Consumerization of B2B Software

Date:   Monday , January 30, 2017

Headquartered in New Delhi, Vantage Circle is India’s leading web based employee privilege platform reaching out to working professionals with an array of services to pick from, for both employers and employees, advantageous to either parties.

B2B Software gets a Consumer Facelift

How do you normally buy anything as a consumer? Well you probably compare products, seek opinion, read reviews, and test the same if that is an option and then buy. This is typically what is considered B2C (Business to Consumer) behaviour. However, businesses are people too and there are a lot of transactions that happen among businesses which is B2B (Business to Business). And, it is in this B2B space that consumerization is calling the shots. Historically centralized IT departments drove adoption of technology within businesses large and small, but today user-level adoption is the norm. Today’s business users drive enterprise technology adoption. So, whether it is tablets and smart phones via Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement or Software as a Service (SaaS) tools like Yammer, Salesforce, and others (most of which started bottom up at the user or workgroup level, not enterprise-wide from top down), regular users are driving new software purchases. Today B2B marketers need to shift their thought process like their peers in the B2C marketing space as they are marketing to an audience that is increasingly behaving like a consumer audience.

End User Disconnect

In the B2B space, however, the drive for greater digitisation has only just begun to ripple down due to the consumerization of the B2B buyer. Again, most enterprise software followed this trend where the offering is functionally sufficient, but poorly designed and often difficult to use. This category of software is typically characterized as ‘feature-rich’ In fact, these products are sold as lists of features to C-suite executives, and the conventional wisdom over many years has been that the package with the most features wins. Unfortunately, the executive who signs the check rarely has to actually use the product he just bought and the exact same features that look so good in a PowerPoint actually manifest as a mess of unusable complexity for the end user in the firm. For decades, B2B application developers could skip on innovating in the presentation layer. This was in part because purchase decisions were driven by other factors, but also because until comparatively recently most end users did not use software and digital media that much in their personal lives.

Dawn of Digitisation

Now, however things are changing as end users spend as much of their personal time with software (in the form of social networks, tablet/smartphone apps, streaming media and the like) as they do with business software. This has made them become more discerning buyers and B2B software can no longer have an unfriendly or illogical user interface. At least, it needs to match the end user’s need for ease of use and aesthetics that all consumer web products users are used to. After all, today it is no longer just the professional buyer that businesses are trying to please. Rather, it is the consumer behind the professional buyer with an increasingly critical eye for value and strong influence over the tools they use in the workplace that needs to be catered to.

Changing Vistas

Vantage Circle has seen the impact of these changes closely as they have been selling to corporates for the last six years. The shift has been slow but distinct and increasingly businesses realise that they do not need all the features that are being sold to them quite indiscriminately. The simple way to understand this is that an iPhone is not required where a much lower cost device will do what is required. What companies are now looking for is an easy way to perform the task and not think about every possible requirement in the future which also increases the cost. Today technology and cloud services are completely changing the workspace. Likewise, data is a new age resource and today information is being used for insights. Personal engagement rather than advertisements matter and this is driving consumerization in the B2B space. This change is being spearheaded by the new age millennials who are changing the workspace with their career goals and aspirations. Naturally the impact on B2B marketing is profound to say on the least. Marketing in this space needs to get real, relevant and ready to face these new age challenges. The idea is to add that emotional angle to the relationship that will tilt the scales.

Road Ahead

Today heads of organizations, whether it is the CEO or Head of Marketing, are focusing on brands as they play an important role in the overall marketing functions. Improving brand position is the key element in the marketing department\'s role and naturally there is a shift towards products and services that aid in this need. Technology vendors are now becoming sensitive to the fact that apart from product functionality and support that is in tune with user’s needs, they must also make an effort to build relationships and a rapport with their customers. By doing this, they will be able to take the transactional relationship beyond to build a bond based on trust and human interaction. Naturally, this shift will encourage marketers to become more engaging, creative, and bold and their product/service will not just be more user-friendly, but intuitive and accessible to business users.