B2C@B: How the Consumerization of the Workplace is Reshaping the Way We Live

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At SnackNation we believe in the power of consumer brands to change the world for the better.

Sound crazy? We don’t think so. 

Today, brands are vehicles for our values. Consumers vote with their dollar, and seek out brands that stand for more than just making a profit. 

Likewise, brands have the potential to shape popular opinion by virtue of their reach, bringing consciousness to our daily decisions.

But emerging consumer brands face an uphill battle. As I’ve written before, today’s CPG boom has created an influx of competition. Add shrinking shelf space to the mix and you can see why connecting with consumers is harder than ever. 

At SnackNation, we’ve created a new model that helps emerging brands overcome these challenges by tapping into our increasingly “consumerized workplace.” It’s an ecosystem that connects better-for-you brands with high-value consumers, all while helping employees discover new products and employers create elevated experiences for their workers. We call it B2C@B.

While it borrows from the B2B and B2C vernacular, make no mistake, this is something new. The B2C@B model represents a whole new way of looking at consumer behavior and brand building in our era of infinite consumer choice.

And it all starts with the nature of work. 

Here’s what I mean. 

Work-Life Integration

One of the most consistent workplace trends I’ve seen over the past decade has been the rise of “work-life integration.” 

It’s a reformulation of the familiar idea of “work-life balance.” In the outdated balance model, the key to happiness and engagement is to balance the opposing forces of “work” and “life.” But the balance model doesn’t reflect reality of the majority of workers in this country. “Work” and “life” aren’t so easily distinguishable (let alone opposing), as most working-age Americans spend the majority of our waking lives at work. The average full-time worker in this country spends 47 hours a week at work – that’s more than 9 hours per day. And despite the rise of remote working, the vast majority (84.2%) of work is being done in the office. For so many of us, work and life are one. Work-life integration starts by acknowledging this fact.

This has some big implications. It means that making work more meaningful, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling makes our lives that much better. A workplace that values work-life integration becomes a magnet for top talent, and creates a more engaged, higher-performing employee base.  

The best B2B companies and marketers know they can win by creating consumer-like experiences in the workplace – by combining the best of B2C and B2B.

It’s a virtuous cycle. When companies prioritize employee engagement and fulfillment, they do better work, and businesses perform better. With the right push, it becomes a flywheel of positive value. 

There’s another result of this convergence of work and life. Increasingly, American workers are coming to expect that the experiences we have in the workplace should mirror the elevated experiences we have as consumers outside the office. We call this the Consumerization of the Workplace

We’re All Consumers

This merging of work and life also matters when it comes to B2B marketing. Some of my favorite marketers – people like Dave Gerhardt at Drift – know that the distinction between “B2B” and “B2C” marketing strategies is eroding. 

Just as the line between “work” and “life” is disappearing, the distinction between “consumer” (B2C) and “enterprise” (B2B) customers is quickly becoming outdated. 

As today’s most successful B2B companies will tell you, enterprise consumers are still consumers. How and why we make purchases is largely the same, regardless of whether we’re in a personal or office setting.

In order to win the war for talent, employers must figure out how to make consumer experiences in the office as easy – and awesome – as possible.

Furthermore, today’s consumer is expecting the same user interface and experience at work as they do at home. They expect the UI they love to be carried forward and made uniform throughout their day.

Still, marketers are lagging behind this trend. Conventional wisdom still dictates that the enterprise customer cares about utility, not about customer experience. Above all, B2B customers want a solution to their problem. Things like brand and user experience take a back seat to function and price.

That’s why there are a bunch of enterprise experiences that are still pretty bad. Many B2B products and services today are like MS-DOS of yesteryear – clunky, boring, and joyless. B2C is more akin to Netflix – a seamless, intuitive experience that fits into your life wherever you are (on mobile, desktop, a connected TV, it doesn’t matter). The consumer experience is quickly becoming the standard expectation. 

The best B2B companies and marketers know they can win by creating consumer-like experiences in the workplace – by combining the best of B2C and B2B.  

And if you’re still skeptical about the convergence of enterprise and consumer ask yourself this – 

Is there an “enterprise customer” out there who wants a boring, lifeless experience? 

