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NRF 2017: What B2B Companies Can Learn From Retailers

1NRFThe B2B and B2C landscapes are quite different, but there are some things the two industries can learn from each other when it comes to customer-facing strategies and technology.

Last week, myself and editors from Demand Gen Report’s sister site, Retail TouchPoints, attended the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show in New York. The event brought together close to 35,000 retail professionals and vendors from around the world to present educational sessions, discuss trends in customer-facing retail strategies and display the newest technologies.

While the event was strictly B2C, I kept my B2B hat on, and I discovered three insights from NRF that B2B marketers can incorporate in their initiatives:

1. Watch Out For Gen Z

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It’s never too early to think about the next generation of buyers and employees. While B2B companies should still pay attention to Millennials, Generation Z is the next big cohort marketers should set their sites on.

Data from an IBM study on Gen Z presented at NRF painted them as a mobile-driven, fast-moving group:

  • 60% of Gen Z respondents said they will not use an app or website that is slow to load;
  • 73% use their mobile phones to text and chat, and 28% use mobile to “learn new things;” and
  • 46% agree that recommendations and opinions from friends matter to them when choosing a brand.

2. Savvy Buyers Need Contact With Savvy Employees  

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Today’s savvy consumers (or buyers in B2B’s case) are well informed and know what they want before even speaking with a sales rep. It’s critical to ensure your staff is well educated on all aspects of the company and its products to ensure they can be of help to buyers and engage anyone who comes walking through the door or starts engaging online.

A variety of vendors at NRF showcased the importance of paying attention to the AX, or Associate Experience. For example, SATO Global Solutions launched a platform that leverages shared data to improve sales associate efficiency among other features. This, in turn, empowers sales with the information needed to create a seamless customer experience.

On a B2B level, ensuring an efficient task management system is in place to keep business teams aligned is crucial.

3. Mobile And Bots Permeate The Customer Experience

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Mobile is taking over both the B2B and B2C landscape, especially as more Millennials (and Gen Z’ers) make their way to the workplace. Just as retailers need to make their customer experiences more mobile-friendly, B2B marketers need to make their business, sales reps and content easily accessible through mobile devices.

There were many new solutions on display at NRF around chatbots and messaging apps to connect with consumers. For example, 1-800-Flowers.com recently partnered with IBM to create GWYN, a personal shopper in the form of a chatbot that leverages Watson technology to pair a customer with the perfect gift.

Think about how this type of AI-powered tool can help businesses pair a buyer with a relevant solution for their business and sustain a dialogue with them. It has the potential to be a CX win and an extension of the sales team.

Do you have other ideas you’ve implemented in your B2B marketing that were inspired by B2C? Tell us in the comments section.