When marketers discuss the purchasing habits of young consumers, business-to-business (B2B) transactions are seldom mentioned. “It may sound strange, but the grey-haired B2B purchaser in the pin-striped suit isn’t the norm anymore,” says Matt Adams, managing director of digital performance agency iProspect.
Last month, the Dentsu Aegis Network shop launched its new global B2B online marketing division, iProspect Enterprise. Offering digital consultancy for B2B brands exclusively, the firm’s London hub is one of three, with others opening in Chicago and Singapore. Adams tells City A.M. about the myths behind B2B purchasing and his predictions for the industry in the new year.
Why is digital B2B marketing so difficult to get right?
Trends around B2B purchasing have changed remarkably in the last 18-36 months, and our industry isn’t really sensitive to that. Seventy two per cent of people who influence B2B purchases are now under 45, and the way they research and connect with brands is very different to their predecessors. A study by Google called “Zero Moment of Truth” suggests that purchasers are going 90 per cent of the way through the journey for a B2B purchase, looking at research, content, recommendations and specifications online, before they contact the vendor. Three or four years ago, that figure would have been just five per cent.
These people are also looking at a minimum of ten pieces of content during their purchase journey. These might include white papers, or watching a video on platforms like LinkedIn, for example. Brands in the B2B market must be more sensitive to this behavioural shift.
We’ve got a unique partnership with LinkedIn, which gives us access to their “fire-hose” of data and can look at all the content being consumed by each audience at any one time. We can then help our clients, like Microsoft, Intel and Regus, create relevant content for brands to insert at the right time in the B2B purchaser’s journey. No other agency is doing this on a large scale at the moment.
How do your analysts use game theory to advise clients on strategy?
Game theory principles can help marketers better understand the way the consumer moves through the path to purchase.
If you’re booking a holiday, you’ve probably got two possible destinations in mind. So you might look on TripAdvisor, or aggregators like Expedia. And when you look more specifically at, for example, the Hilton in Dubai, you might be served with a display ad for the Marriott, so you might look at that.
It’s a complex journey, and ascribing a value to each of those steps can be difficult. Game theory principles allow us to write an algorithmic script, and automate each next move based on how a consumer engages.
What are your top predictions for marketing in 2016?
We’ll see various changes to the instant messaging arena. Facebook paid $22bn last year to acquire WhatsApp, and we’ve yet to see how they’ll monetise it. Snapchat is also launching its commercial offering in the UK, which will give brands the chance to engage with younger consumers.
Language is also changing quite significantly on these platforms, with emoticons increasingly popular among younger users as an efficient form of communication. How brands embrace that development over the next year will be interesting.
We’ll see more brands unlocking the potential of their first-party data, structuring their business around that insight, and enabling them to develop an appealing pricing strategy.
From a consumer perspective, there will be increasing need to align the point of engagement with the point of purchase. If a consumer sees a beautiful brand ad, they need to be able to purchase the product there and then, instead of having to wait for an e-commerce ad to appear.
Native commerce, as it is known, will become vital for brands, and having this within social media is helpful for both sides. The rise of the “buy” button within Google, Facebook and Pinterest could be very disruptive indeed. There are embryonic signs of this in the US, and it will soon migrate to the UK. Fashion brands which have spent tens of millions crafting beautiful websites could be hit hard if their products can simply be purchased through Google.