[Research Round-Up] B2B Buyer Preferences, Online B2B Buying and Personalization

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(One of my objectives for the monthly Research Round-Up post is to share research reports and other research-related materials that may be under the radar screens of many B2B marketers. Our February Research Round-Up fits that description nicely. It features a look at B2B buyer preferences by organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, an examination of online B2B buying by Wunderman Thompson Commerce, and recent research from McKinsey about personalization.)

2021 Buyer Preferences Study:  Reconnecting with buyers by Korn Ferry

Source:  Korn Ferry
This research is focused primarily on B2B selling, but the results include several data points that are valuable for B2B marketers. Korn Ferry conducted a similar study in 2018, and the research report includes some findings from the 2018 study. So it's possible to see how some buyer attitudes and practices have changed over that three-year period.

The 2021 study consisted of a survey of 261 business buyers who work for companies having annual revenue of at least $250 million. Eighty percent of the survey respondents were director-level or above. All of the respondents were directly responsible for making purchases of $10,000 or more, and 59% had purchase authority of $200,000 or more.

Respondents were located in North America (43%), EMEA (35%) and APAC (27%). Respondents were from a variety of industries, with manufacturing (43%) and technology (32%) being the largest two cohorts.

The study examined how the pandemic changed the B2B buying process, when buyers prefer to engage with sales reps and what resources buyers use to address business problems and learn about possible solutions.

The research results contain several insights that are relevant for B2B marketers. For example:

  • On average, 6.2 decision makers are involved in buying decisions.
  • 57% of the survey respondents said they prefer to identify and clarify their needs and identify possible solutions before they engage with sales reps.
  • The survey asked participates what resources they turn to for information and insights about how to address business problems and challenges. The top three resources identified by respondents were past experience with vendor (44%), subject matter experts from industry or third parties (41%) and industry/professional online communities/social networks (36%). Only 28% of the respondents cited vendor websites, which was down from 35% in Korn Ferry's 2018 study.

Overall, this study confirms and reinforces the argument that marketing programs and marketing content are playing a vital role in influencing B2B buying decisions.


The B2B Future Shopper Report 2021 by Wunderman Thompson Commerce

Source:  Wunderman Thompson
This is the second edition of Wunderman Thompson Commerce's B2B Future Shopper research. The first edition of the study - which I discussed in this post - was published in 2020.

The 2021 report was based on a survey of 604 B2B buyers located in the United States (202 respondents), the UK (201 respondents), and China (201 respondents). Survey respondents included purchase managers, procurement managers, agents and C-level executives. All respondents were involved in making purchase decisions for their company.

The Wunderman survey addressed a wide range of topics related to online B2B buying. Here are just a few of the "headline" findings.

  • The survey respondents reported making 49% of their purchases online, up from 46% in the 2020 study.
  • 93% of the respondents said they expect to keep at least some of the purchasing behaviors adopted because of the pandemic after the pandemic ends.
  • 89% of respondents from the US and the UK said buying online is more complicated than buying offline.
  • 90% of the respondents said they expect a similar experience when buying on a B2B site as they do on a B2C site, and 72% said they want a better mobile experience from B2B suppliers. 

The shift to online B2B buying has been underway now for several years, and it's growth has been well documented. The Wunderman research provides valuable insights for companies that are already offering online buying as well as those that are just getting started.


The value of getting personalization right - or wrong - is multiplying by Nidhi Arora, Wei Wei Liu, Kelsey Robinson, Eli Stein, Daniel Ensslen, Lars Fiedler and Gustavo Schuler (McKinsey & Company).


Source:  McKinsey & Company
This resource is not a formal research report, but rather an article discussing several of the findings from McKinsey's "Next in Personalization 2021" survey. Some of the data points discussed in the article are also drawn from other recent McKinsey research.

The "Next in Personalization 2021" survey involved 1,013 US consumers that were sampled and weighted to match the US general population (18+ years). The survey was conducted September 7-8, 2021.

The McKinsey research echoes the findings of numerous other studies that have examined the importance and value of personalization. For example, McKinsey found that 71% of consumers now expect personalization, and 76% get frustrated when they don't find it.

In addition, 76% of the surveyed consumers said receiving personalized communications made them more likely to consider purchasing from a brand, and 78% said personalized content made them more likely to repurchase.

One note of caution. Several of the questions in the McKinsey survey were in the form of, "Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with [a statement]." Most of the percentage amounts used in the article refer to respondents who selected somewhat agree, agree, and strongly agree.

By including respondents who selected somewhat agree, the percentage amounts used in the article may not provide an accurate picture of how strongly consumers feel about personalization.

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