B2B buyers are behaving more like consumers, requiring online B2B sellers to provide a more helpful buying experience, Forrester Research says.

B2B buyers are likely to have researched the product, obtained pricing information and consulted peers for feedback about vendors—much like a consumer—before logging onto a seller’s ecommerce site. Successfully converting buyers then requires sellers to create buying experiences throughout the customer lifecycle that are frictionless, connected, intuitive, and immediate, Forrester says the report, “What B2B Buyers Crave,” by analysts Steve Casey and Lori Wizdo.

StevenCasey-ForresterResearch

Steven Casey, principal analyst, Forrester Research

“Your buyers now expect a fundamentally different relationship with your company,” the report says. “Customers now control more of their buying journeys—and they know it. Your job is no longer to convince them to buy, it’s to help them buy.”

Price transparency is crucial

Crafting experiences that make today’s B2B buyer feel more like a partner rather than a target starts with providing relevant information on their website. This includes pricing, even for customized products, business practices and policies, market feedback, sales channel/route choices, delivery options, and ongoing customer experience and results. In other words, sellers need to create digital experiences that give buyers the information they seek to make better purchasing decisions and feel confident their purchase will deliver the desired business outcome.

Seller websites should also make it easy to sign-up for a demo or trial, get tips on how to use the product, and connect buyers to a sales representative with a click of a button.

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“Critical purchasing information such as pricing, performance, and perceived value is tipping the balance of power from company to customer, and that trend has now rolled across virtually every industry and is affecting buyers’ behavior at every stage of the lifecycle,” the report says.

More pieces of the buyer puzzle

LoriWizdo-ForresterResearch

Lori Wizdo, vice president, principal analyst, Forrester Research

Providing critical information that can aide in a purchasing decision is just one piece of the puzzle. B2B buyers expect interaction across all sales and marketing channels to be as personalized as what they experienced online. “Tomorrow’s buyers will expect every experience with your organization—all the content they access, all the conversations they have, and all the offers they receive—to feel like a natural and logical extension of their previous experiences,” Forrester says.

When it comes to providing a connected buying experience, B2B sellers should be more collaborative, creating what the report calls a mutual success plan that spells out what the buyer is seeking to achieve and how their purchase can help reach that goal. “Marketers and sellers can learn from best practices in customer success management that compel customers to express exactly what it is they are trying to achieve and build a roadmap to shared success,” the report says.

As B2B buyers move through their purchasing journey, suppliers should use what they know about the buyer’s preferences and behavior across multiple channels to proactively engage them along the way. In doing so, sellers can create buying experiences that are more dynamic and prescriptive, as opposed to reacting to how the buyer interacts with the seller.

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Proactive in the buyer’s journey

“Modern B2B buyers will expect providers to be present and proactive at every moment of their journeys, in all of their preferred channels and touchpoints,” the report says.

As part of proactively engaging buyers, B2B sellers must be prepared to provide information about a product’s benefit to their business. “More than 60% of buyers now say sellers who are knowledgeable and address their needs have the most positive impact on their buying decisions,” the report says.

Finally, B2B suppliers need to reassure buyers that their business and personal information are safe from hackers and will not be shared with third-parties without consent. “Buyers want to know that their providers are using their sensitive personal and business data in an ethical manner and protecting it from inappropriate access,” the report says. “With only 28% of the global Fortune 100 explicitly referencing data privacy in their corporate social responsibility reports, this is an opportunity for your organization to increase its appeal to modern B2B buyers.”

Moreover, online buying experiences are likely to become even more important as pandemic-caused social distancing may lead to a permanent increase in digital interactions between buyers and sellers, the report says. To benefit from this trend, it adds, B2B marketers need to offer informative, frictionless, connected, intuitive, and immediate buying experiences.

Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.  

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