B2B Buyer Behavior is Changing, Making Experience Objective #1


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2020 is underway and businesses continue to navigate digital transformation in hopes of finding new ways to grow their brand while remaining cost-efficient. As a way to support both of these initiatives, more companies are turning to digital channels when purchasing software. This allows for a much quicker process from the discovery and trial phase to purchase and use. With the pace of business continuously speeding up, digital buying is attracting more attention and starting to take a serious lead.

A shift in buyer behavior like this one brings a lot of change to how things are bought and sold in the B2B space. To understand key transformations in buying patterns and digital purchases, we partnered last year with Futurum Research to source and publish the 2019 B2B Digital Buyers’ Journey Report. The findings are key to helping B2B sellers better inform their strategies for the years ahead. Some interesting trends show businesses are no longer sticking to old timetables for buying software and are de-prioritizing legacy relationships when deciding who to buy from.

Understanding key shifts in today’s B2B buying process
According to the research, nearly 80 percent of businesses no longer rely on calendarized buy cycles to purchase software. In fact, more than half say they are ready to make a purchase anytime a solution is needed to keep the business moving forward, rather than waiting for budget approvals or biding time until upgrade and purchase periods come around. Similarly, the data also uncovered another major shift, showing fewer than one in five organizations still consider legacy relationships a factor when choosing enterprise software solutions to purchase digitally.

As a result of these changing habits, we are seeing the digital experience firmly take its place at center stage. The most simple, efficient and highly personalized experiences are the ones that keep existing customers coming back and attracting new ones. Personalization, combined with one-to-one digital engagement between a brand and each of its customers, aren’t new concepts. But as this paradigm shift in buyer behavior takes a deeper hold on the B2B world, it’s important that B2B brands get it right by embracing these techniques.

Keeping up with the speed and complexity of modern business
The conversation for some time has centered around access to customer data and the ability to glean real-time insights from that data in order to make it actionable. However, the process of personalization and engagement is becoming increasingly more complex. The speed at which business is done now has a lot to do with this and puts even more pressure on brands to provide unique customer experiences at each new interaction and purchase stage.

On top of this, B2B buyers have specific demands when deciding what to purchase. Product trials are still very important along the digital buying journey, with 90 percent of organizations considering them to be a key factor in the decision-making process. 85 percent rated one-on-one online product demos and video product demos as highly important to their buying journey, further showing the important role of trials in determining how and what is purchased.

Embarking on the digital buying journey
Digital channels allow businesses to move far more quickly than traditional sales processes. While many B2B purchases do still require a higher level of touch with a salesperson or team, businesses are increasingly showing that they also want alternative options for faster, lower touch ways to buy. It’s clear an omnichannel approach to B2B buying, one that provides digital options as a faster way to purchase when needed, is essential to moving business forward.

The pace at which change and technological advancement are occurring across industries is a major driving force in the behavior shifts happening in the B2B buying landscape. Purchases are now based on needs of the moment, and brands are choosing to engage with the solution providers that give them the best, most personalized experience, tailored to their unique business goals.

As more brands look to source and purchase the solutions they need via online channels, B2B businesses need to let go of traditional sales methods. The path forward will require organizations to leave behind the comfort of being a ‘legacy’ provider in favor of building new relationships with customers online – ones that map to their growing digital needs in order to keep business moving.

Sharon Ruddock
Sharon serves as head of SAP Digital Commerce, providing customers one seamless experience across all digital channels. She oversees digital customer strategy for SAP across sales, customer success, support and marketing, and has enabled and exemplified the digital transformation of SAP. Previously, Sharon was responsible for all learning in the Global Customer Operations organization within SAP and served as Chief Operating Officer, Mobility.


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