Five Intangible Buyer Behavior Trends To Monitor In 2021


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Despite turning the calendar from 2020 to 2021, we find ourselves starting the new year in more turmoil.  A catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic that continues to increase in scope. The hope of the vaccines tempered as the rollout encounters delays. And the disturbing insurrection at our capitol causing national anxiety.  To ignore these in a business context is to be blind to the effect on our society. 

Such tumultuous events will have a direct impact on buying behaviors in 2021. Organizations today will need to monitor buying behaviors as they ebb and shift in 2021.  Here are 5 intangible buying behaviors, uncovered through qualitative buyer research interviews at the end of 2020, companies should monitor:

Spending Squeeze

In the world of B2B, buying teams and processes are prominent.  What we can expect is that CFOs and heads of purchasing will favor prudence in spending.  The optimism that may have been present in the fall for some has taken a hit.  The increase in recent uncertainty will cause B2B companies to squeeze tighter on budgets.  Buyers will be under tougher restrictions when it comes to spending. 

Justification Requirements Grow

As spending budgets are reduced, any form of spending, especially high-stakes, will be put under more scrutiny.  Buyers and buying teams will need to take extra steps and care to justify purchases and expenditures.  In a recent article, I presented the concept of “collective confidence” that buying teams and management will seek.  Part of justification efforts will be to address and reinforce “collective confidence” amongst colleagues.

Backlash Against Content Flood

I ended 2020 talking about the content fatigue on the part of buyers.  This will lead buyers to further ignore or turn-off the overwhelming volume of content they are facing day in and day out.  It is anticipated backlash behavior will include just being silent and “going dark.”

Low Tolerance For B.S. Quotient

What we have seen in the past year is the heightened sensitivity to facts has become front and center.  The pandemic has increased the inherent desire for non-embellished truth.  This will decrease the tolerance for hyperbole in a firm’s marketing and sales effort.  What may have caused buyers in the past to take such with a “grain of salt” may lead to outright elimination.

Desire For Seller-Free Experiences Grow

An area we have explored before has led some to question how practical seller-free experiences may arise.  Practicality will work itself out.  What cannot be ignored is that buyers’ desire for such is increasing.  The fact that this desire is rising, in the context of turmoil, means buyers are internalizing it. The internalizing will, no doubt, have the counter effect of decreasing any wants or desire to rely on direct sales contact.

The cumulative effect of the above is weighing on buyers today.  Where fatigue, distrust, anxiety, and uncertainty can all become elements present in the mind of buyers.

For the immediate future, these will be tough intangibles in buying behaviors for B2B companies to deal with.  What the above appear to indicate is an overarching theme that is not often mentioned.  That is, how B2B companies exercise sensitivity and tone in their relationship with buyers matters. 

If B2B companies, in their actions, whether intentional or unintentional, appear tone-deaf, buyers may form negative brand perceptions.  Such negativity will take many years for companies to overcome. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


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