I’ve posted before about the challenges B2B marketers face in presenting their brands as a clear and distinct option for customers. See Shopper-centric end to end merchandise optimisation.
A comprehensive piece of research from McKinsey backs this up. Not only are the brands themselves undifferentiated, but many of the attributes B2B marketers emphasise to gain a competitive edge are of ones that customers don’t actually care about.
Worryingly, of the top five themes that buyers say influence their perception of a supplier’s brand, only one – a high level of specialist expertise – is normally substantiated by the supplier. Buyers want to work with businesses that are leaders in their field, care about their customers and share their values. Instead, B2B marketers are wasting their breath shouting about global reach, corporate social responsibility and their employer’s ability to shape markets.
In the past, B2B businesses could get away with indistinct brands because most of the interface between them and the outside world was policed by sales teams for whom customer empathy comes naturally. But in the new content-driven B2B world, marketers are going to have to spend time understanding what really drives brand equity and use digital techniques to show how much they care about their customers.
B2B marketers are frequently challenged to describe what their businesses do in 140 characters. They need to say what their product is, who it’s for and what value it brings. Ideally, this needs to be done avoiding jargon and without using the same words as their competitors.
I’ve been doing some work around the emerging cloud-based pricing intelligence market. There are a number of players in the market and it’s been interesting to see how many different words are used to describe what is fundamentally the same service.
Retailers use these subscription services to scour the Internet to check their competitors’ price, ranging and inventory information. Sometimes the services present the information they find in an online dashboard; sometimes they integrate with merchandising systems to prompt category managers with suggested price changes.
- Wiser is a powerful dynamic pricing engine for retailers, that helps benchmark against competitors, automate repricing strategies, and price for profit.
- Appeagle is a multichannel repricing platform that helps online merchants capture more sales by keeping their prices more competitive.
- Price2Spy is a highly specialized online tool intended to help ecommerce professionals keep a close eye on their competitors’ pricing.
- 360pi derives profitable insights from product and pricing big data to help leading omnichannel retailers, etailers, and manufacturers compete and win.
- Profitero is the leading global provider of online insights for retailers and brands, offering the largest reach and scale of online data collection in the industry.
Let’s look at how well these companies meet the three requirements of a business description.
- What are these companies selling exactly? Wiser has a “pricing engine”, Appeagle a “repricing platform”, Price2Spy an “online tool” but 360pi and Profitero ditch the technology and sell “insights” instead.
- Who is it for? While all five are aiming at the same customers, they are described in different ways – “retailers”, “omni-channel retailers”, “etailers” and “online merchants.” Only Price2Spy goes a step further to say that their product is for “ecommerce professionals.”
- What value does it bring? Only Wiser uses the profit word. The others have more functional benefits like “keeping a close eye on your competitors” or “keeping prices more competitive.”
Which one would you click on first?
The clear leader in this market is not one of these five businesses. It a US company called Revionics.
- Revionics is the global leader in End-to-End Merchandise Optimization solutions enabling retailers to execute shopper-centric price, promotion, markdown, assortment and space allocation decisions.
There are no prizes for guessing that Revionics is also the most expensive. You can tell that because it’s the only one that uses “solution” in its terminology. Unlike some, I’m ambivalent about “solution.” In the right circumstances, it remains a good word to use. But there’s never an excuse for “end to end merchandise optimisation” or “shopper-centric.”