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B2B Strategic Update: September 2020 Review

This year has presented many challenges for marketers, from the virus to social issues, and they have effected how we bring our brands to market. Now that we are about six months past initial lockdown more than half of Americans are in the “coming to grips” and “living a new normal” mindsets. As life has been slowly normalizing, worries have shifted to the economy, the presidential election, social injustice, and racial inequality. As marketers, we will continue to overcome these obstacles by focusing on customer relationships, improving customer experiences, and building brand loyalty by delivering real value from tapping into data.

B2B marketers have an opportunity to align with the current events and showcase how their brands are helping the world. We have seen business increasingly turn to digital channels that presents a big opportunity to focus on as we plan for 2021. Physical meetings and tradeshows have been replaced with virtual events and Zoom calls. eCommerce is taking on a big role in capturing sales that used to be made in person. When the supply chains were affected by recent events, B2Bs came through with innovations for sourcing, transportation, and logistics. Marketers now have an opportunity to propel their brand to the top by adapting their messaging and experiences to their customers’ new needs.

Insights and Trends

Increased eCommerce shipping, lower fuel costs, and efficiency benefits logistics companies

U.S. delivery firm FedEx reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly profit, after price hikes, lower fuel costs and efficiency gains countered negative impacts associated with a pandemic-fueled surge in eCommerce shipments.

Average daily package volume for FedEx Ground, which handles eCommerce deliveries for retailers like Walmart, jumped 31% to 11.6 million during the fiscal first quarter ending August 31. Revenue per package rose 2% to $9.33 during the quarter, which also included one additional business day.

Lowe’s acquires more suppliers by mentoring and providing grants to small businesses

Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison said the retailer wants to give small businesses a hand by offering a path to get products on its shelves and website. Ellison said that it will search across the country for standout entrepreneurs as part of a new initiative dubbed “Making It... At Lowe’s.” It has enlisted help from Daymond John, a star of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” to mentor entrepreneurs and whittle down the pool of contenders. A small group will participate in a one-day virtual pitch competition, judged by Lowe’s executives and hosted by John.

During the pandemic, Lowe’s committed $55M towards grants for minority- and women-owned small businesses and rural small businesses. Ellison said it’s received more than 800,000 applications, which illuminated the great need and inspired the pitch contest.

Building out the 5G infrastructure creates big opportunities and fierce competition amongst B2Bs

Nokia has suffered a setback after it had lost out to Samsung Electronics on a part of the contract to supply new 5G equipment to Verizon in the United States.

With this $6.64 billion contract win, Samsung has reinforced its position as a challenger to the dominance of Nokia and its Nordic rival Ericsson in selling telecom gear, after China's Huawei was barred from bidding for 5G contracts in the United States.

Major telecom firms such as Verizon use several suppliers for building various parts of a network with radio contracts accounting for a big part of the spending.

However, U.S. satellite TV provider Dish Network, racing to build a 5G network in the United States by 2023, has turned to Finland’s Nokia to supply 5G core software. Dish is building its network ground up and has so far chosen non-traditional telecoms vendors and a new technology called Open Radio Access Network (RAN) that uses software to run network functions on the cloud, reducing the use of physical equipment.

Consumer Sentiment

eCommerce gains bigger share of total revenue

The pandemic accelerates the pace of B2B eCommerce. Many traditional purchasing channels, such as distributor branches, shut down as a result of the pandemic, but one channel remained open: digital commerce. Today 51% of all companies purchase at least 50% of their goods and services online. Nearly 25% of all B2B buyers make an online purchase weekly.

Broadcast campaigns driving increased traffic

While overall ad spending has declined, a new study of TV and radio ad campaigns indicates they are actually performing better during the COVID-19 pandemic. On an average, TV and radio ad campaigns are generating nearly 7% greater "lift”, which is defined as increased traffic to the advertiser's website, over the course of the 15 months analyzed.

Average campaign

Concern for presidential elections and social issues increasing in importance

From August to September, worry has shifted from the health crisis and the economy to other emerging topics. While the health crisis and economy are still the top two concerns, the presidential election, social unrest, and racial inequality have seen significant gains.


Search trends for B2B technology solutions surging YoY

Growth in search demand for B2B technology categories softened slightly over the past two weeks, with growth of +26% YoY for the week ending 8/29 (from +30% for the week ending 8/15). Excluding teleconferencing, the category was up 22% YoY. Three categories saw accelerated growth over the past two weeks: Customer Service & Support Software up 11pp (from 22% to 33%), Teleconferencing up 11pp (from 311% to 322%) and Sales & Marketing Software up 1pp (from 24% to 25%). Markets experiencing acceleration include the UK up 10pp (from 10% to 20%), the US up 6pp (from 20% to 26%), Germany up 5pp (from 9% to 14%), and Australia up 3pp (from 12% to 15%).

Latest Trends

Amazon growing its air fleet, becoming UPS and FedEx competitor

Amazon is rapidly adding planes to its air fleet, inching closer to UPS and FedEx. Between May and July, Amazon added nine planes to its Amazon Air fleet. Amazon Air now includes about 70 planes and the fleet is expected to grow to more than 80 by 2021, Amazon said in June. That’s up from the 50 planes it counted in February 2019. Amazon Air still remains smaller than its rivals, including FedEx, which operates 463 planes, UPS’ fleet of 275 planes and DHL’s 77 planes.

Equifax offers new marketing suite to target personas and manage customer relationships

Equifax is offering a new B2B marketing suite to help businesses prospect and retain key customer accounts. The suite includes access to the B2bConnect database, a resource that can help users set up automatic email or CRM alerts, the company says.

Equifax provides intelligence on over 150 million companies worldwide, including 53 million U.S. businesses and 80 million B2B contacts. The suite includes access to DigitalConnect, a new purchase intent tool.

The new suite is designed to provide an omnichannel view of prospects and existing customers, states William Phelan, senior vice president and general manager of PayNet, an Equifax company.

Users can create target personas and manage customer relationships.

Google announces Series One, new flagship Google Meet hardware-as-a-service plan

Google said that it will release a range of flagship hardware for its Google Meet platform, an effort meant to bolster Meet's appeal among distributed and remote teams. Video conferencing and collaboration players in hardware and software are increasingly turning to hardware-as-a-service plans and bundled hardware and software offerings in response to increased demand for collaboration tools.

Amazon Business


Google Small Business

What We See Working (and Why)

Taking a stance on political issues

Brands that take a stance are more likely to gain new and loyal customers. While over one third of consumers have switched brands after opposing a stance, close to one half of respondents have continued to purchase a brand that takes a political stance they support, offsetting any switchers. Additionally, consumers are more likely to voice advocacy for a brand they support. Overall a brand staying silent elicited the least amount of action from consumers, with half saying they have done nothing about a brand’s silence on key issues. Yet, there is still a cost. The other half of consumers have taken some action, with a quarter switching brands and 1 in 5 boycotting or encouraging their network to boycott, respectively.

B2B digital advertising is up

Despite a 9.6% YoY decline in total B2B advertising, B2B digital advertising spend is up 22.6%. Digital now makes up 38% of B2B ad spend, a significant increase from 28% in 2019. During the pandemic, B2B customers are prioritizing product quality and trusting relationships, while marketers focus on customer retention and building brand value over optimizing ROI.

In conclusion, B2B companies need to actively address marketing efforts given the new environment to both overcome today’s challenges while also capitalizing on new opportunities. “Navigating the new normal” will require revised marketing guidelines for the end of 2020 and beyond.

Marketing Guidelines