Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published by Inc. here.
The future of online business is here right now. We’re in it.
People aren’t just living and working online, they’re doing most of their buying there too — something to the tune of 80 percent of all purchases are now happening online. And if brands continue operating under the old paradigm — prioritizing an in-store selling mentality — they’re going to get left behind.
Consumer brands have shifted to online commerce with ease. Unforgettable and personalized customer experiences are table stakes. Quick and painless transactions, the norm. It’s why brands like Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Tesla have huge fan bases.
I’m not saying any of this to scare you. Far from it. I see this shift as a big opportunity — especially for B2B brands.
When we started Drift back in 2015, we set out to help shrink the growing disconnect between B2B and B2B buying processes. To make online commerce more conversational. More human. To give buyers the unforgettable experiences that turn casual shoppers into fans for life.
And today, B2B brands can still learn a lot from everyone’s favorite consumer brands. They’re winning and keeping customers, and B2B brands can too.
Put Your Customer’s Interests First, Last, and Always
People don’t want to fill out forms. They don’t want to get the runaround. They don’t want to wait. I wouldn’t want that. And I’m sure you wouldn’t either. So why are B2B brands continuing to rely on long-lead sales forms and cookie-cutter email marketing campaigns? It may have worked in the past, but not in today’s crowded market. Buyers won’t stand for it. They want to feel the love. So, this one is really pretty simple: Treat your customers how you’d like to be treated. The Golden Rule, with a little twist.
Move Quicker Than the Competition
There’s a race for your customer’s attention. And in this race, you’re either winning, or you’re losing out on valuable revenue. This means engaging with buyers the instant they’re ready to talk to you. Sometimes that’s during regular business hours, but oftentimes, it isn’t. You can move quicker and be more available by hiring a lot of people or by tapping into emerging technologies — like A.I. This move can lead to unparalleled access and speed, at scale. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw chatbot engagement grow about 40 percent during off-hours. And this trend is here to stay.
Be More Human, Online
Sometimes I think we throw around the B2B acronym too much and forget what’s behind those two “Bs.” Really, it’s human-to-human commerce, and remembering that can make all the difference. When you know your customers better, they want to get to know you, too. And there’s tons of data out there that can be leveraged to make buying experiences more seamless and more human. Businesses can leverage this data to know what their buyers want and have the right things to say in the right moments.
Again, you don’t have to go at this all alone, A.I. can do the work for you any time of day. It’s smart enough to help you understand who’s on your website, who’s more likely to buy, and can even start a meaningful conversation with them. And best of all, this tech isn’t just feeding a chatbot, it can help salespeople be more human, too. Whether it’s uncovering a customer’s needs or providing helpful insights into how to respond to a buyer, A.I. can help businesses be more human online, at scale.
I opened this article with a thought on the future of online business. Our world is going to continue changing, and if we want to succeed, then we have to evolve and change right along with it. So don’t get complacent. Always be two steps ahead. And never stop learning. It’s a tried-and-true formula that’s kept my companies future-proof, and can do the same for yours.