B2B companies face the same challenges as their B2C brethren in adapting to a digital world – but by many accounts, they are roughly 15 years behind in the transition.
Digital ad spending by B2Bs is on the rise, growing by roughly $1 billion annually from 2017-2019, according to eMarketer. This year could mark an acceleration point for the sector with double digit growth predicted for 2019.
B2B marketing models are still largely analog. Many rely on printed catalogs delivered to clients and still manage communications through voice and email. These businesses have a lot of catching up to do to match modern needs. B2B’s have similar goals as B2C – to grow sales/increase conversion, drive leads and manage client communications and services. But B2B customers now behave in much the same manner as B2C – the path is similar, but the needs are entirely different.
This is the “Consumerfication” of B2B.
Digital satisfaction. Roughly 75% of B2B buyers are using social media to vet vendors and 97% say they don’t respond to cold calls or email.
The basics. A majority of B2B companies are still in the early stages of investing in digital platforms, website design and marketing tools. They are aligning content with search queries, trying to connect the dots from first contact to returning customers and communications.
It starts with search. More than 70% of B2B researchers begin their research with generic Google searches and 89% of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process. (Google), although this is shifting somewhat as Amazon gains more of a foothold n B2B and search patterns follow the B2C path. SEO generates more leads for B2B than other marketing methods.
Intent matters. B2B buyers are searching for information and vary in their intent in much the same way as B2C. Search is critical, but the industry is behind in its investments here.
Social media matters. B2B buyers are increasingly looking to social channels for recommendations and reviews – 75% of B2B buyers are using social media to vet vendors. LinkedIn may be the obvious choice here, but Instagram now currently wields more influence, with brands enjoying 20X more engagement on the platform over LinkedIn.
Purpose-driven marketing. B2B businesses need to embrace cause marketing in much the same way B2C companies. Showing customers the who behind the business, doing good works and having a purpose beyond sales can be the differentiator in acquiring new customers.
Proximity is a factor. B2B supplies can be dictated by location and speed of shipment, making the matching of location data and intent critical.
By 2025, 45% of the workforce will be Millennials, who are changing B2B in the same ways they’ve changed the consumer landscape. This digital-first generation expects their business needs to be met through technology, prioritize digital communication tools, rely on mobile devices to conduct business and will discover new products on social media and through digital channels for B2B.
Mobile optimization. Approximately 50% of B2B search queries today are made on smartphones, and this will grow to 70% by 2020. The majority of senior executives (92%) own a smartphone for business and 77% use it to research a product or service for their business while 80% research products or services on a tablet in the evening.
Content is king, but is still undeveloped. A majority of B2B customers rank third party content, articles and recommendations as more important than company-created information but just 25% of companies say it’s optimized. Coordinating landing pages with customer intent is both a necessity and challenge in B2B which struggles with streamlining websites and decluttering drop down menus. Videos, photos and even podcasts play a role here.
AI on the rise. Chatbots and other forms of digital customer assistants are now expected by customers and B2B has been slow to adopt. Voice is also becoming a priority for B2B as this goes in lock step with changing consumer preferences.
Amazon Marketplace. Amazon for Business launched in 2015 and hit $10B in sales in 2018. It’s growing fast and helping to fuel faster delivery and new solutions across Amazon’s businesses – the need to select a single day of the week to receive all Amazon shipments was driven by B2B needs and is now being rolled out to B2C Prime members. Business Prime and Amazon Business Marketplace provide tools for buyers and sellers to manage accounts, inventory and fulfillment – much needed solutions in B2B as industry plays catch up in digital.
- Internal silos block change
- Budgets are often tied to outdated metrics
- Metrics need clean data stream to build new solutions
- Regulations differ from B2C and among industries
- Must support both analog (legacy) business practices and digital