Not long ago, the terms business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) described two different worlds. The brand names in the B2B space were nearly entirely unknown in the B2C market. The customer base, innovation cycles and revenue models differed. Few companies tried to play in both areas, as few had the financial means to do so.
But this is clearly changing. Google and SAP have announced a partnership around Google Work. Apple is forging its way into the B2B market through more concerted tie ups. And consumer marketplaces like eBay and MercadoLibre are rapidly moving into the B2B space through partnerships with business networks like SAP Ariba.
CLAIM YOUR FREE COPY: SolutionMap℠ — E-Procurement and Invoice-to-Pay, Q2 2017
All of this begs a few questions.
First, will technology companies in the future need to be able to serve both consumers and enterprise customers to succeed? The consumer is clearly in the driver’s seat today, setting the agenda for all industries. For a CIO, adoption of solutions has become just as important as portfolio considerations. With no adoption, there is no business impact.
Just like the consumer technologies we use to shop, share and consume, we expect our business software to make our lives easy. To be intelligent and deliver experiences that are personal and relevant. To know things about us and anticipate our needs within the context of our actions and to execute them in line with our personal preferences and company policies. Today’s employees want things to be as easy for them when they walk in the office on Monday as they were at home over the weekend. Successful companies in the B2B space need to develop solutions with this in mind.
Second, are today’s B2B companies able to bridge the gap to the consumer, or will B2C companies win over the enterprise customer?
A case can be made for each. B2C companies know what it takes to provide simple solutions and have the expertise to drive adoption. What they miss is the ability to scale to the needs of the enterprise. B2B companies, on the other hand, know how to handle complexity. But they need to become simple and learn to think from a consumer point of view. And they must expand their brands into unfamiliar territories. Neither are simple propositions. But in partnering to leverage their respective strengths, B2C and B2B firms can more easily overcome them and quickly capitalize on the opportunities before them.
The lines between B2C and B2B are clearly blurred. And as our personal and business lives — and the technologies used to drive them — continue to become more intertwined, it’s likely they may altogether disappear.