Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Divide and Conquer: Driving Growth With B2B Customer Segmentation 

In the eCommerce era, enterprise sales are increasingly conducted at arm’s length. Customers are going online to do their own research and figure out the exact products they need, and as a result, sellers are spending far less time dealing with buyers directly. Sellers, meanwhile, leverage digital tools to operate at an unprecedented scale and serve far more customers than they once did. Those two trends mean there’s far less scope for personal interactions. In fact, Gartner estimates that sales reps now accompany enterprise buyers for just 5% of their total customer journey. That’s a major challenge for sellers who are used to cultivating personal relationships and really getting to know the needs of individual high-value customers. To succeed, B2B businesses must find a way to deliver customized services and a personalized experience without sacrificing scalability or pestering buyers who’d rather fly solo. For many enterprise-focused eCommerce players, the answer lies in B2B customer segmentation.

What is B2B Customer Segmentation?

Simply put, enterprise customer segmentation means recognizing that your customers aren’t all identical and that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the best way to maximize sales. By grouping your customers into batches with roughly similar needs, it’s possible to develop a multi-pronged marketing and sales strategy that can deliver personalization at scale.

In B2C sales, you’ll often find segmentation strategies that focus on customer demographics, or that try to tailor offerings to customers based on their lifestyle, politics, or other personal factors. For obvious reasons, however, such approaches are less useful in the enterprise B2B space. 

Instead, effective enterprise segmentation strategies focus on customer type, with different eCommerce journeys depending on whether buyers are seeking small consumer-level purchases or placing large enterprise-grade orders. They might offer customization based on the buyer’s location, with localized language and currency options, but also messaging or discovery tailored to the needs of a given market. Or you might segment by product type: For instance, someone searching for food-grade glass containers might not need to know about your industrial packaging products. 

How to Segment Effectively

Effective segmentation is primarily a data problem: you need to know your customers and leverage your existing customer database to create subgroups with shared characteristics. Looking at factors such as company size is a good place to start, but try to dig deeper to identify characteristics that speak to the company’s underlying needs, including their buying behaviors or the markets they’re trying to address.

For obvious reasons, your eCommerce platform and your CRM system are your biggest allies in this process. If you’ve put the right digital infrastructure in place, capturing and analyzing data about your customers to derive actionable insights and break out useful segments gets a whole lot easier. 

Once you’ve built segments, you should aim to use your digital tools to drive value for those groupings. Marketing messaging can be tailored to each group, of course, but you can also use analytics — paired with insights from your human sales reps — to develop customized price lists and product offerings, helping to maximize profits per sale across your entire portfolio of customers.

Why Segmentation Matters

With an effective segmentation strategy, it’s possible to fine-tune the entire customer journey to the specific needs of subgroups of your customer base. With proper analytics and digital infrastructure in place, it’s often possible to deliver a degree of personalization that rivals a hands-on, rep-led customer journey — while still providing the scalable efficiencies of frictionless digital commerce. 

That’s better for your bottom line, of course. If you’re trying to sell bricks to carpenters, or roofing felt to electricians, then you’re missing out on the sales you’d capture if you offered a smarter and more targeted experience. At its best, B2B customer segmentation leads to pairing customers with the products they’re most likely to buy, driving up your revenues.  

Such an approach is also better for your customers, who get the self-serve experience they prefer while still getting relevant product listings and a richer overall customer journey. Trying to sell bricks to a carpenter is a waste of time both for you and the carpenter — and today’s enterprise buyers have enough on their plates without distractions in their purchasing experience.

Ultimately, a well-calibrated segmentation strategy strengthens your entire brand. When you serve up more relevant messaging, it’s far more likely to resonate with potential customers — and if you deliver a streamlined and focused customer journey, your company and its products are much more likely to remain top-of-mind for enterprise procurement teams.

Show Your Customers That You Care

Most importantly, effective enterprise customer segmentation helps to ensure that your customers don’t feel they’ve been left behind. Buyers may prefer to manage their own sales experience, but they also want to feel like they matter to the companies they’re buying from — and in a digital-first world, it’s easy for that to be forgotten.

With segmentation, you’re showing your customers that you still value their business, and care about their needs. At every step in the customer journey — from landing pages to checkout and beyond — your customer should feel like they come first, and that’s a lot easier if you aren’t treating every single buyer the exact same way.

The reality, after all, is that digital commerce means your sales reps are spending less time with any individual buyer. But it shouldn’t lead to your customers feeling like they matter less to you. Using data and technology, plus the hard-won experience of your human sales reps, it’s possible to put a B2B customer segmentation plan in place that not only boosts revenues and customer retention but also preserves and strengthens the customer relationships on which every B2B business depends. 

Yoav Kutner is the CEO and co-founder of Oro, Inc, which has created OroCommerce, the No.1 open-source eCommerce platform built for distributors, wholesalers, brands, and manufacturers. Yoav previously co-founded and served as the CTO of Magento.

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