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B2B buyers and consumers are alike in at least one way: product quality is the key determinant of their loyalty. In a new study [download page], Merkle reveals that product quality matters more than anything else to B2B buyers’ loyalty once they’ve established a relationship with a B2B vendor/supplier or joined its loyalty program.

That was true of buyers surveyed in both North America and the UK. It also aligns with research on the consumer side, which has likewise found quality to be the key ingredient of customer loyalty.

It stands to reason then, that low-quality products would be one of the key factors that would erode loyalty with business vendors or providers. Indeed, this emerged as the leading reason among UK buyers, and was also cited by a majority of North American buyers.

The biggest culprit negating customer loyalty for North American buyers, though, is poor customer service, reported by roughly two-thirds of respondents. B2B buyers in North America appear to place a premium on service, as it was also their second-most cited factor engendering greater loyalty with vendors.

In other highlights related to earning or losing customer loyalty, the results indicate that:

  • Prices are more likely to erode loyalty (when they’re high) than to earn it (when they’re the best on the market);
  • Reputation, on the other hand, is more likely to be a factor in generating loyalty than reducing it; and
  • A vendor’s understanding of the buyer’s needs and business is the least important loyalty factor, perhaps as it’s more useful earlier on in the relationship.

Don’t Just Sell, Sell, Sell

When it comes to searching for, identifying and considering which business products and services to buy, B2B buyers in North America and the UK have one challenge that far outweighs the others.

That problem is vendors being more interested in selling their products than listening to their needs.

While B2B vendors are likely attuned to this issue, past research has found B2B marketers saying that their campaigns are more likely to be company-centric (focused on their company’s story) than customer-centric (focused on the customer’s story).

Indeed, it’s important to note that buyers see this as far more of an issue than vendors not understanding their needs, companies, industries or sectors.

What Are the Most Important Perks of A B2B Loyalty Program?

The Merkle study asked both buyers and vendors to identify what they believe to be the most important elements of a loyalty program.

Vendors in North America believe that spend-based pricing and incremental preferred services are the elements that buyers value the most, with relevant rewards (% off, discounts) close behind.

For vendors in the UK, though, cashback rewards are considered the most important elements to buyers, followed by business-building resources.

This one of the few areas in which sellers in North America and the UK differed quite considerably.

For buyers in North America, meanwhile, dedicated support emerged as the most important perk after joining a loyalty program, followed closely by financial incentives.

Sellers in the UK seem to know their customers: UK buyers said that cashback rewards are their most important incentive, followed by industry networking/connections and industry knowledge.

The full study is available for download here.

About the Data: The data is based on a Merkle survey of 400 B2B buyers and sellers – 100 in each group in the UK and North America.

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