The COVID-19 pandemic that has dominated our lives for the last 18 months has changed how we live both professionally and personally, and the B2B landscape is no different. The way companies buy from and sell to each other is very different than it used to be just a couple of years ago and is likely to continue to evolve in 2022 and beyond. To succeed with marketing campaigns in 2022, businesses will have to continue to adapt their strategies to suit buyer trends.
In order to gain a deeper understanding of how the COVID19 pandemic has changed B2B buying behaviour, McKinsey & Company put together the B2B Decision Maker Pulse survey. With responses from 3,600 B2B decision-makers across 11 countries, the report outlines the major shifts and swings that have been seen across the B2B sector, as follows.
1. Shift to A Digital Reality
The COVID-19 pandemic has driven a shift to digitisation. What started out as a crisis response has become our normality, and this has had a major impact on how business buyers and sellers will operate going forward, even after lockdowns have largely ended.
According to the report, over 75% of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions. – B2B Decision Maker Pulse
Buyers have gotten used to remote interactions, and in many cases, have realised that this type of interaction makes it easier for them to get information, place orders, and arrange services. Buyers are widely enjoying the change and flexibility that comes with remote buying, with only around 20% of B2B buyers saying they hope to return to in-person sales.
2. B2B Customers are Buying Big Online
70% of B2B decision-makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases in excess of $50,000 online. – B2B Decision Maker Pulse
While e-commerce used to be primarily used for B2C buying and smaller, less involved purchases, B2B buyers are more confident than ever in making large purchases online – even with new businesses. It’s not only buyers who are embracing the change, as B2B sellers have reported online sales to be just as effective or more effective than in-person sales engagements. According to the McKinsey & Company report, sellers also reported digital prospecting to be just as effective as meeting in-person to connect with potential new customers.
3. Video and Live Chat Growing in Prominence
The amount of revenue generated from video-related interactions has jumped by 69% since April 2020. – B2B Decision Maker Pulse
With the shift to digital, consumers have turned to video and live chat to find out more about the businesses they are buying from. The majority of survey respondents stated that, given the choice, they prefer video to phone. From a sales perspective, businesses are making the most of these digital channels and using them to interact with and even close sales with B2B customers, as opposed to attending in-person meetings and networking events. According to the McKinsey report, e-commerce and videoconferencing now account for 43% of all B2B revenue.
The Digital Future: B2B Marketing Trends 2022
It looks like the B2B buying and selling practices that have come around as a result of the pandemic are here to stay and will permanently impact B2B interactions between buyers and sellers.
This significant shift to digital adoption presents a number of opportunities for B2B businesses, namely lowering cost per acquisition, extending reach, and improving sales effectiveness. Businesses will have to move fast to adapt to this new digital norm to ensure they are not left behind. As such, the dominant trends for 2022 are primarily in the digital sector.
Businesses with an understanding of the top B2B trends that are impacting the industry are best positioned to outpace the competition. The following are the strategies that we think B2B marketers should take note of to inform their 2022 strategies.
- Trend 1: Rising Popularity of Video for B2B
- Trend 2: Ensure You’re Using Live Chat
- Trend 3: Don’t Forget About Written Content
- Trend 4: Focus on Customer Retention
- Trend 5: Keep an Eye on Evolving SEO Strategies
- Trend 6: Smart Businesses will Use Predictive Analytics
- Trend 7: Omnichannel Marketing Becomes a Necessity
- Trend 8: Update Digital Strategies for Google Discovery
Trend 1: Rising Popularity of Video for B2B
Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to just 10% when reading text. As such, it’s not surprising that video content has become an increasingly popular marketing choice for companies worldwide. As a result of the global pandemic, video marketing shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, during 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 80% of marketers incorporated video into their non-paid advertising strategies, using the channel to drive traffic to their websites, as well as to attract and convert leads.
Video has traditionally been considered an appropriate and effective marketing tool for B2C marketing. However, more and more B2B companies are starting to incorporate video content into their marketing strategy as they realise the value that it can add to their campaigns.
