Millennials have long been under the microscope in the B2C world. They’ve become a consumer psychographic and influencer of wider behaviors. 

But until recently, the impact of this major cohort has rarely been assessed in the context of B2B.

We believe this is an oversight that should be corrected.

We partnered with LinkedIn to give B2B brands a fresh perspective on business purchase decisions by looking at what we call the new “BETA” buyer

Aged between 21 and 40, this persona represents the largest group of purchasers for both hardware and software within their companies.

Brands that want to stay relevant and understand what makes this highly influential persona tick, read up.

Attract their attention with learning opportunities.

The pandemic forced an abrupt and unscheduled transition from in-person conferences to online events. 

And although online channels were already becoming established as an acceptable (and more eco-friendly) way of doing things, the outbreak accelerated this trend.

With new restrictions in place, it’s questionable when or even whether things will revert to pre-pandemic “normal”. 

This shift toward digital-first or online-only engagement has had big implications on the B2B sales process

It’s harder to entertain, engage, and capture attention in online contexts, meaning the types of incentives that might previously have been used to build relationships and rapport (tickets to leisure events, drinks events, etc.) will need to evolve. 

The uncertain future of conferences means webinars, supplier websites, and any other online alternatives all enjoy elevated importance, but they’ll need to be repositioned to appeal to BETAs. 

Take webinars, for example.

BETAs are the most avid webinar attendees – almost half attend regularly.

This drops to 40% among 41-50s and 35% among 51-64s. 

But just a third of BETAs globally say webinars are useful when buying a product/service.

Considering the large majority of them are very actively engaged with online learning, repackaging webinars more in the vein of “learning events” might help them resonate more strongly as the concept of a webinar may feel dated to some.

Elevate their status in every step of the purchase journey.

With our data spanning across BETAs’ personal and professional lives, we can see the importance of status clearly manifested in both consumer and business settings for this group. 

When asked what factors would lead them to advocate or positively review a brand online, BETAs are over twice as likely as other segments to say they would do this if it enhanced their reputation or status.

This is a group of early adopters and trend-setters. 

As consumers, they always want to be the first to try and own the latest products, and over 6 in 10 cite keeping up with the latest fashions as a driver.

Throughout our research we’ve found that BETAs are also the most likely segment to blur the lines between their personal and professional lives.

It’s therefore paramount that B2B brands pay attention to BETAs’ views and behaviors as consumers, as they exert influence over their professional decisions too. 

This is evident when we look at the reasons why they might consider bringing a new product or service into their company. 

Some drivers are universal and cut across age groups. For example, about 4 in 10 decision makers in all groups cite improving efficiency as an important initiative for the year ahead, putting it top of the table among the 15 options covered in this study. 

We see a similar story for ROI (selected by just over 1 in 3), as well as for finding the best supplier (1 in 4).

But where we see BETAs stand out is bringing in a product or service to keep up with the latest trends, or because they know a competitor is using it. For BETAs, trend-setting and status-seeking hold more importance.

It’s absolutely necessary for them to be on top of things, at all times; while researching a B2B product on provider/supplier websites, they attach the most importance to looking at which other companies are already using a solution.

BETAs are also much more likely to say they follow what other companies are posting on social media. 

1 in 2 BETA decision makers do this, compared to 1 in 5 among those aged 51-64.

Their behaviors are somewhat reminiscent of the much-discussed millennial trend of “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) being manifested in the business setting.

Reassure them with expert endorsements.

Throughout our research, an interesting paradox came to light when it comes to BETAs’ attitudes and how that’s translated into their purchase decisions. 

Despite being early adopters and trend-setters who express an openness to innovation, new ideas, and new products/services, BETAs spend the most time on research; they explore the widest range of vendors, and yet are the most likely to ultimately pick one they already know. 

Globally, a quarter of B2B decision makers say they’ll only buy from a vendor they’ve heard of.

This peaks at 30% among 21-30s and drops to just 13% among 51-64s; and it highlights the importance of brand building. 

While this group places a premium on experimentation and innovation, it’s best described as “safe” innovation. More than any other cohort, BETAs want to be reassured before making their choices.

One clear manifestation of this is the power of reviews and endorsements during the B2B research phase.

What influences B2B buyers

Just over half of BETA decision makers say expert recommendations from within their network are very influential, making them the most prominent option among the 16 different sources we asked about. 

User reviews and recommendations from industry analysts are also equally influential. These notably outperform recommendations from colleagues, friends, or contacts which, while still strong touchpoints, don’t carry quite the same clout (42%). 

Experts matter to this cohort, but those experts need to have qualifications that BETAs can verify.

The opportunities for B2B suppliers to disrupt the current status quo are clear – especially as BETAs are the least likely to wait until the end of a contract before evaluating new solutions. 

Providing a sense of reassurance is key, as is understanding the seemingly contradictory mindset at work here: they want to be (seen as) decisive, bold and innovative, but in reality, they proactively and meticulously seek certainty before committing to a decision. 

Take a stand and tap into their activist mindset.

Across a wide range of today’s issues – from gender equality and diversity, to the environment, community participation and sustainability – BETAs express personal views which are more pronounced than those of their counterparts in other cohorts. 

In our custom research on coronavirus attitudes and behaviors, we found that BETAs are the most likely to believe companies behaving sustainably and individuals reducing their personal carbon footprint had become more important to them since the pandemic.

This doesn’t necessarily mean their values are different; it’s that the relative importance of these values or issues vs. others has been rebalanced among the BETA segment. 

And although stated beliefs won’t always translate into actions, we expect these beliefs to exert a substantial influence over how they choose products and vendors.

B2B brands should actively support and respond to expressed intentions and sentiments just as much as actual behaviors. 

They need to demonstrate a greater commitment to issues or values that resonate with BETAs. 

It won’t be enough to just be vocal about societal issues though – businesses that want to really appeal to this cohort and attract their attention need to be bold disruptors willing to push against the status quo. 

BETAs buy into brands and products that make them stand out from the crowd, but also give them the reassurance and confidence they need to commit to a purchase decision. 

Click to access our Work in BETA report

Written by

Jason is Chief Research Officer at GWI. He's the main man who leads our global team of analysts, delivering world-renowned research. He's an in-demand data junkie who you might see popping up on your telly screens every so often to show you what's actually happening in the lives of consumers.

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