Build and They Will Come (As Long as Your B2B Apps Feature Powerful Psychological Drivers)
Business-to-Business (B2B) applications must walk that fine line between self-service convenience and full feature functionality, without which they will only result in sunk costs. Recent McKinsey research on decision-makers’ behaviour globally across industries since the crisis began reveals that the big digital shift is here to stay. McKinsey Covid19 B2B Sales reports find that Indian companies in France, Spain, the UK, and Brazil have responded by changing B2B sales models. They now believe that companies “forced” to adopt digital in reaction to the widespread shutdowns in the early stages of COVID-19 to a growing conviction that digital is the way to go.
B2B apps require many times more investments and infrastructural backing than B2C, with very little room for error. The stakes are high, but your typical B2B user increasingly expects the same degree of convenience and UX ease as consumer-facing products. In my research and understanding these the are top four critical differences in B2B viz B2C apps:
Building a Relationship: The relationship-building process for B2B is far more in-depth and requires more time to be put into it. The B2B model emphasizes building a strong interpersonal relationship between the two companies. In return, it leads to a more loyal customer base that provides sustainable revenue throughout the year.
Developing a Customer Base: The customer base for B2B and B2C are the opposites of each other, and thus the customer success process is also vastly different. For B2C, the customer base’s size is far more extensive than B2B, but the average returns per sale for B2C are also much lower.
The movement from Customer’s Journey to Customer Success: The customer success process is always a journey; however, it is relatively shorter for B2C. The B2B customer success process is much more in-depth and goes through several stakeholders within the company. There is a need to appeal to the business owners’ emotional and rational decision-making process to arrive at a deal that is a good fit for both parties. For this, the customer journey requires a far more personal and hands-on approach. The process also considers legal formalities and requires open communications through regular calls or meetings throughout the entire customer success journey.
The Complexity of Issues: While every business would like to have their customers never face any issues with their product or services, some customers will eventually encounter problems. Since the type of product or services bought under B2B tends to be more sophisticated, the issues also tend to be more complex and requires a dedicated team with constant back and forth communication to resolve the issue.
Thus it is not surprising to note that 70% of all B2B applications grew in the workplace, in organizations exits a widespread need to streamline their business functions, support global operations, simplify communications, and increase employee productivity. The other largest community users of B2B mobile apps were the providers serving large organizations and enterprises. They faced the most considerable disruption as they had not invested sufficiently in B2C digital assets driving them to adopt B2B eCommerce apps and services. Becoming large adopters allowed them to provide unparalleled customer service to their clients and provide an experience that enhances the digital commerce journey. The investment required it provides an omnichannel experience for the users, which facilitates the business’s growth.
Worryingly, the retention rate of applications is declining, witnessing a decrease of 12% this year.
In this environment, B2B application providers — both internally and externally — must take a cold hard look at their interface design if they are to remain “sticky” enough for the average business user. It means reimagining products from a psychological vantage point, gaining from users’ innate psychological drivers.
Self-Service as an Engagement Fulcrum
Self-service is an integral part of the application experience, more so for B2B. Not only does it serve the convenient purpose of solving user queries with minimal intervention and delays (letting users get back to work faster), but it also actively empowers the user. Successful self-service delivery will leave your users with a sense of “achievement” that necessarily arises from an act of self-sufficiency.
Therefore, effective self-service integration within your B2B service or product acts as the fulcrum to hold user attention and garner engagement.
It also makes the user more likely to return to the application, seeking out a repetition of that positive emotion the next time they have a business need or query. In this way, your product is likely to stand out against other competing providers offering the same service.
But not every B2B user persona is attuned to self-service. Among five distinct user types, self-service readiness, approach, and expectation will vary — and apps that can mould these variables for maximum readiness can gain a competitive advantage.
5 User Types with Varying Adoption Propensities
B2B users broadly classified into five types based on their psychological drivers:
- Transactional — They act as a simple intermediary for a larger business organization, with little to no interest in decision-making. Readiness for self-service is minimal, with plenty of opportunities for intervention by the B2B app provider.
- Traditional self-service mindset — The user turns self-service only for minor fixes and repairs to keep the product running in service of the business. A large portion of your B2B user base caters to this profile.
- The value generator — The user opts for self-service (indeed the entire app experience) to generate ongoing, incremental value for themselves, the business organization, or both. It is the ideal profile towards which you should be “nudging” users.
- Intentional — The user actively offers feedback on the app and self-service experience, acting almost as an aid for the B2B provider in their product development journey. The intentional user subsumes the drivers of the previous three types.
- Transformative — These are instances when users reimagine the product for use cases outside of the provider’s roadmap. No intervention is necessary for adoption here, and frequently the B2B provider will try to absorb the user’s ideas through hiring, M&A, IP purchase, etc.
When building a B2B application, the first three user types deserve the most attention, specifically using psychological drivers to nudge users from type 1 to type 2 and ultimately type 3.
Recommended Interventions to Shape User Behavior and Increase Adoption Rates
To encourage maximum adoption for B2B apps and self-services catalogues, you must first inspire behavioural change through easy, engaging access to knowledge content.
There are two psychological drivers you can gain from when achieving this:
● Avoidance of adverse impacts — Humans are intrinsically hardwired to practice release wherever there is perceived risk or extra efforts. You can turn this into application engagement by making users aware of what they are successfully avoiding. For example, a simple Ui intervention like stating the estimated wait time on a conversational window lets users gauge how much time they are saving and stay on the app.
● The realization of positive impacts — Like avoidance, the realization can also be a powerful prompter for behavioural change. A user unwilling to share their data with an app provider might agree to do so if they perceive an incentive — e.g., a more personalized experience. Once again, the provider needs to make these impacts explicit about encouraging adoption.
As you can see, users will be likely to change behaviour and act towards high app adoption only when they have the requisite knowledge and situations to make psychologically informed decisions. For this reason, application providers (both third-party and in-house) must pay social attention to how their knowledge content repository is crafted, designed, and delivered if they are to turn transactional users into interested value generators — prime candidates for adoption.
If these ideas sound interesting, please email me at Arvind@am-pmassociates.com to continue this conversation.