The B2B Buyer Journey Becomes More Complex: Study Reveals


DemandGen Report’s B2B Buyer Behavior Study uncovers new purchase trends in the B2B industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the economic landscape for businesses. While we are yet to become certain about the full implications of the pandemic, purchase behavior across the B2B environment has changed. According to a new studyOpens a new window by DemandGen Report, 47% of business buyers are delaying purchases due to budget freezes. However, the study also revealed that the current crisis had not disrupted purchase plans for more than half of all the organizations surveyed.

In fact, the survey found 30% of companies had escalated some purchase plans due to changing business needs following the crisis. Another 7% said they were looking for more hands-on attention and engagement from solution providers, and 16% indicated their research and selection process had continued without disruption.

Also read: Why You Should Incorporate The Buyer’s Journey Into Your Content Marketing

The survey findings demonstrate an ongoing need for agility within the B2B buying community. Rather than assuming all buying decisions are on hold, the new data indicates instead that different verticals and companies have unique needs and they are expecting solution providers to engage in personalized ways that address their specific challenges more than ever. When asked which aspects of their purchase process had changed over the past year, the top three responses were:

  • Purchase decisions now progress based on changing business needs and priorities (82%);
  • Spending more time researching purchases (77%); and
  • Expecting more personalized attention from providers based on specific needs (76%). Buyers are expecting more from their solution providers.

According to the survey responses, the purchase process is becoming even more complex in terms of the time, analysis, and the number of people involved in the decision-making process.

For example, 61% of respondents said the number of team members involved in the purchase decision had increased over the prior year. More than two-thirds indicated the average length of their buying cycle had increased from the previous year. Another 25% said the time span had increased significantly. Almost three-quarters of the respondents said they had a formal buying committee in place to review all purchase decisions (71%), and 70% said that they were now conducting a detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision.

Also read: How Can a Company Make Sure That the Digital Journey Succeeds?

The combination of these trends represents a significant change for B2B vendors because they are expected to be visible and accessible prior to the sales process, in addition to being responsive and knowledgeable of the specific needs of customers. These changing expectations make account-based marketing an imperative for B2B solution providers. Their new processes must include tools that enable them to focus on prospects with the greatest need and interest while engaging key members of the buying team with relevant and timely content.

Key Takeaways From the B2B Buyer Behavior Study

The study provides in-depth insights into the channels and sources buyers are relying on as they start their journey, how they perceive brands, how the sales and research timelines have shifted, buyer expectations, and factors influencing vendor selection. We have curated the key takeaways for marketers below:

  1. Relevant content is key for early-stage engagement: When it comes to their web browsing experience in visiting specific vendors, buyers expect relevance and intuitive, user-friendly navigation experience. In particular, 70% of buyers ranked “relevant content that speaks directly to our company” as “very important” in the survey, and 96% of B2B professionals considered messaging that “spoke directly to our industry needs” to be important.
  2. Buyers are placing vendors on their shortlist earlier in their journey than ever before: 71% of respondents said they accepted outreach from vendors and engaged in calls and demos during the first three months of their buying timeline, and 65% accepted RFPs/competitive bids from a select list of providers within the first 90 days.
  3. Sales teams still influence the purchase journey: The survey results indicated otherwise: 76% of buyers said they engaged with a sales representative from their selected vendor within three months of their research, and 36% of respondents said they connected with a salesperson within the first month.
  4. When it came down to building a list of potential providers to consider, respondents pointed to features/functionality (73%), pricing (72%), reviews (59%), and deployment time/ease of use (56%) as their most important criteria.

Also read: 5 Steps That Will Change How You Think About the Customer Journey

The study also suggests that the B2B decision-making journey will only become more complex as timelines extend, and more members join the buying committee. This also goes on to demonstrate the value that account-based marketing (ABM) can bring to the table.