The way businesses buy goods and services has gone through significant changes in recent years. Technological advancements, the changing behaviour of buyers, and information over-load are some of the contributing factors to this evolution. Gartner has predicted that by 2025, 80% of interactions between buyers and suppliers will occur via digital channels. Here are some of the ways the business-to-business (B2B) buying process is being impacted, and considerations for sellers to increase their chances of success in the future.
The B2B buying process is transforming because the people involved in the buying process have a different expectation of their suppliers. Preferences of customers are shifting from in-person interactions which once was critical in building trust, to less personal digital channels. Consumer buying behaviours are influencing the business buying process with 33% of all buyers desiring a seller-free sales experience – this figure jumps to 44% for millennials who are more critical about direct contact with sales professionals. The prevalence of mobile devices, social platforms, and widely accessible information with a multitude of opinions have greatly affected buying behaviours.
Like it does in so many aspects of our lives, technology plays a significant role in the B2B buying process. For buyers, digital platforms enable businesses to access a wider range of products and services, compare prices, and make more informed purchasing decisions, without having to interact with a person or supplier directly. Technology has scaled marketing through automation and can increase velocity and conversion during the sales funnel if applied well. Business networks continue to provide several benefits including a frictionless transaction experience between buyers and sellers.
Sellers have access to digital platforms powered by artificial intelligence which can analyse customer data and behaviour, predicting future buying needs and offering personalised recommendations. High-end analytics will quickly become commonly used by sellers to offer dynamic customer engagement models, powered by the data captured from all digital interactions with a potential buyer. The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the adoption of technology in businesses in general.
Today’s buyer has access to huge amounts of information, including peer reviews. Buyers are increasingly reliant on online content and digital assets to support a business case and buying decision. A 2022 Global Software Buyer Trends survey identified the top 3 preferred content types to make purchase decisions as online training (46% of buyers), video tutorials (42%), and product documentation/user guides (40%)1. Information availability and accessibility is fuelling the shift away from needing in-person interaction during a sales cycle however there still needs to be an element of collation and validation of the information for it to be reliable.
While the impact that technology has had on the B2B buying process is significant, the majority of B2B customers want both human and digital interactions on their buying journey. Gartner research shows buyers typically spend only 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers when they are considering a purchase. Less customer face time will mean effective virtual selling via digital channels will become critical. Evidence shows that customers still require the human element once they get to the “business end” of the sales funnel, where the initial interaction has been largely digital.
In summary, while the B2B buying process has been influenced by changing consumer behaviours, the application of advanced technologies and the information age, companies need to consider s digital selling strategy outlining how their approach to selling will adapt and implement a human-digital blend that is most appropriate to their business and their customers. When in-person interactions happen, they will more likely be salesperson mediated digital experiences – a combination of the benefits of a digital approach, and the trust that can be built by an experienced salesperson in the final phases of the buying process.
- Source: Gartner Digital Markets 2022 Global Software Buyer Trends Survey. Q. Which of the following content have you ever used to help make a purchase decision? 2,501 Note: Percentages exceed 100% due to respondents being asked to select multiple options.