Speakers at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce '11 in San Francisco last week shared stats that continue to reinforce the idea that people are far ahead of companies in their adoption of the social web in their personal and business lives. In their business lives, 84 percent of B2B buyers begin their research for information on the social web, roughly the same as B2C buyers. They are looking for product and service specs and information, performance stats, pricing, and delivery/implementation info in an easy research and purchase experience, same as B2C. And they are actively seeking out objective information (e.g., testimonials/references) from others like them who use the product or service; user-generated content (UGC), same as B2C. There are both similarities and differences between B2B and B2C. B2B marketers can benefit from the B2C learnings on the social web, and cut the time in half to realize tangible, measurable benefit.
As shown below, in the past seven years, B2C has begun generating and displaying UGC in the form of reviews and Q&A; two UGC formats that have now reached ubiquity. Social sharing and Facebook's "like" button have been adopted much faster, reaching scale in just three years.
I predict B2B will take advantage of these social commerce tools and adopt at scale within three years vs. B2C's seven-year adoption pace.
I predict B2B will adopt these social commerce tools faster for three reasons:
It just makes sense: Staples (has UGC) vs. Grainger (no UGC).
Staples, whose target user is a small business employee, sells some products that are similar to those sold by Grainger, another B2B marketer. In this example, with a similar product, Staples is using UGC to its benefit. Grainger is not.
A core difference between B2B and B2C involves the methods to generate UGC. Content generation needs to be at the core of the social effort in B2B. UGC quantity, product/service coverage rate, and distribution matter. Without B2B customers generating the content, there isn't the same distribution, SEO to the product/service page or product/service coverage. Without product/service coverage (at least one review on the page), there is no conversion impact benefit from a good review.
B2B marketers need to get started. Here are five tips to generate content in B2B:
Test, learn, and improve.
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Cathy has over 20 years of experience in both multichannel and online retail and a deep understanding of consumer needs and goals. Cathy's proven track record spans a range of industries and companies, from start-up ventures to multibillion dollar operations. Cathy is currently a Board Member at Ulta Beauty (ULTA), the largest beauty retailer that provides one-stop shopping for prestige, mass, and salon products and salon services in the United States. She has served as SVP, marketing & sales at PowerReviews, the world's most widely deployed social commerce platform, where she was responsible for overseeing the company's rapid customer and revenue growth. Prior to PowerReviews, Cathy held executive-level positions at Walmart: chief marketing officer Walmart.com, vice president of market development, global e-commerce, and vice president of product management and multichannel integration. Ms. Halligan has also held executive positions with leading retailers Williams-Sonoma, Gymboree, and Blue Nile, and was an associate partner at Prophet, a leading management consulting firm. She started her career as a marketing coordinator at Lands' End.
For real-time social commerce news and updates, follow Cathy on Twitter at @CathyHalligan.
March 19, 2014