Understanding the New B2B Customer

By - April 16, 2020

The traditional B2B (business-to-business) buyer and their journey may not be what you would have expected only a few years ago. Technology has enabled the blurred lines between the workplace and home life, changing the thought processes buyers have on B2B journeys. As millennials become the dominant generation in the business world that reliance on technology has grown. This generation has continued to integrate personal life with their work-life, with increases in working from home and constant availability via devices becoming commonplace. Employees are now thinking about work throughout all hours of the day and vice versa.

Sana Commerce, a leading eCommerce platform in the B2B space and an RSM partner, has explored how the B2B customer has changed in the digital age and the new considerations that should be considered when selling a B2B product.

B2B vs B2C Customers

B2B describes the relationship between two or more businesses, while the term B2C (business-to-consumer) describes the relationship between a business selling to a personal consumer. However, what is often forgotten when thinking about a B2B customer is that while you are selling to a company, you are also selling goods to an individual consumer – they are just making a decision for a larger organization rather than just themselves or their family.

It’s important to note that what does not change for a consumer, regardless of B2B or B2C, is the thought process for the research process and the methods they employ to find credible information.

The Millennial Generation

Today, millennials make up the vast majority of B2B customers. Millennials are those who were born between 1980 and 1995 and they now account for 73% of all B2B purchasing decisions. This is the first generation to grow up with the internet and mobile communication devices and as a result, they are much more technology-driven than their predecessors. A few defining factors in how Millennials shop:

  • Research is commonly conducted online
  • Videos are the new white papers
  • Teams are preferred over hierarchies
  • Common motivation in the workplace tends to be being happy/fulfilled with the work instead of seeking prestige/status

Through the years, there has been a lot of talk about how millennials spend their money differently in personal situations than prior generations, with a focus on experiences instead of objects. However, there is a case to be made that this generation also looks at purchasing decisions differently in professional marketplaces as well.

How Do Today’s B2B Buyers Make Decisions?

Two of the biggest factors for millennials making buying decisions are 1) convenience and 2) the speed of the purchasing process. And according to a 2019 survey of B2B customers, one key way that businesses can meet these demands is through implementation of an online platform. In fact, top criteria that B2B buyers use to choose a new supplier are:

  • The ability to track orders online (39%)
  • The ability to place orders via an online sales portal (38%)
  • The ability to manage returns online (34%)

In fact, something that many B2B companies find surprising is that millennials only want to talk to a sales representative after they have thoroughly researched and considered their options. Most of this research will be conducted online. In fact, 62% of B2B buyers now prefer to access information online, compared to only 27% who prefer to search for information offline. Your website will be the face of your company to many B2B buyers, and will need to represent the full breadth of your product offerings and unique selling points.

Let’s say that your company does not have an online presence. Well, that is going to be a problem, because you won’t be visible to modern buyers during the primary stage of their research process. If this is the case for you, RSM’s experienced eCommerce team can help you get your B2B store up and running.

Important Factors to Consider When Building Your Online B2B Experience

B2B customers are the same people as B2C customers, and therefore have the same expectation of B2B websites as they would when they are a personal consumer. To remain competitive, you must be able to meet those demands:

Usability: Your website is likely to be the first interaction that new customers will have with your brand and products. B2B customers will expect your website to be just as clear and user-friendly in the B2B space as they would a B2C. Ensure you are making it easy to research your products, order, understand delivery times, etc., like you would if you were a B2C business.

Self-Service: Especially among millennials, B2B buyers would prefer to have minimal interaction with another person while making their decision. Build functionality to handle all the basic functions of ordering through the website.

Search Engine Friendly: Don’t be left out of a customer’s research visibility. Optimize your content to ensure that it can be found via search engines – the primary research platform for making B2B decisions online.

Mobility: Customers expect to have all the information they need at the click of their finger. Make sure you allow them to access everything from delivery dates to product information no matter what device they are on: desktop, smartphone or tablet.

24-hour availability: As the workday has shifted away from the typical 9-5 towards a more flexible work schedule, more customers may be researching your products at different hours of the day. Use this to your advantage by making product information, availability, delivery times and inventory levels available online, so customers can start transactions any time of day. By taking all this information online, you are not only allowing customers to transact at times that are convenient to them, but you will also be freeing up your sales team to focus on strategic accounts.

Whether you need to build your B2B eCommerce experience from scratch, update your website to meet the latest requirements of B2B buyers or optimize your website to appear in search results, we can help. RSM & Sana Commerce have partnered together to create new B2B commerce experiences aligned with today’s buyer’s needs.

For more information on this topic or others related to B2B eCommerce, contact RSM at ecommerce@rsmus.com or by phone at 800.274.3978

Etana has worked in the digital marketing field for over 10 years, with expertise in search engine optimization (SEO), content strategy, email marketing and digital strategy. Applying her degree in Fiction Writing (B.A.) from Columbia College Chicago to digital marketing allows her to drive creative solutions to logical problems, creating innovative digital marketing programs. Etana has worked with marketing agencies and in-house to implement digital marketing and SEO strategies. In her current role at RSM, she helps clients achieve success in organic results by combining data-centric user experience insights, competitive analysis, and content strategy.

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