We’re in the middle of a massive shift in how people build and use software. Both the B2B and B2C product landscapes have been redrawn countless times by new technologies and methodologies – and now, the lines between them are all but erased.
To design, develop and deploy a great product today, you’ll have to think about it – its market, capabilities, and user experience – not from a purely B2C or B2B approach, but from a combination of the two.
When B2B and B2C converged
Once, product development was divided into two unique fields, each with different methodologies:
B2C – Historically, B2C products were built around fast iterations, massive A/B tests across huge number of customers, and a strong emphasis on UI.
B2B – classic B2B product development drew on slow, version-based iterations, the waterfall approach, and a strong emphasis on business value and stability.
Over time, these two parallel paths began to converge, helped in part by a change in B2C monetization and acquisition models, and customer expectations for a better experience. When B2C products offered by Google and social platforms like Facebook started to realize their profit lay in attracting a business audience, they developed elements of their solutions into robust B2B products..
The end user changed from a consumer to a business user. This change was reflected in both the product roadmap and company operations: rethinking the business values of features; adding massive back offices, customer success capabilities; and moving from transactional business to recurring revenue models.
Traditionally B2B companies have changed as well. Their users expect more: better and easier usability, faster iteration, faster reactions to changes in the market, and quicker responses to customer demand. All of this requires more operational agility, shorter feedback loops, A/B testing and strong automation – the classic elements of B2C product management methodology.
Similarly, Bringg may be a platform for enterprises – from logistics and retail to food and restaurant delivery – but we never forget that our business users are real people, and our solutions should be built for what real people want in an application: great useability, and experiences that are exciting, intuitive and innovative.
What this means for builders and users
The convergence of B2B and B2C product development forces product managers to improve and expand their product’s value, interface and capabilities.
B2B products need to offer users B2C experiences.
As B2B solutions increasingly compete with B2C products, B2B product managers are designing user experiences on par with their B2C counterparts.
For example, unlike the relatively clunky B2B software from the 80’s, today’s B2B products have attractive web interfaces and mobile apps. If Android comes out with a new version – for example, removing the back buttons from a phone – then the B2B app’s UI will have to reflect that.
While there’s always the risk of going too far, and unintentionally choosing UX over product stability and reliability, there are ways to prevent that. (More on this in my next post.)
Expectations for B2C product functionality have risen.
To retain users, it’s not enough to build a ‘free’ B2C product; it has to work as well and at the same scale as B2B solutions. That’s why B2C product methodology now involves continuous development: automating and streamlining every stage of building, testing, and deploying new products, along with fast iteration and feedback. The result is that the speed and quality of B2C innovation has often match B2B innovation.
Similarly, features once considered ‘work’ related are now standard requirements for B2C apps. Not long ago, Blackberries were the corporate phone of choice, whereas iPhones were for personal use. Suddenly, the iPhone’s more user-friendly interface and better functionality helped it take over the workplace. Once it got there, its security and privacy features needed to be beefed up. Today’s B2C products take security into consideration from the get-go.
“Just as B2B products have ‘left’ the workplace, B2C products have entered it – and their features must reflect that.”
The increasingly thin delineation between B2B and B2C products presents new challenges, but it’s also good news for people who design and build products, and those who use them. This convergence has led to software solutions that are more robust, secure, and user-friendly than ever before. To be profitable and stand out today, B2B products must be designed from the ground up with the user experience in mind, and combine exceptional capabilities with intuitive UX on par with the best offerings from the B2C product world.