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Traditionally, all industries have been grouped into two primary categories: B2C companies cater to individual end-users, while B2B companies are focused on providing products and services to other businesses. In recent years, however, various technologies have allowed brands to break down these barriers and create a hybrid model known as B2B2C, a business model in which brands are able to sell to distributors while simultaneously catering to customers, often through the use of an ecommerce platform.
This new model was the subject of “Changing the Game: How B2B2C is Gaining Ground On Traditional B2C Strategies,” a session at Loyalty Expo 2016, held May 24-26, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The four-person panel discussed various topics surrounding their loyalty efforts, and gave an inside look into their strategies for engaging customers.
“Customers are more accessible than ever,” said Lucy Scinocca, Director of Loyalty and Customer Insight, North America, Retail & Digital Marketing at book publisher Harlequin. “Because of that, we’ve had to develop ways to engage with these readers online and through various mobile aspects of our My Rewards program. These channels grant us additional avenues for engaging with our readers on a new level.”
Part of the B2B2C model is finding unexpected channels through which to sell. This was one strategy employed by Kaitlin Reiss, VP of Ecommerce at Edible Arrangements.
“We’ve been successful in working with a lot of car dealerships,” Reiss explained. “People definitely don’t associate our industry with theirs, but we made agreements that everyone who bought a car of a certain value would receive a free gift from us on behalf of the dealership. We created some case studies from that, and our franchisees are pursuing similar partnerships as a result. For us it’s all about breaking into a new industry, getting a few successful case studies under our belt, and using those to drive more sales.”
Defining the customer, as simple as it sounds, may be the single most important step in building B2B2C. This process is especially crucial for companies with multiple product lines.
“The first thing we needed to look at was the path to market,” said Malcolm Persaud, Sr. Manager of Product & Market Development at Panasonic. “[Building our B2B loyalty] was much different than our traditional retail. We sell HVAC units to contractors who then deliver them to our end users. As you can probably guess, that process quickly becomes very difficult to track and determine how we can best leverage each step. That was a very new hurdle for us, and one that we’re still getting used to.”
Among the most interesting developments to come out of this merging of B2B and B2C programs is the crossover of strategies that had previously been thought to be exclusive to one or the other. Many B2B strategies have now proven to be effective in B2C models, and vice versa.
“One B2C strategy that has become popular on the B2B side is our tiered system,” said Soraya DeCosta, Sr. Direct Marketing Manager at Lenovo. “Essentially, the more business you do with us, the more discount you’ll receive for continuing to engage with our company. That’s something you often see when dealing directly with consumers, and now we’re implementing it with our small business clients as well.”
As the line between B2C and B2B continues to blur, companies must not only innovate, but also look at old strategies in an entirely new light. This kind of change in perspective is often the spark needed for a radical shift in customer loyalty, and brands will continue to experiment in the hopes of initiating best practices for this new space.
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