More and more buyers are researching options and making purchases online without contacting sales reps. Are you engaging these buyers with relevant content throughout the B2B buyer’s journey and winning their business?
As you might expect, with more people staying home, online sales in the U.S. increased 76% in June (year over year). Of course, much of this growth comes from online grocery sales, which rose 100% from the first two weeks in March to the last two weeks, as well as retail sales.
According to estimates, there were 1.9 billion digital buyers in 2019 and online sales accounted for 14.1% of retail purchases worldwide. By 2023, that percentage is expected to reach 22%. And that was before we had a global pandemic.
While it’s no surprise that online grocery and other retail sales have skyrocketed, has this trend spilled over to B2B sales? In a word, yes.
Understand that People are People
The trend toward researching options and making complex purchase decisions online was happening long before people were stuck at home in front of their computers. While some sources such as Econsultancy say 68% of the B2B buyer’s journey to the point of purchase is conducted online, research from other sources such as MarketingSherpa suggest that number is even higher—up to 80% of a B2B purchase decision is made before contacting a sales rep. Additionally, research by Forrester confirms that the majority of B2B buyers prefer to conduct research independently online prior to engaging with your company. It’s a safe bet that this online sales trend will only continue to grow given our current environment.
But there is more at play here than people working from home in their favorite PJs. Digital technology has transformed consumer habits. Today, buyers can get the information they want whenever they need it on multiple devices and this convenience has shifted consumer expectations.
A recent article by B2B Online expresses this idea perfectly: “What B2B companies need to understand is that B2B buyers are everyday consumers, too. They don’t have split personalities—one at work and one at home. This means they want the same ease and convenience when researching, comparing and ultimately buying products in the B2B space as they get when making consumer purchases.”
Meet Your Customers Where They Hang Out
For those of you who are old enough to remember, “hanging out” at someone’s house, a park or other venue (aka the hangout) was a popular activity. It basically involved doing nothing but visiting with friends. Today’s version of hanging out happens online. And it’s not limited to young people. Adults are hanging out in places like LinkedIn, Facebook groups, chat rooms and e-commerce sites. Consider these stats from ITProPortal:
- 75% of global B2B organizations said their customers demanded an online buying option and nearly 75% of those gave “ease of purchasing” as the reason
- 87% of respondents said they prefer B2B e-commerce solutions that mimic the B2C buying experience
- Over 50% cited personalized buying experiences as important and nearly 70% said they found companies/products on sites they frequent (in other words, where they hang out!)
Reach Customers with Compelling Content
Considering this limited interaction with salespeople, buyers are relying on digital content such as blogs, white papers, e-books, research reports, videos and buyer reviews to find solutions to their problems and research potential purchases. They want to read, watch videos, listen to podcasts, attend webinars and use social media to ask questions. Which is why companies need to publish regular, useful, engaging content at each stage of the B2B buyer’s journey—from awareness, through consideration, to purchase, including online sales.
Nurture Prospects Throughout the Journey
Publishing compelling content on multiple sites is a great way to connect with customers and boost online sales, but there is a way to make this connection even more effective.
Remember the stat about buyers wanting personalized experiences? These days prospects expect you to know them—or at least know enough about them to personalize messages and provide relevant information when they need it. The ability to reach out to prospects or existing customers based on the actions they take on your website, what content they engage with or where they are in the B2B buyer’s journey, in a timely manner, is called “nurturing.” It sounds complex, but it can be done easily with marketing automation and automated drip campaigns.
Drip marketing or nurturing allows you to send the right messages or content to prospects, qualified sales leads or existing customers at the right time in the sales cycle. Keeping in touch with customers with relevant information has become a simple process with marketing automation platforms. What’s more, these campaigns can be customized for virtually any purpose, including:
Keeping your company top of mind
Remind prospects of the benefits your product/brand offers. This is especially valuable for B2B companies with lengthy, complicated sales processes.
Provide relevant product information during the awareness, consideration and decision phases, which will help prospects make more informed choices. More importantly, by understanding and responding to interests, you can move prospects through the B2B buyer’s journey to a purchase.
When leads go cold, how do you regain their interest? Design drip campaigns to re-engage prospects with new product information, special offers or educational information.
Targeting competitors’ customers
Showcasing the benefits of your products or providing useful information that makes life easier for people can lure customers who may be dissatisfied or looking for alternatives from competitors.
Featuring promotional offers
The timeliness of drip campaigns makes them perfect for limited time offers or special pricing.
Embrace the Digital Transformation
Even when the days of Zoom meetings and “elbow shakes” are over (fingers crossed), it’s highly likely digital research and online sales will continue to increase. If B2B companies want to increase online sales and compete against companies who already have a strong digital presence, they will need to focus efforts on content marketing, along with marketing automation data and delivery.
Now is the time to embrace the digital transformation and win the online battle for customers.
Ready to win the online battle with content and marketing automation? Call Sean Hickey, Director of Business Development, at 734-646-0713, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.