Which Digital Channels Do B2B Buyers Use to Engage With Vendors?

September 1, 2017

There’s somewhat of a gap between expectations and reality when it comes to the B2B customer experience, according to a Marketo study [download page], with vendors less likely to provide a consistent experience than buyers are to value one. The good news is that the channels that marketers are most likely to have integrated are also the ones that buyers use the most.

The study is based on surveys conducted among 1,192 marketers, 511 B2C consumers and 489 B2B consumers. This article highlights results specific to B2B buyers, who hail from a mix of industries, job levels and departments.

Websites and Email the Most Common Digital Engagement Channels

When it comes to digital engagement channels, websites and email remain the clear leaders for B2B buyers, according to the report.

Of note, websites are used more often than email for comparing products and services. As buyers progress through buying stages, the influence of websites recedes and that of email increases. As such, email is as important for the purchase stage as websites, and gains prominence as the single most-used channel for post-purchase feedback or support.

Several digital channels, like websites, are used most by buyers for comparing products and services, with a drop-off in use for purchase and post-purchase. Those include podcasts and webinars, blogs, video and games.

There are some channels, however, that are as likely – if not more so – to be used for post-purchase feedback than for initial product comparisons. Those include chat, social media, and online communities, as demonstrated in the above chart.

B2B Buyers Expect A Personalized Experience

Separate results from the report suggests that vendors able to personalize their interactions can win over B2B buyers. Consider that:

  • Two-thirds (66%) expect all their interactions with vendors to be personalized; although
  • A similar share (65%) feel that the vendors they purchase from could do a better job aligning their engagement activities with the buyer’s preferences.

Worth noting is that while B2C consumers see innovation in engagement in terms of promotions and coupons, B2B buyers see it more along the lines of personalized communications.

Further results indicate that these personalized interactions could be expressed by a strong understanding of a buyers’ needs.

Indeed, three-quarters of buyers surveyed said that for vendors to successfully engage them, they must have a deep understanding of their needs. The benefit, for 2 in 3 buyers, is a desire to advocate for the brands that demonstrate that they care about them.

Interestingly enough, separate research indicates that there are more important considerations for buyer loyalty than a vendor understanding needs. In fact, product quality, customer service and pricing all emerged as bigger levers in loyalty than a demonstrated understanding of the buyer’s needs.

That doesn’t mean that it isn’t important, of course. In fact, one of B2B buyers’ biggest frustrations with vendors is a lack of knowledge about their needs, and it seems logical that buyers would want to engage more with vendors who take time to understand their businesses.

As such, the recommendation appears to be that vendors take more time to understand engagement and personalization, as most buyers see interactions as primarily transactional in nature.

The full report is available for download here [download page].

About the Data: The results specific to B2B buyers are based on a survey of 489 B2B buyers who purchase products and services on behalf of their organization and engage directly with current and prospective vendors using digital channels. Respondents come from the US, UK, France and Germany, and 58% are from SMBs (<500 employees for US companies; <250 employees for European companies).


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