How the Consumer Buy Cycle Has Changed
As a lifelong B2B marketer, as far back as I can remember, there has been a steady stream of resources suggesting that B2B marketers should take a page out of our B2C marketing brethren’s book. But, the world of retail has changed, and more importantly, the customer buy cycle. And, now I think there are definitely a few things B2C marketers could learn from what B2B marketers have had to struggle with over the last few years.
It’s now becoming well understood in B2B sales and marketing that the buy cycle has changed. Today the B2B buyer is in much more control than ever before—going through 60 percent of the buy cycle before they ever engage with a vendor. So B2B marketing and sales have had to change their approach for how to engage with prospects and put their brand top of mind with the B2B buyer. Content marketing, marketing technologies and analytics all contribute to understanding where a buyer is in the buy cycle and “interacting” with the buyer with the appropriate content at the appropriate time to actually engage with the buyer until they are ready to talk to a sales person. From a sales perspective, B2B sales people have significantly more information available to them about the prospect (what they showed interest in, etc.), but the buyer is now much more versed on their needs, analyst reviews, and products/services you and your competitors offer. Salespeople must provide value to this well educated buyer.
Well this same buy cycle is happening with B2C marketers as consumers are more versed before they enter your store or website. They’ve done their research, their evaluation of brands before they even walk into a retail store (for retail marketers). And if they find something different, when they actually pick up the item they are interested in buying while in-store, and decide that something in their research has changed, they either leave the store to do further research and comparison shopping, or while in-store they use their mobile device to do exactly that.
As consumers become much more self-sufficient with product information, pricing, product location and more, the sales associate role will change. According to a study by Motorola, 61 percent of retail sales managers said they believe shoppers are better connected to product information than their in-store associates. This is not to suggest that the sales associate goes away but their role will change as their value will be to provide the consumer with more decision making support in the purchase. They provide more value to the consumer, helping them guide their purchase decision. This sounds so much like the way B2B salespeople are changing in their role.
Whether you are a B2B marketer or B2C marketer or one that has both channels, the fact remains the way people are buying is different—whether the buyer is buying an expensive software package for their corporation or a new faucet for their home. They have so much more information available to them. As marketers we need to be the ones that provide them the information they need and desire at each stage of their buy cycle.