (based on prior purchasing habits) and offering omnichannel capabilities last in importance.
When we look at the loyalty drivers that B2B buyers consider to be most important, the rankings change somewhat. The following table shows the percentage of respondents who ranked each factor first or second in importance.
In the above table, personalized recommendations ranks fourth (versus sixth in the overall ranking) and omnichannel capabilities ranks sixth (versus seventh in the overall ranking).
The findings of the Forrester study indicate that for many B2B buyers, loyalty is based on very pragmatic considerations. This doesn't mean that personalized interactions with customers and omnichannel capabilities are unimportant, but it does suggest that they should be viewed as complementary to other drivers of customer loyalty.
Top image courtesy of Flickr CC and One Way Stock.