Marketing to Millennial B2B Buyers – The Rise of Micro-Moments

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In my last post, I reviewed the findings of a recent research report that examined the attitudes and behaviors of millennial B2B buyers.

Work in BETA:  The Rising B2B Decision Makers ("Work in BETA") was published by The B2B Institute, a think tank funded by LinkedIn, and GWI, a market research company. The report was based on surveys of over 17,000 business professionals, and it focused on the attitudes and behaviors of those between the ages of 21 and 40. The surveys were conducted in 2020 and included respondents from ten countries.

Numerous earlier studies have shown that millennials are playing increasingly important roles in B2B purchase decisions, and the Work in BETA surveys confirmed that millennials have become major players in B2B buying. Forty percent or more of the millennial survey respondents 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%).

Many of the attitudes and behaviors identified by the Work in BETA research aren't new, nor do they exist exclusively among millennials. But they matter more now because millennials have become key decision makers for many B2B purchases.

The findings of the Work in BETA surveys are interesting in themselves, but they also have important implications for B2B marketers. I'll be discussing three of these implications in this post and the following two.

The Ubiquitous Smartphone

Millennials have been linked to smartphones for years, but the Work in BETA research showed that smartphones have become millennials' go-to device for both personal and professional purposes. Among millennials, smartphones have surpassed laptops and desktops to become the most widely-used device for work-related activities. Over 70% of the millennial survey respondents said their smartphone is the most important device in their day-to-day life.

It's also clear that millennials use smartphones for a wide variety of activities. GWI's research tracks 35 online activities, and the firm found that millennials are more likely than older business professionals to do all of them via a smartphone. And on average, millennials perform 14 of the 35 activities exclusively with a smartphone.

Implications for Marketers

In light of the Work in BETA findings, B2B marketers should assume that many (perhaps most) interactions with millennial business buyers will occur via smartphones. Obviously therefore, marketers need to ensure that their content can be easily viewed on these devices. 

The more significant implication for marketers, however, is that always-available, always-on smartphones have enabled people - including B2B decision makers - to access and consume information differently than in the pre-smartphone world.

Nearly six years ago, Google introduced the concept of micro-moments to the marketing world. Google argued that the customer buying journey has become fragmented and composed largely of many brief interactions that usually involve a smartphone. Google contended that people increasingly use smartphones in spare moments of time to engage in brief, spur-of-the-moment interactions for specific purposes - i.e. micro-moments.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, who was then Google's Senior Vice president of Ads & Commerce, described micro-moments as follows:  "Micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device - increasingly a smartphone - to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something." Therefore, Google says, companies must win at those micro-moments in order to maximize marketing success.

Micro-moments impose stringent demands on marketers. The Google research found that when people interact in a micro-moment, they have high expectations for immediacy and relevance. So marketers need to have content resources that will work effectively in these brief encounters. In addition to having resources that can be easily viewed on smartphones, marketers need to develop and deploy "bite-sized" content resources that can be easily and quickly consumed.

Google's initial discussion of micro-moments focused on the behaviors of consumers. The Work in BETA research shows that the pervasive use and reliance on smartphones by millennial business decision makers have made micro-moments a prominent feature of the B2B marketing landscape.

Illustration courtesy of Aaron Yoo via Flickr CC.

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