A 2020 Snapshot of the Attitudes and Behaviors of Millennial B2B Buyers


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The B2B Institute and GWI recently published a research report that provides a wealth of important insights regarding the attitudes, behaviors, and working lifestyles of millennial B2B decision makers.

Work in BETA:  The Rising B2B Decision Makers ("Work in BETA") is based on surveys of over 17,000 business professionals between the ages of 21 and 64. The report focuses primarily on the attitudes and behaviors of business professionals between the ages of 21 and 40, and it refers to this subset of survey respondents as "BETAs." The surveys were fielded last year and included respondents from ten countries.

Numerous earlier studies have documented that millennials are playing increasingly important roles in B2B purchase decisions. In the Work in BETA surveys, 40% or more of the BETAs said they have influence at each stage of the buying process, including identifying the business need (57%), researching potential vendors (41%), evaluating vendors (40%), and approving the final purchase (47%).

Work in BETA provides a fresh look at the attitudes and behaviors of millennial B2B buyers, and I recommend that you read the full report. In this post, I'll review some of the high-level findings from the research, and I'll discuss what the research findings mean for B2B marketers in future posts.

The Work in BETA report organizes the research findings around four major themes.

Blurred Boundaries

The boundaries between work life and home life have become blurred for BETAs. They use many of the same tools and services for both professional and personal purposes. Their smartphone is their go-to device for both professional and personal communications and information consumption.

  • Two thirds of BETAs said they are working from home.
  • More than 80% of BETAs said they regularly work late, work overtime, and check emails outside of normal work hours.
  • Over half of BETAs use their personal smartphone for work-related purposes, and over 70% said their smartphone is the most important device in their daily life.
  • Over half of BETAs said they use many online services for both professional and personal purposes.
BETAs are career oriented, committed to professional development, and active users of online learning opportunities. BETAs also want to be innovative, and they like to be trendsetters. But BETAs are more risk averse than is commonly thought. They conduct extensive research and seek expert advice before taking action.
  • About 4 in 5 BETAs participate in online learning to acquire or improve job skills, increase industry knowledge, or obtain professional qualifications.
  • About 75% of BETAs said they like to try new products, and about two thirds said that having the latest technological products is important.
  • But . . . about 30% of BETAs said they will only buy from a provider they've heard of before.
  • Most BETAs also seek expert opinions when researching products or services. Half or more said that recommendations from experts in my network and recommendations from industry analysts are very influential when researching potential purchases.
Tech Natives
Most BETAs are "digital natives." All but some older BETAs began their professional careers after social networks and many other online communication technologies had become mainstream. Many BETAs were already using smartphones by the time they started their first job. These circumstances have had a significant impact on how BETAs use technology and communicate.
  • BETAs primarily use websites (40%), social media (36%), and email/newsletters (32%) to keep up with industry news.
  • But . . . industry conferences and trade shows are (or were) important for BETAs - 4 in 10 said they were regularly attending them.
  • 71% of BETAs said they use a smartphone for work.
  • About 70% of BETAs said they use collaboration tools (Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.) at least once a day for work. And over 60% said they use social media and video calls at least once a day for work.
BETAs are more likely than older business professionals to expect brands to take actions regarding important social issues. Most BETAs care strongly about diversity (76%), community contribution (74%), and sustainability (67%). The open question is whether or to what extent BETAs will be able to translate their beliefs and values into actual business decisions and actions.

The Need for a Follow-Up
The surveys that the Work in BETA report is based on were conducted last year, and some of the survey responses were almost certainly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope The B2B Institute and GWI will publish an updated version of the report after the pandemic has subsided. That would help us distinguish pandemic-induced attitudes and behaviors from longer-term trends.

Image courtesy of ITU Pictures via Flickr CC.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Dodd
David Dodd is a B2B business and marketing strategist, author, and marketing content developer. He works with companies to develop and implement marketing strategies and programs that use compelling content to convert prospects into buyers.


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