Suppliers are redefining what it takes to foster B2B loyalty

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Shawn Cunningham, managing vice president and head of Capital One’s trade credit operations, told PYMNTS in a recent interview that it’s time for companies to rethink B2B loyalty.

When it comes to loyalty, he said, “most people immediately think of incentive programs. So: points, cash-back discount...that’s what we know as consumers.”

But dig a bit deeper, he said, and suppliers need to think differently about how to create and foster B2B loyalty.


“Because establishing customer loyalty in B2B is more challenging due to the complexity of running a business and the challenges that owners face every day,” Cunningham said. The growing shift to eCommerce in commercial transactions means that there’s a need to create accounts receivable (AR) processes that enable a seamless experience for business customers, and one that supports multiple sales and service channels.

Competition grows fiercely

“In today’s world,” he told PYMNTS, “competition is only a click away.” Buyers are gravitating toward a simplified online and even multi-channel experience as they browse for and purchase the goods and services they need—and they’ll be loyal to the suppliers who go well beyond the confines of simply fostering a better billing experience, he said.

Loyalty, in other words, boils down to helping make it easier for enterprise clients to manage their businesses.

“They want access to invoice and payment information when and how they need it,” and they don’t want to spend an outsized slice of their resources to get there, he said.

Cunningham stressed that easing the back–and–forth interactions between enterprises—and specifically, improving transparency between the parties—can be an effective way to build trusted relationships.

“If you’re a supplier and you’re not making it easy for a B2B customer to do business with you,” said Cunningham, “then you’re not meeting their needs…and you’re putting relationships at risk.” Tailored AR programs, he added, might involve suppliers offering extended terms when needed.

“These could be 60- or 90-day terms,” he added, and offering those terms along with larger credit lines “to the right customers will encourage them to purchase more with you, and assist them with their cash flow to provide their own customers with larger credit lines.” Accurate payment processing can also free up those customers’ credit lines more quickly.

All of this, said Cunningham, involves a mindset change, which in turn means suppliers must make the leap to harness technology that helps customers apply for credit lines and be approved in real time — and once approved, commence their purchasing immediately.

The purchasing itself might happen in a brick-and-mortar location, or through a sales rep or an online marketplace — but all of those channels need to feed into the same purchasing and accounts receivable experience, “so it feels integrated from beginning to end,” said Cunningham.

And an integrated experience is one that forges stickiness and loyalty with suppliers. Providers of end-to-end AR solutions, such as Capital One Trade Credit with its trade credit solutions, can offer up an integrated digital AR solution for all steps of the order to payment life cycle, along with back-office support resources that allows suppliers to focus on their core business — and ultimately drive loyalty among customers.