B2B customers are increasingly led by consumer habits and experience

New report from Avanade on B2B customers shows more are relying on social media and peer advice, and will pay more for better customer experience

B2B customers are increasingly displaying the characteristics of consumers when it comes to purchasing behaviour, and rate customer experience over cost , a new report claims.

The B2B is the new B2C report was produced by Wakefield Research for IT integrator, Avanade, and is based on surveys of 1000 c-level executives and IT decision makers globally, including 75 Australian respondents.

The report showed enterprise customers are increasingly doing their own research and sourcing feedback from partners and peers in the market place, then bringing vendor sales staff in much later in the decision-making cycle.

For example, 61 per cent of respondents consult third-party sources before consulting an enterprise company’s Salesforce, including third-party sites, social channels, and peers with previous experience with a product or service. Eighty-nine per cent also said these sources are a factor when making B2B purchasing decisions.

In addition, 42 per cent of buyers reviewed a company on a third-party website, and one-third posted a review on social media channels, while nearly 20 per cent posted comments about the company on Twitter.

Another key finding from the new research was that business buyers are willing to spend up to 30 per cent more on products and services supported by an improved customer experience. Fifty-six per cent of respondents said they had paid more for a product or service in the last six months because the customer experience was better than other, less expensive options.

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Avanade country manager, Jeyan Jeevaratnam, told CMO the research was part of a quarterly process by the integrator to understand latest buying trends in the market, and modern customer behaviour. He pointed out Avanade as a business is increasingly investing in more user-friendly experience and design-led IT interfaces to better customer engagement.

“The buying cycle hasn’t changed a huge amount – B2B is a longer process than B2C – but the way companies research purchases, and the process of decision-making, has definitely changed,” Jeevaratnam commented. “Customers are much more informed. Previously you’d have to explain what it is you do and how you do what you do. Today, customers already know what you do.”

The Avanade isn’t the first report indicating the changing buying behaviour influencing B2B sales, but it does highlight the need for organisations in this space to increasingly invest in value-led content, more consultative selling and longer-term customer experience deliverables. According to a recent piece of research undertaken by the Corporate Executive Board, B2B buyers are on average 57 per cent of the way through the purchasing cycle before they make contact with a supplier (Related article: Why your B2B content marketing strategy isn’t working).

B2B suppliers realigning around better customer experience are reporting longer-term and more lucrative relationships, the Avanade report stated. It found 60 per cent of companies that have built new business processes and technologies to accommodate shifts in customer interactions report increased revenue, while 6- per cent also report a large customer base and 61 per cent report improved customer loyalty.

Among the ways organisations are embracing this customer-oriented approach is through process and technology. Eighty-three of survey respondents said IT, marketing and manufacturing now play larger roles in directly managing customer experiences than they did three years ago. The report also stated 83 per cent plan to invest in technology aimed at improving their customer experience in the next year.

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