Understanding the Millennial B2B Buyer

image ©IBM

image ©IBM

Millennials, or those born between 1980 and 1993, constitute the largest generation since the Baby Boomers.  And as they mature in their careers, they are reaching positions of increasingly greater influence and decision-making responsibility. As a result, understanding their behaviors and preferences is becoming more and more important to B2B marketers seeking to impact their buying decisions.

First of all, it’s important to note that Millennials were the first generation to grow up with the Internet. And the evolution of that technology uniquely shaped their childhood, education and consumer habits. In turn, Millennials also shaped the consumer marketing landscape as B2C marketers continually tried to keep pace with their online habits. Many would assume that this would lead to a strong Millennial preference for digital media, or at least an expectation for more immediate communications. While partly true, a recent IBM study of Millennials who impact B2B purchasing decisions of $10,000 or more yielded some surprising results when it comes to how Millennials research a purchase decision and what they ultimately value in potential vendors.

How Millennials Research
The study revealed that while Millennials do utilize social media avenues and online research when considering a buying decision, they are no more likely to do so than Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. Millennials actually have a much stronger preference for direct interactions with the potential vendor‘s representatives. However, when Millennials interact with vendors, it’s not always face-to-face. Millennials have a stronger preference, or comfort level, with remote interactions (GoToMeetings, Webinars and email) than their older peers.

What Millennials Value
The study also found that Millennials place a premium on the quality of the client experience  — as in ease of doing business and the willingness to work collaboratively. Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers, on the other hand, emphasize the quality of the product or service and the ability to deliver quickly.

So, while Millennials may spend more of their personal lives online and have consumer practices shaped by that fact, this does not pull through to the workplace as much as some would assume. Relationships, the quality of communications and customer service will continue to drive buying decisions for Millennials. And successful B2B marketers will be those who can deliver these experiences to Millennials in new and increasingly remote ways.

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