The B2B community has seen a lot of change in the last year, from changes in buyer mentality to the push for validated solutions. As we look toward the next year, we are likely to see even more change as businesses continue adapting to the new normal of remote operations and digital commerce. Customers are becoming more deliberate and strategic in their purchasing decisions, looking to maximize value and minimize wasteful spending. These factors are leading the way for the drastically different era of buying and selling we find ourselves in. With that in mind, here are four of the biggest trends I expect to see grow in the coming year.
1. The Future of B2B Sales Is Digital
Perhaps the most noticeable change brought by the pandemic is the shift to remote operations. B2B buyers are now taking on their research, shopping, purchasing and deployment from a totally digital angle. The market has been trending this way for some time, with digital marketplaces gaining popularity over the last few years. However, COVID-19 has accelerated that approach and made it essential for B2B companies to offer their solutions in a seamless digital buying experience. Looking forward into 2021 and beyond, these changes are likely to only gain momentum. While in the past, buyers might have relied solely on face-to-face interactions with sales reps, moving forward this will likely be paired with digital purchasing to best meet a given customer’s needs, when and where they need it. The combination of these approaches will give sales teams more agility to meet the unique needs of every customer. Digital tools like intuitive search capabilities, easy to navigate web pages, and other assets will be the key differentiator in whether a remote sale can take place.
2. A Consumer Approach to B2B Buying
The shift in mentality around buying behavior has driven the need for more robust digital platforms and marketplaces. Buyers are rethinking the way they make purchases and have more tools at their disposal to find solutions that are customized to meet specific needs. As ecommerce holds its place in the spotlight, the lines between B2B and B2C continue to blur. Customers will look for more than just a good product and seek a high-quality user experience. The process of buying enterprise software will need to become even more streamlined with buyers’ expectations even more focused on having the same level of simplicity as if they were buying household goods online. The success of B2B sellers will largely depend on their ability to treat prospects as everyday consumers, guiding them through the customer journey – from initial research all the way through to the final purchase.
3. Breakaway from the Traditional Buying Cycle
As B2B buyers rethink their approach to how they procure their enterprise software, we’re continuing to see a marked shift away from traditional models, like calendarized buy-cycles. Where businesses once adhered to a specific schedule, such as quarterly or annual buying, to meet their software needs, they now look to make those decisions at will, free of any restrictive timelines. In a business landscape dominated by COVID-19, flexibility and agility can be the difference between simply surviving and making progress on a growth trajectory. Things like fixed buying cycles will continue to be phased out in favor of making purchases on a rolling basis. By doing so, B2B companies will be better equipped to navigate crises while keeping their operations and digital transformation efforts on track well into the future.
4. Customers Will Seek Out Validated Solutions
In a time where every purchase is scrutinized before moving forward, companies need to feel confident in their decisions. There are ample options available in the enterprise software market but knowing which one is right for a specific business need is not always immediately clear. With budgets tightening, specifically due to COVID-19, B2B customers will demand validated products and the ability to try before they buy. In fact, data from Futurum Research found that 90 percent of buyers identified product trials as a necessity in the purchasing process. Beyond product trials, having a strong set of partnerships brings the ability to create customized solutions but also can give an added sense of confidence for the customer.
What’s on the Horizon? More Digital
With in-person interactions still at a minimum, companies are relying more and more on digital options. As B2B buyer mindsets and behaviors change further, we see even more necessity for the ability to purchase software online. B2B customers are naturally taking on a more consumer-oriented approach to their decision-making process, so having digital channels where they can easily shop around, conduct research, see the value of a given product and transact digitally will be the deciding factor for success. Recognizing this shift and tailoring go-to-market strategies to align with this as we enter 2021 will prove vital for businesses as we continue navigating the pandemic and beyond.