2020 could prove to be a pivotal point of change in buyer behaviour, in both B2C and B2B markets. Confined to our homes for extended periods, long-established habits are evolving, with more people researching and buying online and associated expectations developing.
Retail buying habits
Forbes reported that this was the year that a whole new sector of retail customers turned to online shopping globally. It’s inevitable that purchasing habits would change in a pandemic, but are they here to stay?
Given that life isn’t expected to return to normal until winter 2021 (at least according to this vaccine creator), it’s not surprising that the overwhelming opinion is yes. The longer that we have to develop and maintain these new shopping behaviours, the more likely it is that they’ll remain.
UNCTAD agrees. A multi-country survey showed that habits made now were likely to change ecommerce forever, but also revealed that while number of online purchases had increased, especially in certain categories like personal care, total spend was down.
DemandGen’s 2020 B2B Buyer Behaviour Study found that buyers are demanding more from their suppliers. As business requirements have changed, purchasing decision-makers are taking longer to research and consider their options – almost 70% of respondents reported an increase in length of purchase cycles.
DemandGen also noticed that business customers are expecting more personalised attention from providers based on their specific needs.
McKinsey reported that, worldwide, B2B buyers and sellers are both preferring digital transactions, for several reasons: safety, speed and convenience.
Contrary to UNCTAD’s B2C findings, McKinsey accounts that businesses are happy to buy big online, and the future is optimistic.
Evolving marketing strategies
As Google Consumer Insights points out in How consumers make purchasing decisions during COVID-19, “brands need to show that as the pandemic continues to disrupt established patterns, that they are able to respond dynamically to changing consumer needs and support new behaviours.”
This is true for both B2B and B2C. As customer expectations and habits evolve, there’s an opportunity for those businesses who can adapt quickly to gain a competitive advantage.
For example, in markets where sales would traditionally be face-to-face, digital tools like video and live chat are effectively replacing that real-life human interaction. This can both lead to a lower cost per acquisition model and greatly extend market reach.
As expectations rise for personal attention, one way that companies can manage this is with well-considered marketing automation. As it becomes more mainstream, as it has with B2C, there develops an expectation that communications and recommendations will be tailored to an individual.
If it hasn’t already this year, your marketing strategy really has to be updated now, as buyer habits look set to change for good. As well as considering new channels of communication, put some thought into the content you share. Even for those businesses who were already fully operational online, there’s both a pressing need to demonstrate empathy and to do so quickly to cut through all the noise, identifying and understanding the pain points of your customers and how they’ve changed.
Marketers have always endeavoured to attain relevance through context, and this is no different. Now is the time to adapt.