Jan 15, 2020

The Consumerization of B2B Marketing

In today’s ultra-digitized world, B2B buyers look a lot like B2C buyers. Younger, millennial buyers are the driving force behind this trend, with Gartner reporting that millennials are skeptical of sales reps, want access to more and higher quality information, and are increasingly influenced by their B2C buying experiences.

This post will discuss where B2C and B2B marketing intersects, focusing on some trends that B2B marketers should consider when targeting today’s B2B buyer.

The shifting buying habits of the B2B customer

The B2B buying journey is shifting, driven largely by millennials who are increasingly joining buying groups within their organizations. According to Gartner, millennials are skeptical of seller claims and prefer data-backed evidence when considering a new solution.

As with B2C purchases, business buyers have grown accustomed to obtaining high-quality information online via company websites, peer groups, and social media. This propensity to seek out information on their own and compare data relevant to their purchasing decisions has naturally shifted to the B2B buying space.

In a 2019 Demand Gen survey of B2B buyers, over 60% of respondents indicated that they are relying more on peer recommendations and review sites when making a purchase, while 35% said they sought input from peers and existing customers within the first month of researching a new solution.

Likewise, marketplaces such as Amazon, traditionally the domain of B2C sellers, are becoming increasingly important for B2B e-commerce businesses. In 2018, a survey of 110 US B2B buyers revealed that Amazon Business was the top B2B Marketplace, with nearly 80% of respondents indicating they use this platform to research and buy B2B products. The second top B2B marketplace was Alibaba, followed by ThomasNet and Global Sources.

Source: eMarketer

Another growing trend for B2B buyers is the use of their mobile phones to initiate the buying process and complete the transaction. Research by BCG found that 80% of B2B buyers use mobile phones at work, and more than 60% reported that mobile commerce played a significant role in a recent purchase.

How B2B buyers look like B2C buyers

While there are many distinct differences between B2B and B2C buyers, the process of shopping for a new product or solution—whether in the business or consumer space—is surprisingly similar. Here are some examples:

The buying process must be seamless

Consumers have come to expect a seamless buying experience across all touchpoints, devices and platforms. This is true whether you’re shopping for a new pair of jeans or a new technology solution. From a B2B perspective, it’s particularly important to align your sales and marketing teams so that buyers receive consistent information at every stage of the buying journey (a journey which is quite complex and nonlinear).


B2B buyers expect high-quality information from vendors

Comprehensive information makes the B2B buyer’s job easier, but don’t overdo it. The information you provide to buyers should strive for clarity and quality. Half of the respondents in the Gartner survey indicated that the amount of trustworthy information they encountered as part of the purchase process was overwhelming. This can be confusing for customers trying to decide on a complicated tool. This is where sales reps can truly shine since they can help customers sort through information that’s relevant to them.

Source: Gartner

B2B buyers expect high-quality websites

Websites like Amazon, Zappos, and Expedia have set a high bar when it comes to delivering top-notch shopping experiences. Likewise, social media platforms and information portals like YouTube, Facebook, and top brand websites like Apple.com have trained users to expect high-quality digital experiences when they visit a company website. This expectation has carried over into the B2B space. The Demand Gen survey revealed that B2B buyers see vendor websites as an invaluable first-content channel, with almost all respondents indicating that it was important to them that vendor websites offer easy access to content (56% percent said this was very important).

Advertising is an important first-contact strategy in the B2B purchase cycle

As with B2C buying, display advertising is an important influencer in buyers’ decision-making process. Nearly 70% of respondents in the Demand Gen survey said they notice ads from the vendor they chose during their research process, and nearly 40% of buyers said those ads positively impacted their view of the company. Ads can help augment and amplify existing content, reinforce your brand name and identity and direct buyers to appropriate content.

The big picture

Incorporating B2C selling techniques and best practices into your B2B marketing strategy doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Start by ensuring your website contains relevant content that speaks directly to your ideal buyer and the needs of their industry. Content should be easy to access (no gates or required registration), mobile-friendly, and simple to share since B2B buyers tend to work in groups who come together to review information prior to making a purchase.

Since review websites, peer groups, and existing users all play a part in the buying process, make sure you have a presence on relevant social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube and dedicate resources to monitoring these channels and responding to questions, comments and concerns.

B2B buyers, particularly millennials, have high expectations from vendors thanks to their extensive experience as savvy online consumers. Keeping this in mind while creating your content and digital experiences will help facilitate the B2B buying process and, ideally, win you more business in the coming year.

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