B2C vs B2B Customer Experience: How CX is Strategized & Differentiated

A customer purchasing an item in a B2C environment

When strategizing a CX program, it’s important to understand the difference between B2C and B2B customer experiences.

Business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) describe the type of buyer for a brand’s products and services. B2B organizations provide offerings for other businesses and their employees, whereas B2C organizations provide products and services to individual consumers. Some organizations also operate in both areas, serving other businesses and individual consumers simultaneously.

Customer experience (CX) is important for B2B and B2C organizations, but how a successful CX program functions is different.

B2B customer experience focuses on the experiences companies, teams, and employees have with a brand. B2C customer experience, on the other hand, focuses on each consumer. So it’s unsurprising that, given the unique buyers, an approach to CX for one type of organization can’t be replicated for the other type.

Customer Experience for B2C & B2B: The Definitions Explained

Chances are you’re already familiar with the definition of customer experience, either through research or real-world practice as a CX professional. But what you may be missing is a strategy built purposefully for your target audience. When discussing B2C and B2B customer experience, the target audience is front and center.

Here are the definitions for B2C customer experience and B2B customer experience.

What is B2C customer experience?

B2C customer experience is defined as the perceptions that individual customers have of a brand over time as a result of their interactions across all touchpoints throughout the journey.

Interactions and touchpoints include everything from a website visit to email communication with a customer service representative to an in-app checkout process. Customer perceptions are shaped based on what occurs during these interactions and touchpoints. B2C organizations then have the opportunity to use a CX program to personalize these experiences and reduce friction.

What is B2B customer experience?

B2B customer experience is defined as the perceptions other businesses have of an organization over time as a result of their interactions across all touchpoints throughout the journey.

In the case of B2B organizations, the interactions and touchpoints are similar. B2B organizations provide a website and other channels such as a contact center to interact, but the difference is a much more complex buying process. Transactions for a B2B organization usually aren’t instantaneous — they take weeks or months to complete.

B2B organizations can still drive loyalty, though, by capturing and analyzing customer signals and customer feedback from buyers to predict behavior and take action to improve the B2B customer experience.

Characteristics of B2C Customer Experience & B2B Customer Experience

Understanding the definition of B2C customer experience and B2B customer experience is foundational. Next, you need to know the unique characteristics of how each CX program is executed.

Let’s take a look at the most important characteristics differentiating B2C customer experience from B2B customer experience.

The unique characteristics of the B2C customer experience

  • B2C organizations rely on forging emotional connections with individual customers to increase loyalty and repeat purchases.
  • B2C companies serve more diverse customer bases encompassing a wider range of needs, preferences, and tastes, making collecting customer signals and tracking customer feedback over time all the more critical.
  • B2C customers expect seamless experiences across channels and will switch to a competitor as a result of having a poor experience.

Unique characteristics of B2B customer experience

  • B2B relationships and journeys are more complex than individual B2C customer relationships and journeys — B2B customers can include multiple representatives from a given company, each with different titles, areas of expertise, locations, product use cases, and needs.
  • Unlike B2C customers, not all B2B customers have buying power and final decision-making.
  • B2B conversions and sales often rely on the input and buy-in of many stakeholders over a longer period of time compared to a typical B2C conversion.
  • B2B customers usually have higher-touch relationships and interactions with B2B company employees compared to B2C customers, making it all the more important to provide customer feedback and customer experience insights to these employees so they can work to strengthen these relationships.
  • B2B customers expect more tailored experiences, products, and services to meet their organizations’ unique needs, while B2C tends to offer less customized products and services.

How to Improve B2C & B2B Customer Experience

Improving customer experience is a continuous effort. If a brand stays stagnant, it risks the competition catching up and stealing away customers. While there are general actions both B2C and B2B organizations may take, the actual path to improving CX is different in a few areas.

Here’s what research-backed data tells us about improving B2C customer experience and B2B customer experience.

How to improve B2C customer experience

By studying B2C customer experience across more than 580 companies, researchers found that, compared with organizations with lagging CX programs, businesses with leading CX programs leverage several approaches to enhance B2C customer experience.

1. Capture enough customer feedback data and customer signals to understand the customer experience. Leaders are 2.5x more likely than laggards to say they have sufficient data to understand their key customer segments.

2. Analyze customer data more frequently. Forty-seven percent of CX leaders analyze customer data at least on a monthly basis, compared to only 27% of CX laggards.

3. Democratize access to CX data across the organization. Compared to CX laggards, CX leaders are 3.5x more likely to enable their employees to use CX data to support their day-to-day decision-making.

4. Use technology to automate action and follow up on customer feedback. Fifty-four percent of CX leaders say they do this, compared with only 24% of CX laggards.

Researchers found that these strategies can really move the needle on business outcomes. B2C leaders with leading CX programs are 26x more likely than laggards to achieve revenue growth of 20% or more and 2.8x more likely than laggards to meet their financial targets and be seen as a great place to work.

How to improve B2B customer experience

A study that analyzed the B2B customer experience of 175 companies found that, compared with organizations with low-performing CX programs, businesses with top-performing CX programs employ the following strategies to improve the B2B customer experience.

1. Prioritize customers over sales, investing in customer-related tools and placing a premium on customer and employee experience.

2. Collect customer feedback across channels in real time, both structured data and unstructured data. Half of top-performing B2Bs (50%) measure customer feedback across all channels, compared with only 17% of low-performing ones.

3. Make customer experience a priority across the organization, setting customer experience goals across teams. Nearly half (46%) of top-performing B2Bs establish goals and communicate how they align with the company’s customer experience strategy, compared to just 13% of low performers.

4. Leverage employee insights and ideas to improve the customer experience — 91% of B2B leaders do this compared with only 62% of laggards.

Researchers found that these efforts can pay off — B2B leaders with top-performing customer experience programs are 4.5x more likely than their lower-performing counterparts to achieve revenue growth of more than 20%.

Bottom Line: Both B2C & B2B Companies Need to Invest in CX

While the B2B and B2C customer experience aren’t identical — and tactics used to understand and optimize the CX vary between B2C and B2B companies — at the end of the day, improving customer experience is a winning strategy for both types of businesses. Whether B2B or B2C, brands that gain the lead by implementing a strong customer experience program always have the advantage over their competition.