What is “Total Experience” and why does it matter? Would you know it when you saw it? The simple answer is this: Total Experience (TX) is when your brand or business fosters trust across all touchpoints in a relationship.
Years ago we would have called that good brand management. But that was back when the brand created the narrative, and B2B customers followed. Today, B2B Total Experience (BTX) means not only sharing and co-creating the narrative, but also letting your internal and external customers, as well as extended value-chain participants, help you drive your brand.
Gartner provides a definition of Total Experience as part of their Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2022. They define TX as “a business strategy that combines the disciplines of customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX), user experience (UX) and multi-experience (MX) [where] the goal of TX is to drive greater customer and employee confidence, satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.”
At our B2B digital commerce agency, Xngage, we work with many vertical industries with deep value-chain relationships. The best manufacturers and distributors take a different approach than their peers: they focus on three main relationships - employees, customers and influencers - and listen and learn with them.
The Experiential Foundation: Employees
A criterion of Gartner’s TX definition is EX, or employee experience. Great B2B companies - and in our world, great B2B digital commerce leaders - leverage employee data alongside of Big Data. If you are well-versed in financial analysis, macroeconomic trends, and web analytics and you’re mining insights, then that’s great, but not the whole picture. If your firm also focuses on data that leverages employee insights, then jump to the head of the line.
Employee data may include a variety of metrics, some of which are psychographic or demographic in nature, like language preference. In the global economy, offering websites that let B2B employees communicate online in their preferred language shows empathy and builds trust. And it may eventually give rise to a new market for which these same proud employees could be willing ambassadors of your business. Employee data may include technographic metrics, such as registered web users. We promote websites that assist both B2B buyers AND sellers, and clients who know the number of internal users who onboarded to the new website and how they’re using it, see greater success. When onboarded salespeople use their website to create custom order guides for buyers, it’s a win-win: the B2B seller curates a better buyer solution and that helps the B2B buyer complete the customer journey faster. It’s a virtuous cycle.
Employees, at core, are the most potent advocates and critics of your business. When they are consulted, encouraged and supported during a web development project, another key metric emerges: employee satisfaction. While there is an ongoing debate how to measure and use this metric, statistics show that more satisfied employees are more committed and collaborative, just like we would like all relationships to be.
The Next Experience Layer: Customers
B2B manufacturers and distributors have leaned heavily into the customer-centric approach. Strategy gurus have long proselytized about the B2B “customer of one” and personalizing their experiences in all commerce channels. In ecommerce, adding authentication, which allows B2B companies to track and analyze customer viewing and purchasing habits, has driven B2B personalization into an expectation. So what’s next? Voice Commerce and Visual Commerce.
When done well, voice commerce combines transactional data like order histories and bills of material with a front-end next generation application. An example of this might be job-site ordering during onsite assembly inspection, such as when an MRO operator inspects a combine and locates the cause of a malfunction. How much easier would it be for the operator to activate voice commerce, pulse order histories, and request AI-powered recommendations at a point of need, rather than do look-ups hours later in a truck or at a desk? Tightly-connected ERP, OMS, and Content-and-Commerce Systems that support hands-free access follows a growing trend for accessibility. And while altruistically it’s nice to do, it also improves B2B productivity and cycle time. Further, consulting your customers early in the process, e.g. using UX research to uncover their unmet needs, incorporates the voice of the customer (yes, pun intended!) making adoption easier, too.
The companion to voice commerce is visual commerce. The rise of virtual and augmented reality and mixed reality has made it easier to see a total product solution in a B2B environment. In the HVAC market, an exploded parts diagram for ventilation helps buyers and sellers to see the interconnected pieces within the context of the whole. The buyer may only need to replenish part numbers 15 and 16, and not the entire system. The benefits are clear for customers: less waste and potentially lower costs. Applying this in a real-time, field-based situation helps to reduce mis-ordering and potentially any inventory re-stocking fees as well. The technology in this space is poised for explosive growth as automation and 6D BIM modeling become more widely adopted in a variety of sectors.
The Cream of Experience Layers: Influencers
Finally, an often overlooked and misunderstood B2B relationship is your set of influencers. This is not the same as the boss telling the Operations Manager to order some parts. In a wide variety of B2B industries, there are subtle, collaborative, team-based buying behaviors to consider. If you are a B2B manufacturer selling into the long healthcare value chain, you are probably already aware of this. In healthcare procurement settings the buying team may consist of an Environmental Services Manager, an Infection Control professional, and a peer-review board, just to cite one example. While the price is always a critical component of the mix, the key to a positive outcome should include the right product and content combination as well. Providing the MSDS safety sheet alongside the outcome data alongside the patient acceptance data, and doing so in an easily consumable (and shareable) way, helps time-starved professionals choose your solution over others. We know of situations where clients lost their “done deal” when the winning competitor was well prepared with web-based FAQs, analysis, and an easy punch-out catalog system when the healthcare committee finally assembled in one room (virtual or otherwise) to make the decision.
Beyond collaborative decision-making influencers, there are also well-respected and well-researched B2B advisors who write about trends and their application. Good B2B companies bring these strategic thought leaders into their organizations to learn, and sometimes even to challenge the status quo. Proven, long-held belief systems are valuable, until your competition reframes your model and outperforms you. In the world of disruptive innovation, and powerful digital commerce, there are smart people who are taking note and providing thoughtful viewpoints on what that means for your business. Use them prodigiously.
Harnessing BTX for Your B2B Organization
Great companies don’t start and end with just employees, customers and influencers and their experiences. They actively look for gaps and test and learn their way through to better outcomes informed by a range of constituencies who want to participate with your brand. Letting those voices be heard and be part of the solution builds trust, confidence, and ultimately loyalty. And that makes selling less transactional and more margin-proof. How many times have you answered the question, “Why do you buy from X?” with an answer in the form of “We’ve built a trusted relationship.” That is mission accomplished for B2B Total Experience.
Share your story - we would love to help!
Whether you are ready to send out an RFP or you are just starting your digital transformation journey, we are here to assist you.