Today's consumers are making demands on businesses like never before. Demands that businesses understand their needs and desires, message/market to them in their preferred manner, provide them with flexible purchasing and shipping options, and give consumers the tools needed for them to take control of as many facets of the process as possible. This “B2Me” phenomenon is all about “me” (the individual consumer) and how consumers are pushing businesses in ways they never have before.
B2C and B2B marketing approaches have been around for years and largely become a way of life for most businesses. But “B2Me” is like the new kid on the block that is shaking things up. The B2Me concept essentially is about marketing (and delivering!) to a specific individual (“me”) based on the needs and desires of that individual. But unlike B2C where businesses are pushing information to groups of like consumers, todayâ€™s consumers and their growing use of digital devices are leading the pull of B2Me by demanding that businesses better understand them as an individual and respond to their needs.
B2Me Marketing. Wait, you say, haven't we been doing B2Me for years? Isn't that what direct mail/target marketing is all about? What's the real difference between B2B/C and B2Me after all? They are both targeted marketing approaches, aren't they?
Well, think of B2Me as targeted marketing on steroids, and as more of a “pull” strategy coming from consumer demands than a “push” strategy where businesses set the stage. Where B2C is marketing to a group of consumers with common attributes (e.g., female golfers aged 30-40 in the greater Washington, DC area), B2Me is marketing to a specific individual (there's that “me”again!).
B2Me goes beyond marketing in terms of engagement with the consumer, it also encompasses how businesses reach/message the consumer, how they interact with that consumer, and even how they ultimately deliver purchased goods to the consumer. Ultimately it's about building a relationship between the business and individual and continually engaging in ways to learn more about that individual's needs and then respond to those needs.
The tremendous growth in consumer use of digital devices is feeding the B2Me movement. Consumers are spending more time on digital devices and using them in ways that businesses are scrambling to keep up with. Businesses are trying to figure out the best ways to message consumers about their products/services and build consumer relationships, both in digital and physical spaces.
According to PwC's 2015 Annual Global Total Retail Consumer Survey, Retailers and the Age of Disruption, 47% of respondents had used a mobile/smart phone to make a purchase, compared to 30% two years ago. While more than half of the study's 19,000+ respondents said they had never used a mobile phone or tablet for shopping, however, further survey results revealed that many respondents used mobile devices for pre-payment shopping activity such as comparing prices or locating stores. [T]he smart phone is also a permanent connection between retailer and consumer that allows continual exchange and feedback from one to the other,P PwC reported.
B2Me and Data. That potential feedback loop between the business and consumer is a critical component of B2Me, and one of many game-changers to the industry. We've all been talking about “big data” and what it means in terms of customer engagement for some time now, but B2Me can only be successfully accomplished by businesses with the mechanisms and analytics in place to collect meaningful data about consumer needs and translate that data into individualized consumer experiences.
In B2Me, information equals power. Businesses need to obtain information to understand what consumers want and how/where/when they want it. Consumers today expect businesses to understand them but also to respect their privacy rights. Achieving that balance can be tricky.
Teradata's 2015 Global Data-Driven Marketing Survey: Progressing Toward True Individualization, looks at data trends and developments based on a worldwide survey representing all major industries. How can we better acquire and retain customers? is the most challenging question selected by the largest percentage of marketing executives (38%), Teradata reported, noting that [i]t should not come as a surprise then that the types of insights from data that companies collect, as well as their top priorities, are centered around the customer.The focus on the customer has sharpened, thanks to individualized insights, compared with 2013, it said.
Studies also point to the need for marketers to deliver individualized messages across multiple channels the consumer is accessing, such as web site, mobile devices, social media, and more. Messaging needs to be consistent and relevant as well as individualized in the B2Me world.
And with the technology and data points available to businesses today, new approaches are being formed to use data as predictive analytics to anticipate consumer behaviors and responses.
B2Me Delivery and Returns. In no space is the B2Me phenomenon more apparent than the changes we are seeing in the delivery and return of purchased goods. Consumers want choices not only on the speed of delivery of their purchased goods (e.g., same day, next day, Sunday, time-block specific, etc.), they also want choices on where their goods are delivered (home, office, central pick-up point, in-store, etc.), how delivers those goods and how, and where/how they can make returns of purchased goods and using what carrier.
According to recently published research by Accenture, parcel delivery companies need to adjust to empowered, digital consumers who have more choices and options for delivery services. Accenture said that successful courier-express-parcel (CEP) companies will focus on the recipient and deliver on consumers wish lists, including more control over how/when/where their parcels are delivered, new secure, 24/7 delivery location options, and a flexible choice of delivery speeds/times at different price points.
The growing concept of deliver to the person vs. traditional models of deliver to the address is changing the ways in which businesses and supply chain partners look at shipping. Instead of planning delivery to a specific address, consumers are looking for more dynamic and flexible options for delivery of their goods â€“ focused not just on where they live, but often on where they are traveling, shopping, working or visiting.
How is the delivery supply chain responding to these growing customer demands? In recognition that the traditional one size fits all model of delivery no longer works with today's consumers, the top players in the parcel delivery market continue to develop tools for customers to take more control over their delivery preferences. We are also seeing new players attempt to fill gaps in the parcel delivery market or compete on price point, such as Uber -- which recently announced expansion of its UberRush service, to include parcel delivery in the San Francisco area-- and Amazon “ which is testing a new Flex package delivery service which uses private drivers for delivery similar to the Uber concept.
B2Me may have different ramifications in different countries, of course. According to the recently published 2015 Hermes International Shopping Survey conducted with consumers in the UK and Germany, one of the most popular delivery innovation ideas is that of the installation of a secure box outside the home to accommodate small/medium-sized parcels, accessed by a secure PIN number. Another popular idea was the notion of paying an annual delivery subscription fee to the courier vs. paying for each shipment (similar to the Amazon Prime model).
Results from the recent Pitney Bowes 2015 Holiday Shipping Survey show that US consumers want options they can select to meet their shopping, shipping and returns preferences. The survey showed a 23% increase over last year in the number of respondents that said shipping options are an important factor in their overall shopping experience (up to 93%), and 88% of respondents find free shipping with a 5-7 day delivery more attractive than paying a fee for 1-2 day delivery.
In addition to changes in the location and manner in which goods are delivered to consumers, the actual receptacle in which parcels are delivered also is a changing concept within the industry. The Postal Service has recently changed its standard mailbox specifications to accommodate larger pieces, and is also continuing to explore GoPost central parcel locker offerings. Others continue to experiment with retail location (e.g., “Click & Collect”) pick-up offerings, or 24/7 carrier-agnostic parcel lockers.
Sidebar: Learn More About How B2Me is Re-Shaping our Industry. B2Me: Game Changersâ€ recently was announced as the key theme for the PostalVision 2020 6.0 conference to be held March 15-16, 2016 in Pentagon City, VA (Washington, DC). The conference, which is the 6th annual PostalVision 2020 conference, will bring together a diverse group of global post and mailing industry thought leaders, service providers, suppliers, and businesses that use the mail for their communication and shipping needs.
PostalVision 2020 focuses on discussions and activities around what the future needs of Americans are in terms of a postal ecosystem, and since 2011 has been engaging stakeholders around all pieces of the postal platform. As the “B2Me” evolution continues to shape how businesses market, communicate, sell, interact, and ship to consumers, the postal ecosystem also will need to evolve to meet the changing needs of both businesses and consumers.
More information on the upcoming March 2016 PostalVision 2020 conference can be found on the group's website (www.postalvision2020.com).
Kathleen J. Siviter is Director of Community & Brand Development, PostalVision 2020. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.