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B2B Buyer Behavior Shifts from Gen X to Gen Z

Purchases between businesses are becoming increasingly complex as Millennials and Gen Z’ers (Zoomers) now account for 63 percent of stakeholders in the decision-making process for many organizations.

While modern buying groups aren’t made up solely of Millennials and Zoomers, the B2B landscape is at a unique juxtaposition where buying groups are getting bigger and customer journeys are increasing in complexity, which is leading to a more diverse mix of role players in the process. This means up to three generations can be working together to make decisions at any given point in the buying process. Now more than ever, businesses must know who they are targeting and how best to engage them at the right time.

The complexity of buying

Though many organizations are focusing on the generational shift of the buyer from Boomer to Zoomer, the core of the complexity of B2B buying is less about this shift and more about the overall complexity of the customer journey in today’s digital-first landscape.

When considering that most buying groups have more than a dozen stakeholders  for large purchases, the road to a final decision can be winding to say the least. Mix in varying demographics and buying preferences of three different generations, without a unified goal in mind, a clear process can be difficult to put in place.

The paths to market for providers must change with modern buying preferences, leading businesses to make their solutions and services available through a multitude of purchasing methods, such as app stores and vendor websites. Though at the end of the day, for large contracts especially, relationships still matter and buying directly from the provider within a more traditional sales interaction is still the most common purchasing channel.

A great way to build trust within your multi-channel approach is through social proof from peers and colleagues, allowing you to build trust and accelerate the adoption and consumption of a SaaS solution by showing how the software boosts productivity, delivers a better experience, and ultimately helps to close more sales.

Finally, as your target market continues to become more diverse across these three generations, adjusting your messaging to speak directly to skill and career development is paramount for Gen Z and Millennials, as this is statistically very important to these two generations. This will also boost your efforts in addressing the business value of the solution you’re offering. Staying close to your audience is essential to understanding how they buy, when they buy, and how they look for information –– making sure you’re showing up with helpful relevant content.

The mindset shift

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With multiple demographics involved in the B2B buying process, so too comes varying mindsets and points of view. Recent data shows that 78 percent of marketers feel encouraged by leadership to take risks in an effort to improve performance. This is a considerable mindset shift in the industry, as only 58 percent of marketers said they felt encouraged to do so just three years ago. Additionally, today’s buyers are not easily satisfied, and are also not shy about expressing it. Forrester reports that 90 percent of modern buyers express dissatisfaction with an existing vendor/partner in at least one area.

These trends are in correlation with the shift towards a younger buyer, indicating the need for the industry to be increasingly creative in order to capture the largest part of the current buying audience. Creating campaigns that resonate and align with modern buyer preferences is paramount as younger generations continue to take the lion’s share of the buying market in coming years as Boomers prepare for retirement

Purchasing preferences

Millennials and Zoomers in particular are information seekers, looking to make intelligent purchases after consulting multiple sources –– specifically forums and message boards outside of the provider’s control.

On the other side of this coin is the Gen X buyer who continues to be a mainstay within many organization’s buying teams. Older generations often focus on building a personal relationship as the foundation of their buying process, or at the very least engaging in a conversation with the organization they’re looking to purchase from.

Multiple avenues of buying is making the market in which we’re operating increasingly complex, meaning brands need to work harder to cut through the noise and stay relevant. In times gone by, C-level executives were the main decision-makers, however increasing levels of complexity means responsibility is being delegated from executives to teams containing an increasing number of Millennials and Gen Z’ers.

As these buying teams continue to flesh out their strategies and ways of working across self-guided and personal interactions, enterprise companies must ensure that the customer journey across these channels is aligned. This is crucial for supporting enterprise customers in the ways they actually buy.

Research shows that the three current buying generations continue to prefer a combination of self-guided and personal interactions. The self-guided aspect is going to hold more of a role within the influence and nurture phase of the process, rather than the final decision. Personal interaction is always going to be a large piece of the pie in the case of complex B2B buying with multiple stakeholders across varying demographics.

As Boomers, Millennials, and Zoomers find efficient ways of working together to support their organization’s B2B buying goals, each generation must be open to collaborating to create a unified strategy. When these groups work together, melding their expectations and preferences into a unified vision, that is when the complex B2B buying process becomes simplified and successful.

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