And is there a “consumer” out there who prefers a product that doesn’t deliver results?

The implications are clear. B2B services must focus on the IOC (in-office consumer) experience… sometimes even more than the business needs! 

Remember, a business is nothing more than a collection of people. Think about challenger HR tech brands like Monday.com. They’ve created a user experience that mimics the most successful consumer experiences. Why? Because these services only work when they have high internal adoption. Yes, these are B2B products, but at the end of the day the end-user is really just a person. 

Sure, the business buys the service, but it’s all about whether the IOC/employee consumer likes and uses that service, and finds it beneficial in their day-to-day.

Bypassing the Gatekeeper

You might be asking, “Isn’t this just B2B2C?”

While they may seem similar on the surface, B2C@B and B2B2C are very different methodologies. In a typical B2B2C play, the initial business sells to the enterprise with the hopes of converting their employees into future customers. The goal is straight forward – acquire downstream customers at little to no cost via a B2B transaction. 

But it’s rarely easy. B2B2C involves selling to a consumer through a business, and usually with a gatekeeper involved. That’s a lot harder. B2C@B, by contrast, is all about addressing the consumer directly at the workplace. It’s consumer-focused, not business focused, and therefore without a gatekeeper as intermediary (or obstacle). B2C@B tends to be easier because it taps into the growing phenomenon of the consumerized workplace while also directly addressing the consumer.

We are seeing a nationwide movement towards consumerized workplaces, not a phenomenon confined to select enclaves like Brooklyn, Santa Monica, or Silicon Valley.

B2B services that touch in-office consumers (IOCs) must be consumer-oriented. In the B2C@B methodology, the consumer experience is primary, and essentially unchanged. The goal is to create a lasting brand relationship with IOCs that simultaneously enhances their employer’s brand – to connect with consumers through the consumer-like experience of the workplace. 

What’s Next

At SnackNation we are bullish about B2C@B – and that’s putting it mildly. 

We’re coining the phrase B2C@B, putting a name to a phenomenon that is both already happening and will only become more prominent. The fact is, we live in an employee-driven world. The talent war isn’t just real, it’s rapidly accelerating, and today’s workers bring their consumer expectations to the workplace. 

This makes a consumerized approach to employee experience a must-have for all companies, not just those in “competitive” industries. In order to win the war for talent, employers must figure out how to make consumer experiences in the office as easy – and awesome – as possible. 

Here’s what B2C@B will look like very soon: 

The breakroom as the office hub. Rather than being hidden away, the office breakroom will become the beating heart of the workplace of tomorrow. It will be both a showplace for employers and a place where employees can enjoy elevated, consumer-like experiences, including food and beverages. It will feel like a high-end cafe or pub, not a spare conference room with a watercooler and coffee pot. 

Mainstream, not niche. We are seeing a nationwide movement towards consumerized workplaces, not a phenomenon confined to select enclaves like Brooklyn, Santa Monica, or Silicon Valley. Whether you’re a startup in Boise, a small business in Buffalo, or a Fortune 500 company in Boston, the entire business landscape will feel the effects of these trends. 

More tech. B2C@B will be spurred by consumer tech – think mobile apps, cashierless retail – that make it easier for in-office-consumers to rate, request, and even purchase new products. You’ll soon be able to order a case of that delicious bar, biltong, or kombucha you discovered at work on your phone via an in-office mobile app, and have it waiting for you when you get home that day. 

Data driven. This technology layer will also provide a feedback loop for both employers and consumer brands. Employers will be able to calibrate their offering to employee preferences, while brands will have access to the data they need to make faster, better decisions to help them scale. That’s why the office will continue to be a major innovation driver for consumer brands. 

New products and services. At SnackNation we’ve built a strong business by focusing on delivering better-for-you snacks to offices. But our vision was always bigger than this. Stay tuned for more details on what’s next in our continual effort to provide a high quality, joyful consumer experience inside the office.

The B2C@B methodology creates endless potential to provide elevated consumer experiences, ones that create value for emerging brands, employees, and businesses of all sizes. I’m excited to see how this how a B2C@B movement will positively impact the workplace experience and alter the way we see our lives at work.