Even as more B2B transactions close digitally, many buyers say the experience of interacting with a sales rep is superior to gathering pre-purchase information on their own, Caroline Robertson of Forrester Research writes.


Caroline Robertson

I’ve stopped giving gifts to adults during the holiday season. Don’t get me wrong, I love the holiday season, but after realizing that my two sisters, their husbands, and even my mother had to think hard to name the things I’d given them the prior year, my husband and I changed our approach. We now primarily give experiences—we’ve arranged a dinner train ride, an overnight in a spa, a food fest, and more for our loved ones. The recipients have recalled each and every one.

We predict that buyers will see a more balanced buying experience combining human, physical and digital engagement.

While I never thought I’d compare my personal habits to the strategic moves by the organizations my team serves, we’re encouraging them to make the same shift from emphasizing the products they offer to the experiences they deliver. At a time when product innovation is so rapid, experiences are what leave an enduring and differentiated impression.

We’re predicting that 2020 will mark an inflection point in business consumers’ relationships with their providers, driven in part by expectations for consistency across all buying routes and increasing reliance on both marketing and sales to provide the service of timely engagement.

Buyers will reward organizations that own the moment

Customer centricity is already the design muse for vanguard organizations, directing organization and technology decisions. We predict that 2020 will obsolete product-centric planning and siloed channels for the mainstream marketer as well. While our report includes more details, here’s what we expect to see in the coming year:

  • Seller engagement will increase, even as more transactions close digitally. Last year, the number of business buyers who said they found interacting with a representative superior to gathering information on their own slightly increased. That may signal sellers’ increasing value and involvement in transactions of all types.
  • Sales enablement will expand its scope and more frequently operate within the marketing organization. Companies in which sales enablement reports into marketing exceed revenue expectations more frequently. We expect that more than half of B2B organizations will realign their sales enablement function into marketing.
  • The value prop for B2B customer data platforms (CDPs) will shift from data integration to activation. CDP adopters will move beyond core data integration use cases to build more precise audiences for activation, leveraging AI-powered decision-making and broad integrations to begin automating and orchestrating buyer journeys.

Stemming the seemingly inexorable tide of self-directed research, shortlisting, and even purchasing in an all-digital environment, we predict that buyers will see a more balanced buying experience combining human, physical, and digital engagement. Our research in 2020 will continue to consider how aspects of our personal and professional lives influence each other and the transformation this drives. As I’ve found in my personal life, experiences matter more.

Caroline Robertson is vice president and research director for B2B marketing at Forrester Research Inc. This blog was initially posted on Forrester’s website.