Buyer behavior is evolving faster than you can click “Add to Cart”. According to Entrepreneur, 52 per cent of companies who have both B2B and B2C customers say they have seen more similarities in the way these two groups of consumers behave. As the two well-defined silos charter a course towards convergence, B2B marketers need to adapt to new consumer expectations, which are more akin to those of a B2C customer than ever before.
In this article, we take a look at how B2B marketers can respond to evolving buyer expectations.
Evolving buyer expectations
B2B buyer expectations are evolving rapidly in three main areas:
- Personalization (and we don’t just mean personalized greetings in emails)
- Self service
- Digital experiences
On a recent episode of The Marketer’s Journey podcast, Leslie Alore, Global Vice President of Growth Marketing at Ivanti, discusses the convergence of B2B and B2C buying expectations with Uberflip CMO and podcast host, Randy Frisch. Leslie says the cognitive dissonance between how people behave and buy in their personal lives versus that of their professional lives is closing.
This creates the modern B2B buyers that want to do more independently, to interact in a digital environment, and to have the autonomy to make a buying decision without having to involve a buying committee.
“People want to be more independent and people want to see that kind of brand everywhere as they’re going through their experience,” Leslie says.
Forrester reports that B2B buyers show a strong preference for frictionless self-service experiences at all stages, from awareness to post-sale support. Gartner research finds a similar trend that, when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, they only spend 17% of that time meeting with potential suppliers. The question marketers need to ask, then, is what they can do to facilitate that buyer’s journey.
To win at B2B, be a part of B2B buyers’ moments
Leslie recommends that marketers focus on being in front of B2B buyers every step of the way during their path to purchase.
“I feel like if people don’t see you, your brand, your company, your value proposition perpetually in front of them as they’re moving through the buying experience, it almost erodes their trust or confidence,” she says on the podcast.
She continues: “What I think we need to be doing a lot more of is spending the time to listen and to research and figure out a way to synthesize what we see in the buyer interaction in a way that we can execute at scale, but create an experience that feels very personalized and precise.” Leslie says the key to doing this is by “showing up in people’s buying moments.”
- The account-based marketing campaign that increased the average deal size by 2.5x
- The Experience Disconnect: 2021 B2B Marketing Report
- How to leverage buyer intent to maximize marketing campaigns
Create a made-for-you experience for B2B buyers
Think about the streaming service that you use the most. Did it become your favorite experience because they greet you by name when you log in, or is it because they make content suggestions that you love? In the B2C experience, everything is customized to the needs and desires of the consumer. Randy points to this deeper personalization that is occurring in B2C as an area of opportunity for B2B marketers to evolve.
“Everything for me these days as a consumer feels made for me,” says Randy. “And I think that’s what we need to aspire towards as B2B marketers. We have to create this feeling that goes beyond their first name. Knowing their first name, that was really cool 10 or 15 years ago. Now we want to know that you can solve our problem... and when we get to that level in B2B marketing, we’re truly creating a more human experience.”
B2B buyers are people, too
As businesses we are strategic and targeted in our segmentation to reach the companies that we’re most likely to be successful with, but Leslie points to another layer of value--we need to deliver to people as humans. Leslie believes this shift in B2B buying experiences underscores the evolution of account-based marketing toward a more human buying experience.
Leslie’s advice: “Their time is valuable; their impressions and opinions and interactions are valuable. What are we giving them in exchange? ... You need to find a way to respect people’s buying moment, in the moment they’re having it, and be in front of them and give them the thing they need in that moment. That’s the magic of marketing. The consumer side of things has somehow figured this out. It’s up to us to do the same.”
Embrace the new B2B buyer’s expectations
B2B buyers crave the digital, independent, and personalized buying experience they get from a B2C. To meet the expectations of customers, B2B marketers need to learn from the success of their B2C counterparts to adapt to new customer behavior.