For any company, being able to effectively drive sales starts with understanding the customer. However, the way we go about understanding customers is constantly changing, now more than ever. Spending patterns are becoming less rigid and B2B buyers are adopting new methods for procuring enterprise solutions to suit specific needs. Chief among those methods is the power to do extensive research before making online purchases.
According to data from a 2019 study, done in partnership with Futurum Research and SAP Digital Commerce, over two thirds of respondents stated that they took time to do in-depth research on at least half of all online purchases. On top of that, over 80% of businesses have moved away from an annual buying cycle for enterprise software – more on that here from Sharon Ruddock, Head of SAP Digital Commerce.
It has become abundantly clear that these changes in behavior are far more than passing trends – they are the new normal for organizations all over the world as business models continue to modernize and digital buying further expands. Success hinges on understanding the unique persona of who each digital buyer is. To make that understanding impactful, every B2B seller needs to consider the following four things.
1. Customers Want to Solve Business Problems
Especially now, as remote work continues to be a key for survival, organizations are prioritizing digital transformation and overhauling IT systems. Futurum’s report shows 50% of businesses identified moving to the cloud as a key strategic initiative that drove them to make purchases digitally. As more companies either take on new digital-transformation projects or continue initiatives that may have been put on pause due to the global shutdown, the need for digital buying is increasing.
B2B buyers are looking for solutions that will integrate seamlessly into their IT systems mid-transformation. Knowing the challenges and objectives of customers is essential to developing an online buyer journey that can draw them in and guide them through the purchasing process and beyond.
2. Customers Are Ready to Make Fast Buying Decisions
At a time where organizations everywhere are feeling the economic stress of the global pandemic, the path to purchase needs to be as streamlined as possible. Recent data from McKinsey & Company points to how exactly buyers are conducting product research. The findings show more than 20% of businesses surveyed rely on some form of digital resources when looking into suppliers online.
For a business looking to update enterprise software, an inefficient website or digital marketplace with a difficult purchasing process can often be what keeps them from engaging further. B2B companies need to ensure their customers have the necessary resources that will support quick, yet informed purchasing decisions. To help this process and journey, digital marketplaces and ecosystems need to include things like streamlined calls to action, simplified search and discovery, and product pages that clearly highlight the value of a solution.
3. Customers Seek Validated, Ready-to-Use Solutions
With B2B buyers doing more research into the solutions they choose, the value needs to be readily apparent. Further data from the Futurum report shows a clear distinction for B2B buyers – They want to know exactly how the products they buy will operate within their business. In fact, 90% of all respondents felt that product trials are a clear factor in the ultimate decision of whether to buy or not. Additionally, four out of five surveyed report that paid proofs of concept were of great value, and an important consideration when deciding on an enterprise software solution. Its clear digital offerings need to show value up front and be able to address pressing needs.
4. Customers Want to Serve Their Own Customers Better and More Quickly
It’s important to remember that B2B buyers have customers of their own. Especially as budgets continue to tighten, organizations in all industries need to be able to differentiate themselves from the competition. As more flexibility seeps into how and when companies choose to buy, B2B sellers need to sharpen their guidance via digital channels along the customer journey to deliver reliable solutions that help customers – and by proxy, their customers – succeed long-term.
Even before COVID-19, the way companies buy and sell was already changing, but recent months have propelled even more seismic shifts in how B2B purchases are made. And for now, it looks like that change is here to stay. McKinsey found that 80% of businesses are likely to maintain their COVID-related changes for at least the next 12 months. As companies everywhere adapt, the ones that are prioritizing digital marketplaces and providing even better digital experiences based on a keen understanding of each buyer’s unique persona are the ones that will come out on top.