Traditionally, the B2B buyer journey has been slow and linear, with digital tactics such as email marketing, web and social leading the charge. Now, the landscape is changing. So just how are B2B marketers tackling this challenge? Surveying marketers across global B2B brands, businessman asks where B2B marketers are focusing their budgets in 2020, uncovering three top digital experience priorities for the year ahead.

B2B marketers are realising that their customers — at heart — are still consumers. Sure, they may have bigger budgets. And yes, their decisions have more layers of sign off. But the things that influence those decisions are the same. When buying for business, people want reliable products, prestigious brands, good service and, most important of all, a great customer experience.

Whether you’re a consumer buying a new laptop or a B2B buyer purchasing half a million pounds worth of IT equipment, those four basic factors remain the same.

To address this change, marketers targeting the B2B space are turning to omnichannel strategies that put the customer experience first. At its heart, this means rethinking digital experiences, bringing together web, mobile, search and social to provide consumer-grade experiences for every B2B transaction.

So just how are B2B marketers tackling this challenge? Surveying marketers across global B2B brands, Episerver set out to answer this question. Asking where B2B marketers are focusing their budgets in 2020, the research uncovered three top digital experience priorities for the year ahead.

1. Personalised content

More than any other tool in the marketing arsenal, personalisation is set to play a fundamental role in B2B strategies, and 36% of B2B marketers have plans to adopt this technology in 2020, according to the Episerver survey. Simply investing in personalisation technologies, however, isn’t enough. For personalisation to effectively improve the B2B customer experience, it needs to be accurately targeted — and that takes significant data.

You need to understand your audience, and in the B2B space that can be easier said than done. For B2B brands, journeys are typically longer, more circuitous and involve more third parties than consumer ecommerce. Audience mapping, detailed persona work, task modelling and UX journey planning are all needed to fully understand and segment the target audience. Technology will certainly be the first step towards true B2B personalisation in 2020, but there’s a long road ahead.

2. Investment in mobile experiences

Yes, I know we’ve all been talking about mobile experiences forever, but the reality is that these will grow in importance in 2020 and a lot of brands still have a long way to go.

In the past, marketers assumed that large-scale B2B purchases were never going to be completed via a mobile phone. The reality is that more purchase-related research is being conducted on mobile devices and tablets. As such, B2B brands that ignore mobile marketing in favour of a static, desktop approach are destined to fall behind.

According to Statcounter, 52% of all web traffic now comes from mobile, while 50% of all B2B search queries are made on smartphones. In fact, 90% of B2B buyers say they’re likely to buy again from a vendor that offered a superior mobile experience, compared to just 50% of those who report a poor experience. Given this fact, it’s no surprise that B2B marketers are desperate to catch-up with their consumer counterparts when it comes to building great mobile experiences.

3. B2B ecommerce

Traditionally, B2B marketers have avoided transactional ecommerce, understanding that the multi-buyer decision making process doesn’t lend itself to in-the-moment online purchases.

As websites evolve however, this is starting to change. According to Episerver’s research, 72% of B2B marketers believe that — by 2025 — the vast majority of their company’s revenue will come from their B2B ecommerce websites. This demonstrates two things:  First, that even in the multichannel age, company websites are still considered a key source of revenue. And second, that ecommerce is becoming a serious point of sales for B2B brands.

This shift may be due to the growing suite of ecommerce tools now available to B2B brands. Where once, ecommerce sites consisted of simple, transactional tools (product listings, shopping carts, payment systems, etc.), now, there are a whole host of tools available that complement the B2B buyer journey. Customer-specific pricing, smart reordering, flexible payments and real-time inventory updates are all features that B2B brands can benefit from. These features, combined with increasingly advanced on-site help, chat and post-purchase support are all helping to make the ecommerce process more accessible for B2B buyers.

Across all three areas of focus, the unifying theme is one of constant improvement in the customer experience. Personalisation and online support are both great examples of technologies that empower customers, while improved mobile experiences are a vital part of reducing customer frustrations online.

Given this new, customer-centric focus, B2B buyers should look forward to a major improvement in digital experiences in the year ahead.

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