It’s no news that the Internet is driving business these days. Especially during this time when the coronavirus is having a huge businesses, business is shifting to e-commerce more than ever. In order to keep sales up in the B2B space, it’s important to learn and understand current buyer trends like the back of your hand!
E-commerce drives B2B and B2C markets more and more every year. People want to shop quickly and conveniently from the comfort of their home or office, so they’re predominately going online to buy. This trend has absolutely shifted the landscape of the B2B marketplace in the last few years. It’s transforming how suppliers and buyers engage, before and after the purchase.
Understanding who your target buyer is will allow you to market to them more effectively. It will also let you know where to spend a majority of your sales and marketing efforts. That way, you know your budget is getting your team the best ROI possible.
Take a look at some of the most current buying trends in the B2B space:
1. Buyers are spending more time researching before buying.
A recent survey report by LinkedIn found the following B2B buying trend. Buyers are turning to “trusted sources” as their first step in the purchasing journey. In fact, they’re spending way more time researching independently than in the past. This can make acquisition marketing tricky!
The top three sources in the report were peers and colleagues (20%), industry leaders (21%), and trusted sources found using Google search (17%).
Social media also plays a huge role in the research process. When LinkedIn surveyed buyers about their research process, they asked what role social media plays. A whopping 73% of the pool said they rely on social media to browse discussions about their business needs. They said they find it to be the easiest way to gauge their peers’ opinions about a product or service.
The takeaway: Buyers want to consult with a source they trust about their business challenge before engaging with prospective brands to buy from.
How to leverage this trend: Focus on SEO and adding informational value through blog posts. You can also join social media sites and forums like Quora to engage with prospects as they are in the research phase.
2. Buyers value testimonials.
Buyers may turn to people they know first for referrals or “insider scoop” about companies. But they also value testimonials – even if they haven’t heard of the reviewer! In a sense, buyers expect the least bias from their peers and social networks. They trust these reviews more than they trust representatives from brands themselves.
In fact, B2B News Network said that almost 85% of buyers make a decision based on a referral or testimonial. TrustRadius pointed out that buyers rely on social proof to make an informed purchase decision.
The takeaway: Social proof impacts B2B buyers’ purchase decisions.
How to leverage this trend: Showcase social proof of the value of your product or service in high-traffic channels. Start a referral program or ask loyal customers for testimonials to display on your site.
3. During the buying journey, the total time a buyer spends with a sales rep is only 5%.
According to Gartner, one of the key ways in which buyer behavior has recently changed is that buyers spend a very small portion of their time actually speaking with potential suppliers. As buyers are considering their purchase, they tend to spend only 17% of their time meeting with suppliers. This includes every supplier they are considering. When it comes down to it, your sales reps are only getting about 5-6% of each prospect’s time during the buying experience.
Sales teams may easily mistake this fact as a fault of the sales rep, for failing to deliver sufficient value to the buyer during a sales call. However, Gartner says this isn’t necessarily so. Buyer behavior is simply shifting. They now prefer to do the work independently (meaning, researching online and speaking with their team). In fact, Accenture and others have argued that almost 60% of the buying process is already over when a buyer speaks to a sales rep.
The takeaway: Prospects are less swayed by sales calls than you may think. They spend most of their time looking into options and weighing pros and cons independently.
How to leverage this trend: Don’t disregard sales calls as important. However, look to “sell” in more indirect ways, such as your website, SEO content, social media, sales assets, etc.
4. Buyers want a positive, unified experience from a brand before making a purchase.
One current B2B buying trend is that buyers are looking for great marketing messaging from a brand during their decision-making process. According to Salesforce, 84% of B2B buyers say the entire buying experience a company extends to a prospect is just as important as the product or service the brand offers. This means that buyers have high expectations. They are taking your marketing messages into consideration just as much as the value of your product or service.
The MX group says that creating a unified sales and marketing process is one main component that helps build buyer trust. You want to collaborate with your sales and marketing teams to create a customer-centric, holistic, and seamless buying experience. As Gartner puts it – “sales and marketing must operate in a parallel, not serial fashion”. This, and provide stellar marketing messaging, of course!
The takeaway: You want your customer to easily move through your sales and marketing funnel, without facing any unnecessary roadblocks along the way.
How to leverage this trend: For marketing teams, find a brand personality and stick to a consistent voice that will resonate with your audience. For sales teams, operate using a sales system that operates using a sales funnel regularly.
5. Buyers prefer “online marketplaces” to compare options.
Another recent B2B buying trend is the shift towards “online marketplaces” as a source to compare prices and options. Not only are more and more B2B buyers using e-commerce to buy. They’re using tools like comparative quote sites to narrow down suppliers, as well as save time and effort.
In fact, a recent study by UPS said that from 2017-2019, distributors lost out to “online marketplace” sites when it came to e-commerce sales. Gartner also estimates that 75% of B2B spending will happen via online marketplaces within the next five years!
The takeaway: Buyers want to use web-based tools that allow them to quickly and easily compare their options, without bending hand over foot.
