2020 has turned an already complex B2B customer journey on its head. A faltering economy, work from home orders, and unpredictable buyer behavior have forced B2B marketers to reconsider historically successful tactics. Bombora’s data has shown weekly fluctuations in brands’ intent for marketing and advertising terms that appear to mimic the daily disruptions to Americans’ lives. Nothing is static. Marketers understand that they need to walk the line between playing it safe and embracing untested opportunities to maintain some semblance of control in an uncontrollable environment.
Growing Demands in B2B
A common refrain over the past few years, “B2B marketers must embrace digital transformation,” has grown from a suggestion to a demand in the past seven months. IP targeting of workplaces has little use; B2B buyers are relying more on virtual interactions, research, and purchases to conduct business; and audiences have shifted in behavior, demographic makeup, and sentiment. Throw in the tricky element of distraction and you have a conundrum. Buyers, however focused on the task at hand, are facing an hourly onslaught of news and information. Competing for a buyer’s attention has become exponentially harder.
B2B International’s recent study on digital transformation and B2B businesses states plainly that “the future is now.” The pandemic ushered in a do or die scenario for B2B marketers—digitally transform and begin delivering great customer experience now, or risk failure.
Strikingly, this research found that only 15% of B2B brands are “CX leaders,” based on self-reported strengths across six pillars: commitment, fulfilment, seamlessness, responsiveness, proactivity, and evolution. The qualities separating a CX “leader” from an “average” performer or “laggard” include communicating USPs and customer value, implementing processes that foster innovation, and having strong data strategies in place that lend themselves to customer personalization.
The New B2B Buyer
It’s easy to speculate why the report classifies 30% of its respondents as CX laggards: B2B marketers know that their audiences look and act in ways that are nearly impossible to prescribe. Millennials, many of whom are now approaching 40, are increasingly comprising higher percentages of B2B decision-making bodies. This digitally savvy group has a lower tolerance for tried-and-true marketing strategies of the past such as cold calls, direct mail, and TV ads. B2B marketers are also grappling with the absence of in-person events, relegating interactions with brands’ sales teams to later stages in the buying cycle.
As B2B International notes, these new B2B buyers don’t necessarily want exclusively online experiences with brands. What they do want, however, is a high degree of personalization across every customer touchpoint, whether it’s delivered online or in person. The avenues through which buyers complete their purchases should be easy to navigate and tailored to their needs. To illustrate this point, B2B International is seeing increased interest among B2B marketers in direct-to-consumer channels that eliminate friction in a buyer’s journey and give brands more control over their data and audiences’ paths to purchase.
There’s no doubt that undergoing digital transformation is a complex endeavor that’s demanding of a business’s resources. But once achieved, this effort serves as a springboard for consistent, effective marketing benefiting marketing, sales, and a business as a whole.
To learn more about B2B International’s research, download the report here.