Some insights from a podcast between Nick Hague of B2B International and Phil Clayton of Meta.
Let’s begin by thinking why Facebook, one of the best-known brands in the world, would without any pressing necessity, change its name to Meta. Meta means “beyond” or “after” (in Greek). Facebook could see a trend, one that has been developing over the years. It centres on the metaverse - a virtual world in which human beings can interact with each other as avatars (a digital personification of someone). Millions of people are already playing in the metaverse. They are likely to be younger rather than older and they are therefore the future generation. The metaverse began in gaming but is increasingly used in social media and is rapidly finding applications in entertainment, showing people around real estate as well as in training, meetings and e-commerce. The metaverse is moving beyond niche applications and is addressing business problems. The metaverse offers great opportunities for improving customer experience.
Let us step back a minute and think of the importance of brand building to companies. Historically this hasn't been a major role of Meta (Facebook) and other platforms as they have been more concentrated on helping companies find cost-effective leads. However 95% of people aren't in the market when you're speaking to them through any form of advertising. This means that the most effective advertising is that which builds a memorable brand with a compelling message so that when someone is ready to get the cash out of their pockets, the brand is remembered and requested.
We will come back to the importance of brand in a minute. Let us now think about the role of digital in customer experience. Digital platforms enable people to stay connected even though at a distance. This is good but it is a potential problem for customer experience which has historically been built on close physical relationships. Can we achieve this digitally?
Now we must think about business decision making. It is arguably a more complex process than consumer decision-making. A bad decision in business could impact the company and have dire consequences for lots of people and a significant amount of money. It is not surprising therefore that business to business decisions are deliberated by more people and for longer.
Baby boomers have been around a good while and inevitably have picked up a good deal of knowledge on brands that are being considered. This means that they can and do make quicker decisions without the research and consideration that is given by their younger colleagues. And where do millennials look for information – they look on social media. They consult the same sources that they use regularly in their domestic life – Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.
Platforms that offer video are also extremely important in B2B markets. 50% of people making a business to business decision say that they have recently seen their favoured brand on YouTube. (Video delivers three times the power of a text post). And in the same vein, Instagram is a popular platform for influencers in both retail and business to business markets.
There needs to be different communications at different times in the customer journey. At the beginning of the customer journey the business decision maker is building a consideration set and looking for quick and sometimes quite basic information that allows comparisons. Such information can be found on websites or discussion platforms. In the middle of the process it becomes important to get information on strengths and weaknesses of brands so that they can be prioritised. For this a different source of communication may be required for example from analysts’ reviews. At the end of the deliberations people like to understand the pros and cons of different offers in order to make their choice. This may entail a return to websites where there will be a deeper dive than that that took place quite some weeks ago.
Buyers want to ask questions along the whole of the journey. They want to feel engaged and this demands interaction whether digitally or in person. Once more we have to nuance the decision-making process because different people want different types of engagement. Some may want a business lunch or a company visit while others are happy to rely on digital messages.
For those of us in the world of customer experience this means we have to have a clear view on what the problem is that the customer wants to solve or, as Clayton Christensen would say, the jobs that are to be done. It's important that we think about what advice people want and then translate this into an easily understood message so that it can be delivered digitally.
The metaverse can help us do this in numerous ways. A starting place is augmented reality, bringing the brand to life in training, meetings, exhibitions and demos. It provides an opportunity to get behind the scenes in a business to business company. It allows a company to put the human face on a company at all levels within that firm. It brings customer experience on to a new level. This is not something that is years away and can be ignored. We need to begin now learning how to use the metaverse to communicate with those younger decision-makers who are increasingly in play.