B2B buying has always been a complicated dance. In the past, sales representatives needed to master their role, develop perfect pitches, and nurture mutually beneficial relationships with buyers. But that was before the age of digital natives. Now, digital natives make up 73% of the workforce involved in B2B purchasing decision making. And that number is not going back down anytime soon.
Digitally native B2B buyers are more autonomous and have more information- and technology-based expectations about the customer journey than their predecessors.
Why do digital natives care so much about this type of product content? How can modern commerce and ecommerce businesses fulfill buyer expectations and stay relevant today?
How B2B digital natives buy
There is one key trait of digital native shoppers: they want to be their own, highly autonomous, advocate.
Millennials and digital natives have lived their entire lives with Google at their fingertips, and they’re accustomed to finding information themselves. These buyers are self-sufficient and want to come to the deal table armed with their own research. In fact, in 2017, 68% of buyers surveyed believed that finding product content themselves was superior to interacting with a sales rep.
This generation of shoppers expects easy, ungated access to information about pricing, features, competitors, reviews, and anything that could impact a purchase decision. Here’s what you can do to meet their expectations today and (more importantly) tomorrow.
Take a page from B2C and digitally native businesses
The seemingly opposite arenas of B2B and B2C selling have become increasingly similar. B2B buyers want direct access to information and purchasing options—both of which are longtime pillars of B2C. They expect a smooth, multichannel experience. In fact, 1 out of 4 of today’s buyers have bought B2B products via mobile. That’s not a B2C stat—we're talking B2B!
Multichannel (and omnichannel) experiences are built into their brains, and they might find it unsettling when a major seller can’t live up to modern expectations. Importantly, multichannel doesn’t simply mean all the places where your company lists and advertises. It means wherever the user is looking, whether you’re there or not.
If businesses want to keep buyers happy, emphasis must shift from wooing buyers to empowering them with information. They must make product information accessible through third-party websites, and they need to understand the importance of search.
Search is one of the most important tools for modern and future B2B buyers.
Sales is no longer the gatekeeper of product information; B2B marketers and customers need easy access
Let’s consider the customer journey of digitally native B2B buyers.
- The search begins online with a generic, unbranded search query.
- The shopper researches using numerous unbranded sites and eventually lands on a brand’s website.
- Eventually, the shopper is ready to seek a demo or ask for a quote and make a decision.
Successfully reaching the buyer during the discovery phase and nurturing them during the decision making processes is completely intertwined with well-syndicated product content. Traditionally this information has been limited to business’s own sites. However, this is not how modern commerce and ecommerce function.
Let’s check out those steps again, considering the role and possibilities of product content.
1. Shopper uses broad search queries to locate brands and products.
They select the most objective sources they can find. This means they will land on sites that rank and are mostly un-branded and how powerful SEO, like Alibaba. Here, they find information about all of the products listed on the site (including those from competitors).
- *Tip*: In order for products to surface during the discovery phase, you’ll need to syndicate product content to (and tailor it for) sites like these.
- *Tip*: To reach more users at more touchpoints, you’ll want to grow your channel portfolio. Leverage not only obvious sites (like Alibaba) but also anywhere your competitors list as well as niche and regional sites.
2. Shopper performs independent research.
They gather exact information to inform their decision and report to others involved in the purchasing process. After an average of 12 searches, they finally land on a brand’s site.
Shoppers gather product information independently from a number of sources, meaning you need to make information available through your website and digital catalog as well as through third-party sites.
- *Tip *: To provide a compelling product experience, data should always be standardized and on-brand. Your website, too, must be powerful and data-rich. Learn more about tailoring data for B2B here.
- Beware of using different wording or images as this may confuse shoppers.
- *Tip *: Look beyond sales channels: there are also marketing channels, content databases, on-site search, and even marketing automation tools that can benefit from product content.
- *Tip *: Buyers come to your product pages in search of the absolute, official, correct product information. Be sure your product pages are both completely thorough and filled with any related, additional visuals. Alternative images or product videos can turn a flat picture with a few attached specs into a tangible object.
3. Shopper is finally ready to request a demo, quote, or more information.
While product content will not play a direct role in this step, it does bring marketing back in the loop. Marketing teams should gather more data on leads and what made them convert. This can be used to inform channel strategy and targeting opportunities.
Importantly, all while your team has been nurturing this buyer, so have dozens of other businesses out there on marketplaces, comparison sites, and more. That means the customer not only has basic information like price and descriptions, they also have an informed opinion of your company and how it operates.
How can B2B businesses manage this shift?
The long tradition of assertive sales teams coupled with heavy, legacy technology has made it easy for B2B businesses to lag behind. It can make digital transformation seem particularly difficult—but that isn’t necessarily true. A successful shift will simply require the right technology toolkit.
Modern solutions like Productsup make it easy to take basic product content (for example, from a PIM, DAM, or ERP) and ensure it’s cleansed as well as optimized and contextualized for specific channels, fast.
- This ease-of-use means: marketers can handle product content tailoring and syndication all on their own, no IT or high-level professional required.
- This agility means: businesses can quickly reach new channels, audiences, and regions in hours or days instead of weeks.
To get started, businesses (especially large enterprises) should take complete stock of their current situation. Where might a PXM or PIDS solution fit into your current processes? Consider reading more on end-to-end product data management for enterprise and start seeking out the right tools to make your product content agile and digital native-ready.