Saying 2020 has been a bit of a doozy is an understatement. 

The B2B journey from need, to research, to purchase has always been a winding road full of challenges on the way. Slashed budgets, a busier marketplace, and remote working en masse makes it even harder to follow the journey and stay one step ahead.

Because of the pandemic, 38% of B2B buyers have delayed business purchases until the situation becomes clearer. 26% have done so to cut costs.

It’s a bleak picture. But by understanding these new behaviors through research to purchase very closely, you can adjust your strategy to fit, and shorten the sales cycle.

The new B2B buyer: what’s on their minds?

  • Security (e. g. that data is protected and encrypted) is the single most important factor for B2B buyers when purchasing new tech or software, ahead of things like value and efficiency.
  • 60% anticipate a moderate or significant growth in revenue in the next year.
  • 36% say improving efficiency and productivity is important to driving this growth.
  • The biggest operational challenge B2B buyers’ company or team is currently facing is effective use of tech (37%).
  • The biggest external challenge their company or team is currently facing is competition in the market (40%). 
  • The majority of buyers are now using emerging tech, with many hoping to join them.

The new B2B purchase process

B2B buyers are streamlining their path to purchase, preferring to get relevant, targeted information on their specific need over mass, general research before buying. 

We now recognize two specific stages in the B2B purchase journey.

That’s right, two.

The research stage

  • Most B2B buyers research 4-5 vendors before making a decision (39%).
  • Just over half prefer to buy from a provider they’ve heard of before – but will consider others.
  • 43% of buyers find social media posts by current users of a product useful when conducting research – ranked above those of thought leaders (32%).
  • Nearly half of buyers say recommendations from experts in their network are very influential when researching a new product.
  • 52% of buyers aged 25-34 say user reviews are very influential purchase influencers, compared to 28% of 55-64s. 
  • Over a third of buyers think case studies are the most useful kind of content when looking to buy a new product or service.

Content is crucial – but it needs to be the right type of content in the right place. There are key differences in preferences between age groups, nevermind industry sectors. 

Brand awareness plays a huge role in the research process, but a lack of it can be overcome. The majority of buyers want to be able to email vendors at their leisure, making it a crucial part of the purchase journey.

What to do with this info

  • Relevance is key. Ensure your email strategy meets your target audience’s standard.
  • Nurture your relationships with current customers to ensure word-of-mouth is available and positive.

The purchase stage

  • 39% would consider bringing in a new product or service if it improves company efficiency, ahead of things like cutting costs.
  • 34% see their company as an early adopter of new tech or software, saying they’re one of the first to use them.

Quality stands tall with B2B buyers, with efficiency being the top motivator when purchasing a new product. And innovation may give the final push, with more than a third taking pride in getting in there before the rest.

What to do with this info

  • Focus messaging on the efficiency and effectiveness of your product or service, along with the ease of implementing it.
  • Remember you’re not only speaking to one person; it’s more likely you’ll need to convince 2-5 decision makers before the purchase is made. Shape your strategy to fit.

Leveraging the new B2B purchase journey

It’s all well and good knowing how and why your target consumers choose products. But there’s no point having knowledge without putting it to good use. By going back to basics, you’ll know your strategy is fit for purpose. Here’s how.

Scrap what you thought you knew.

You may have had a complete, trustworthy consumer journey map to hand until now, but things have changed – drastically and quickly. Knowing what’s changed and how to adapt will make your communication strategy stand out.

Look at your data.

Your maps are only as good as the data that guides them. Use a specialist data set like GWI Work to know you have access to the most targeted, up-to-date research there is.

Zero in on your consumer now.

The consumer journey changes because the consumer does. While your target audience may stay pretty much the same, the needs, and motivations of those buyers are in constant evolution. To have a true purchase map, you have to keep pace with them.

Come back to the research.

Purchase journeys rarely stay the same for long, and in these uncertain times they’re changing more than ever. Keep evaluating your process to make sure you’re making decisions and basing strategies on what is happening in real time.

This is an excerpt from our latest guide B2B marketing & the next normal: Attracting your new buyers. 

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