58% spending more time researching products before making purchasing decisions; social media has become increasingly important in B2B marketing
The consumerization of business technology is probably one of the biggest driving forces in the development of B2B software. People saw how easy consumer technology was to use – the iPhone is the quintessential example – and wanted the same in technology designed for business.
User experience (UX) gets a lot of attention in tech circles today, but it wasn’t always that way. If you’ve ever tried to submit expense reports using Concur software, you know what I mean. It was hard to use. Everything required extra clicks. While the software consolidated expense information for finance, which was beneficial, it was painfully difficult for the end user.
Millennials, the first “digital natives” are largely credited with forcing the consumerization of technology. As this generation entered the workforce, their influence on buying decisions grew. Today, millennials are increasingly holding leadership positions and their influence has extended from the product to the process of how these products are marketed and sold.
A study, published in March 2023, by the Winterberry Group supports this viewpoint. The consulting firm surveyed 200 B2B marketers in the US, UK, France and Germany, and conducted some two dozen interviews, to produce a report that describes how B2B marketing is being reshaped.
The top finding really stands out:
“The elevation of digital natives into decision-making roles is leading to a systemic change in buying behavior. Generational change, particularly millennial ascendancy, will be one of the primary drivers of the next stage of B2B marketing. B2B buying will continue to be impacted by the consumer journey that buyers experience in their non-business lives.”
6 ways millennials are reshaping B2B marketing
The study went on to provide some very clear illustrations of exactly how the next generation is reshaping B2B marketing. Below are findings from the report, along with commentary and links to other supporting surveys I’ve previously written about or shared.
1. 58% said, “customers are spending more time researching products and services online before making purchasing decisions.”
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Study after study shows buyers – at every stage of the buying cycle – consume more content, need more pre-sale interactions and require better outreach by SDRs. This means selling cycles are long and getting longer, and typically involve more stakeholders.
2. 54% said, “social media has become an increasingly important source of information for customers.”
There are multiple studies suggesting that social media has an increasingly important role in B2B marketing. All of these provide solid counterfactuals to the recent, but odd, assertion from some corners that “social media is dead.”
I believe this is an example of emotions clouding judgment. Particularly in the US, a lot of social media users don’t like Elon Musk and the changes he’s made to Twitter. Emotion is certainly part of the marketing mix but also needs to consider the data objectively.
3. 51% said, “personalization is becoming more important in content and media consumption for B2B customers.”
Using people’s names in marketing email (i.e. *|FNAME|*) is just one piece of personalization. In content, personalization also means providing relevancy that speaks to the needs of their company. This is why audience identification is so important to marketing.
4. 50% said, “customers now expect and are more likely to engage with brands that produce high-quality and engaging content.”
Quality may be subjective, but it’s also a table stake. Every AI-infused search and social algorithm is engineered to seek out – and reward – quality. In B2B, that often means communicating in a way that “demonstrates expertise around the needs of their industry.”
5. 46% said, “customers are increasingly accessing content on mobile devices.”
Mobile search surpassed desktop search eight years ago – in 2015. While many companies have gotten better at improving the mobile experience with their website and content, there’s still some work to be done. For example, try filling out one of your own registration forms to gated content on a mobile device. Chances it’s frustrating and full of friction.
6. 44% said, “peer reviews and user-generated content are playing a greater role in the purchasing decision-making process.”
Reviews are a digital manifestation of social proof. The human brain requires lots of energy, and so rather than thinking and consulting energy, it’s always looking for shortcuts and heuristics to tough decisions. Social proof is one of those shortcuts. Research shows how your business responds to reviews can have as much impact on the buyer’s decision as the review itself.
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I first found the report when it was mentioned on the blog B2B Marketing Directions. The full report is an interesting read that covers a lot more. You can download a copy here: Outlook for B2B Marketing: A Market in Transformation.
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Image credit: respective study and DALLE