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Blurring the lines between B2C and B2B

Like so many of the comfy business contructs that no longer seem to make sense (The Five Forces, The Four P’s and the Three Whatevers…,) the traditional divides of B2B and B2C are becoming less meaningful every day. What has tended to differentiate B2B and B2C has been the nature of their relationships – sustained vs. transactional and their channels – direct vs. intermediated.

But there is a lot that B2B can learn from B2C’s emphasis on deep customer insight, rapid sensing, adaptation to trends and multi-channel engagement and that B2C can learn from B2B’s emphasis on building sustained relationships, providing outcome-based solutions and customizing to unique needs. This is more than the old adage that “customers are consumers too” which applies when companies are in dual B2B and B2C spaces like technology, courier and transportation.

It’s a real opportunity to combine the energy of a consumer orientation with the longer view of the B2B relationship. Big data may be the instrument that makes this possible with the endless supply of market, customer and consumer insight it represents. But some of it is just attitude and being open to approaches that challenge traditional approaches.

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