How to leverage this trend: Partner with an online marketplace, such as 360Connect (there are other great ones out there too!), to list your brand as a quality option. Prospects turn to these tools to complete quick online searches, which will funnel them straight to your brand as an immediately viable prospective supplier.
6. Business leaders buy from companies who “understand” them.
It’s a well-known concept in sales and marketing that people like to buy from people who they believe understand them. In the B2B space, business leaders prefer suppliers who best understand their company’s goals and challenges, as well as their industry.
According to Demand Gen’s 2018 report, 64% of B2B buyers prefer suppliers who understand the ins-and-outs of their industry, and can offer insights to their challenges.
Additionally, Salesforce recently reported that although 73% of customers want a brand to understand their needs before they buy. However, they feel that only 51% generally do understand them.
When buyers feel a brand understands them, it lays the foundation of trust and loyalty. Ultimately, this can lead to strong lifetime customer values down the road. It’s a win-win.
The takeaway: Building rapport is essential to winning your buyer’s business.
7. Branded content makes a lasting impression.
There’s a good reason why marketing teams are placing so much emphasis on content these days. Creating and regularly executing great content is the #1 tool to get prospective customers to remember you.
The fact that content marketing makes a difference is likely to remain a key B2B buying trend for years to come. LinkedIn’s B2B Buyer’s survey reported that an overwhelming majority of respondents said branded content made an impression on their decision. Content like case studies, product demos, infographics, and white papers are among the top sources that trigger a purchase decision. Additionally, 83% of the respondents said that when brands provide a clear ROI guide for their product or service, they are much more likely to buy.
The takeaway: During their research, buyers are looking for valuable, informative content from industry leaders.
How to leverage this trend: Optimize your website to allow buyers to easily navigate to informational content. You can also send out valuable content via social media, email, or through other channels that allow easy access.
8. The sales cycle is increasing.
Since buyers are spending more time researching before they buy, they’re taking longer to reach a purchase decision. Today, there’s tons of resources and places to find information online, as well as an abundance of choices, and it can be overwhelming. This is definitely influencing the online buyer’s behavior.
LinkedIn says that 33% of their respondents reported a longer sales cycle compared to previous years in the B2B space. This is likely both due to the fact that more research is involved, and more decision-makers are involved in the B2B purchase compared to previous years. In terms of sales cycle length:
- 25% of respondents reported a 1 month sales cycle
- 39% reported a 1-3 month sales cycle
- 37% reported a 3-6 month sales cycle
The takeaway: Buyers have an abundance of places to find information and conduct research. They’re spending longer on making a decision and involving more team members in the process.
How to leverage this trend: Create sales assets that help buyers “cut to the chase”. Send ROI guides, condensed industry knowledge reports, sales decks, and similar valuable materials. Send a “short and sweet” synopsis of what the buyer wants to know. The buyer will likely share it with their team and trigger a purchase decision more quickly.
9. B2B buyers are getting younger.
Millennials are taking over as decision makers in companies more than ever! Baby boomers are now in their 60’s and 70’s. This means in the next several years, millennials will move into leadership positions and “run the show” when it comes to B2B purchase decisions. This will certainly become a top B2B buying trend in the next several years.
This younger wave of decision makers means you’re now marketing to prospects that are more Internet-savvy than ever. They’re seasoned digital users, and are looking for a superior web-based presence in companies they want to do business with. This includes both a company’s website, social media presence, and other online content sources.
Consider that 83% of millennial buyers rely on company websites to keep them informed before they make B2B purchasing decisions. Plus, 60% of millennials would stop doing business with a company who has a poor mobile web presence.
The takeaway: B2B decision-makers are web-savvier than ever, and are basing their decisions off of a company’s web presence.
How to leverage this trend: The name of the game is creating an attractive, easy-to-use web interface for your buyers. Use digital marketing strategies regularly and build your social media network.
10. Buyers want instantaneous communication.
The sales cycle may be getting longer, but when decision-makers want answers from a company – they want them immediately! Nowadays, when buyers go online to interact with a company about their product or service, they expect real-time responses. In fact, 80% of business buyers expect a real-time response. This makes sense, since attention spans are getting shorter and shorter every year.
It seems as though buyers’ expectations for “real time communication” varies by channel. For instance, buyers want sales reps to pick up the phone immediately and answer their calls. The same is true for “live chat” features on company sites. But they’re willing to wait a bit longer – about one hour – for email responses and online forms.
The takeaway: Buyers expect companies to respond to their questions immediately, especially via phone call or live chat.
How to leverage this trend: Adapt a “live chat” feature on your website, and encourage your sales reps to use it regularly to respond to prospect questions. Also make sure every sales rep is picking up each and every phone call, calling prospects immediately after receiving lead forms, and responding to voicemails within 5 minutes. Additionally, streamline your follow-up email strategy to make sure you’re contacting prospects quickly.
Navigating the online B2B space can be complicated! We help all kinds of B2B companies improve revenue by sourcing true-intent prospects through our digital marketing efforts. If you want to talk about how 360Connect can help your team, get in touch with us today!