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In my previous article, Enhance the Buyer Experience with Intelligent Engagement, I referenced a trend I called Experiential Buying. Buyer behaviors in B2B marketplaces are shifting tremendously towards more holistic experiential expectations that defy the conventional straight re-buy, modified re-buy, and new buy behaviors of the past. Buyer expectations have increased with regards to the experiences they undergo as well as desire.
In simplistic generalities, we can take a view of two experience categories that B2B buyers may seek:
In this situation, a buyer may want to experience a re-buy that reaffirms his or her decision to continue a relationship. Even in modified re-buy situations, the buyer may be looking for an experience where they can perform the modifications themselves. The difference in the modern social age is that buyer expectations have changed. If companies have not adapted their businesses to enhanced online and social capabilities, they may very well be placing artificial barriers in front of their buyers who are seeking an entirely different straight re-buy or modified re-buy experience than in the past. As consumer-like experiences become more desired in business marketplaces, companies will need to rethink many aspects of their sales and service capabilities as well as interactions. This includes taking a hard look at barriers they may be putting up in front of their buyers unintentionally.
In those situations where buyers are actively seeking assistance, the cumulative experiences of the assistance they receive are becoming important factors in their decisions. In situations of modified re-buy and new buy, organizations today must look not only towards Intelligent Engagement as mention in my previous article, but they must examine and establish a balance between assistance and empowerment. Plainly speaking, what companies have to be careful about is how long-ago established internal processes may not be fulfilling buyer expectations for an experience. It seems to me, as observed in recent qualitative research, that buyers wanting assistance also want to feel empowered to act on their own on different levels without the excessive "hand-holding" companies feel they've gain permission to exercise.
What is becoming more apparent is that companies in the near future will need to build adaptive capabilities for enabling experiential buying. In such a way that it allows for buyers themselves to create their own adaptive differentiated experiences. Buyers enabled to create their experiences of finding the right knowledge at the right time at the right place at the right interaction level and at the right solution. Companies that can figure out how to get this experiential buying formula right – will have the competitive advantage going forward.