Video is the ideal channel for engaging users at every stage of the inbound marketing funnel and nurture them through to sale. With the pandemic resulting in increased competition across industries, it is the ideal time for businesses to try incorporating video into their strategy if they are not already.
Trend 2: Ensure You’re Using Live Chat
Today’s B2B buyers want to communicate with businesses in real-time. Servicing this need is essential, as 50% of adults will abandon a purchase if you can’t give them a quick answer to their question. One of the most effective ways to do this is through a live chat function on the business website.
Live chat provides a method for businesses to have a more direct and personal interaction with customers. It helps companies answer their customers’ questions in order to remove buying objections and move them through the buying funnel to sale. When customers receive an immediate response to their questions, they are more likely to feel satisfied with the business’ service and have more positive feelings toward the brand. Ultimately, this means they are more likely to buy. In fact, 38% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company if they offer live chat support.
Remember that today’s customers are more in control than ever, and they want to talk to businesses on their own terms, so having a multi-channel chat option is key. Offer a range of options for customers and potential customers to communicate with your business, for example, through web chat, social media, or SMS and WhatsApp.
Trend 3: Don’t Forget About Written Content
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: content is king.
60% of customers consider inquiring and buying a product after reading any kind of content about it. – Demand Metric
High-quality content marketing not only helps businesses share important communications with customers and prospects, but it is also essential for being found online as search engines love content. Content marketing is essential for SEO consistency, and websites that post unique, creative, and original content are indexed more quickly on search engine results pages and are more likely to rank higher than competitors.
However, 58% of content provided to customers is considered hollow and meaningless. Content should be written above all else for the reader, not the search engine. Be persuasive, and appeal to customers who are looking for a solution to a problem or an answer to their question. Ensure your key focus is to provide something that adds value to them. Just be mindful to include target keywords in the content and focus on specific visitor queries so that search engines know what terms to rank your page for.
Trend 4: Focus on Customer Retention
Increasing customer retention by just 5% boosts profits by 25% to 95% – SmallBizGenius
As marketers, we typically focus on attracting new customers. While this is a necessity for business growth, focusing more on existing customers can significantly boost a business’ bottom line. The likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%. For new customers, that figure drops to 5-20%.
Retaining customers over the long term can be achieved through proactive account management strategies based on data and actions that are put in place to continually improve the customer experience. In the B2B sector, customer retention strategies centre around developing long term and close relationships. The most successful methods involve focusing on tailoring unique solutions to each individual customer to reduce churn rather than offering blanket promotions to a wide audience. As customer retention tactics are so specific to each customer, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to what works. However, the following are some of the most effective customer retention tactics that should be considered.
Trend 5: Keep an Eye on Evolving SEO Strategies
Google currently holds 92.27% of the total search engine market share. The search engine giant is constantly working to improve the search experience for users to ensure that the information it displays is relevant to the searcher’s intent, history of visited pages, and frequent queries.
In 2022, keyword results are likely to become more practical due to the implementation of voice recognition that has led to casual, conversation-type questions being used more often by searchers.
What does this mean for SEO in 2022?
Content will remain a key part of SEO in 2022; however, the way businesses do it will have to evolve. Google is starting to look at synonyms and related words; as such, the age of keyword stuffing is well and truly over. Instead, marketers should write high-quality content that considers user search intent. Writing for the user rather than the search engine is vital, as search engines are now smart enough to understand what users want.
Other SEO strategies for 2022 include:
- Local Search: Surveys have shown that people prefer to work and study at home and will likely continue to do so long after the pandemic. This means they are more likely to be looking for businesses and services in their local area.
- Site Speed: More and more users are accessing websites on the go, so it has become critical for companies to provide fast website experiences.
- Go Mobile (If you’re not already): Google uses a mobile-first indexing system, which means it takes a website’s mobile version into account when ranking search results.
