Analysis Suggests More Channels Equals More Sales for B2B Companies

March 23, 2022

B2B companies had to quickly pivot to virtual selling options during the early days of the pandemic, and as time has passed, they’ve grown more confident in their new sales models. New research from McKinsey suggests that this confidence is a result of companies increasingly offering various interaction points, arguing that “omnichannel is more effective than traditional sales models alone.”

The results of McKinsey’s latest B2B pulse survey – fielded among 3,360 decision-makers in 12 markets – certainly draw a link between omni-channel selling and market share gains. For example, while 46% of respondents using a single channel to sell products and services reported an increase in market share of at least 1 percentage point versus peers during 2020-2021, that figure increased with each successive number of channels used. As such, 72% of respondents that enabled purchase over 7 channels reported market share growth.

The meaning of omni-channel has changed over time, too, as the bar has been set higher and higher. Today, B2B customers report using 10 distinct channels to interact with suppliers over their decision journeys, up from an average of 7.5 in 2019 and 5 in 2016. New channels that are being used now include mobile apps, video conferences, and web chats, among others.

B2B Customers Want Options

Another interesting finding is that B2B buyers are almost evenly split in their ways of interacting with sales reps. At the earliest stage of the process – identifying and researching new suppliers – 34% share opt for digital self-serve, while 33% choose remote human interactions and 33% traditional interactions. Likewise, this near-even split is seen among buyers when considering and evaluating new suppliers. Not too surprisingly, during the ordering and reordering phases, there is a slight tilt towards digital self-serve and away from traditional interactions, but even in these cases, at least 30% of buyers choose the traditional methods.

Preferred Channels Differ by Purchase Situation

As one might expect, B2B buyers gravitate a little more to certain methods than others depending on the type of purchase they’re making. For a first-time purchase, buyers tend to favor traditional methods over remote or self-serve, and the same is true for higher-value purchases and more complex purchases.

By comparison, self-serve is the preferred interaction method for lower-value purchases and less complex ones too.

What Experiences Are Required for Customer Loyalty?

McKinsey outlines 5 experiences that are prerequisites for customer loyalty, termed “must-dos” and said to be wanted by buyers in combination. These critical attributes are: a performance guarantee (full refund; essential for 78% of buyers); product availability shown online (74%); ability to purchase from any channel (72%); real-time/always-on customer service (72%); and consistent experience across channels (72%). For each of these, without being offered, at least 7 in 10 would look for another supplier.

Other essential elements include outcomes-based pricing (70%), readily available customer reviews (69%), shipping within 2 days or less (64%) and a single log-in/password for all supplier sites and apps (63%).

Other Findings:

  • 72% of B2B companies that have built their own marketplace report market share gains over the past year, compared to 42% of those who say they will never consider building a marketplace.
  • B2B companies with a greater degree of marketing personalization are more likely to report market share gains than those with a lesser degree of personalization.
  • Almost 3 in 10 (29% of) B2B buyers surveyed in December 2021 reported a willingness to spend more than $500,000 on a single interaction on remote or self-service channels, up from 25% in February 2021, with that change coming from an increase in the percentage willing to spend between $500,000 and $5 million.

About the Data: The results are based on a December 2021 survey of 3,360 B2B decision-makers in 12 markets: Brazil; Chile; China; France; Germany; India; Italy; Japan; South Korea; Spain; UK; and US.

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