Trend 6: Smart Businesses will Use Predictive Analytics
Predictive analysis is the process of offering personalised recommendations based on previous user behaviour, consumption, and buying patterns. For years, major global companies like Amazon, Netflix and Facebook have been using predictive analytics to give consumers what they want. While these businesses are in the B2C sector, B2B businesses should take note, as B2B buying behaviour and expectations are not dissimilar to those of B2C consumers.
But, what does predictive analytics look like for B2B?
B2B businesses can use their historical data to predict future outcomes. Modern technologies like statistical modelling and machine learning give marketers the opportunity to gain deep insights into previous campaigns so that they can forecast consumer trends, study behavioural aspects, and tweak future marketing strategies based on derived inferences.
Predictive analytics gives businesses the ability to answer questions, such as:
- What is the lifetime value of adding a particular client?
- What is the likely impact on the bottom line if a particular customer is lost?
- How much inventory is necessary / how many employees do we need to cope with busy seasons?
- Out of 3 specific options, which service will add the most value to customers?
In short, predictive analysis helps businesses attract, retain, and nurture new and existing customers. Marketers can also use predictive analytics to optimise campaigns so that they generate more leads and drive more conversions.
Trend 7: Omnichannel Marketing is a Necessity
According to a 2021 report from McKinsey, ‘omnichannel is the standard, not the exception.’
Tipped to be another result of the pandemic, omnichannel interactions have become the major method of making B2B sales. Throughout 2020 and 2021, B2B buyers have had to adapt to remote and digital ways of engaging, and while it may have taken some adjustment, they seem to like the change. So much so that even though we have been able to meet in person again, B2B buyers still prefer a cross-channel mix, with the McKinsey report finding that they want in-person, remote, and digital self-serve interactions in equal measure.
The report also found that buyers moved easily between traditional in-person sales to remote sales, basing their choice of channel on practicality and timing. From a sales perspective, eight in ten B2B leaders say that omnichannel is as or more effective than traditional methods, up significantly from 54% of leaders who said the same at the start of the pandemic. Omnichannel selling has become a more successful way to prospect and secure new business.
However, omnichannel marketing is not easy. It means putting the customer at the centre of all marketing activities, and thinking holistically in terms of customer experience, interactions, and messaging. In order to be successful, all customer touchpoints have to be connected. So, if a user visits a website, Facebook page, sees a digital ad, receives an email, or sees POS materials in-store – they all have the same message.
Trend 8: Update Digital Strategies for Google Discovery Ads
Google Discovery Ads have been designed to help users discover products that may be of interest to them before they have even started researching. These ads appear in Google’s ‘Discover’ feed for mobile users, as well as across YouTube, where they are displayed in the home feed and on Gmail in the promotions tab. Google uses targeting based on behavioural insights and browsing habits across the Internet to make relevant suggestions to the user.
For advertisers, using Google Discovery ads helps leverage the impactful audience targeting features by Google, empowering them to tell visual brand stories to boost brand awareness.
Google discovery ads are ideal for scaling B2B businesses and can help to fill top of the funnel lead generation campaigns, as they are effective in increasing the reach of campaigns across a range of channels. While the cost of attracting top of funnel leads is increasing across digital platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, Google discovery ads can boost awareness to B2B users in a cost-effective way.
Google Discovery ads have already started getting positive responses from both media buyers and brands due to their creative visual appearance, widespread reach across hundreds of millions of potential users, and proven results that can be attributed to Google’s machine learning algorithms that understand their users and what they are looking for.
Technology and marketing strategies change quickly. The most successful B2B marketers have dynamic strategies in place and are aware of the B2B marketing trends that are impacting the sector and those that are likely to in the near future.
Consider all of the above trends in relation to your business’ marketing goals and the resources that you have in order to decide which are most relevant to your business.
The Lead Agency is a specialist B2B marketing agency with experience across a number of B2B sectors. The above are our predictions for 2022 and beyond, that we will be implementing in our client campaigns. Get in touch with us today to get your B2B marketing strategy for 2022 organised.