How the B2B Purchase Journey is Evolving for Software Buyers in 2023

March 3, 2023
Contributor: Caroline Hogan

Gain visibility into the software buying shifts impacting your sales and marketing strategies.

Even in an uncertain economic climate, businesses are driving growth by accelerating digital transformation to drive operational efficiencies, rather than cutting budgets. More than two-thirds of business leaders plan to increase their spending on software to achieve their 2023 growth goals. This increased demand presents growth opportunities for software providers — if they know where to look for them.

But the way businesses purchase software has fundamentally changed. More buyers than ever are conducting their research online before they visit any provider’s own website. This means that marketers lack visibility into at least 50% of the buying journey — making opportunities for growth harder to influence. 

Gartner Digital Markets’ 2023 Global Software Buying Trends Report sheds light on the dark funnel by providing insights on how businesses plan to prioritize, research, and buy technology in 2023. Here are some of the key shifts software providers need to know at each stage of the buying journey.

1. Awareness

In the awareness stage, buyers look for a solution to a problem or challenge they face. To drive brand awareness and effectively differentiate your product, associate its benefits with the problems that are top of mind for buyers. In 2023, productivity and security are the main challenges that will trigger software purchases for more than one-third of businesses. This means creating messaging that speaks directly to efficiency and cybersecurity challenges.

Reasons for purchasing new software

2. Consideration

In the consideration stage, buyers are searching for answers and options to best solve their business issues. With countless tech solutions available, buyers refer to software ratings and review sites — like Capterra, GetApp and Software Advice — to navigate the ever-expanding marketplace. 

User reviews are critical in informing the purchase decision of 41% of businesses as an unbiased source of insight into product quality and ease of use. You can increase the chances of your product being shortlisted by establishing a strong presence on high-traffic software rating sites and optimizing your profile with reviews to build trust and credibility with potential buyers.

Top five types of content buyers use to make software purchase decisions

3. Evaluation

During the evaluation stage, buyers assess multiple solutions and establish a baseline of priorities to narrow down their choices. On average, five software providers are shortlisted before landing on a final pick. However, there is an increasing trend among businesses to explore more options than before to find the right technology fit for their needs.

Helping buyers identify the uniqueness of your software and its benefits is crucial to convince them that your product is an optimal choice — one that not only surpasses their current option but also stands above other competitive offerings. The best way to differentiate your product is by establishing yourself as a leader by collecting software reviews and badges.

Number of software providers considered before making a final purchase decision
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Software Buying In 2023: 5 Trends Reshaping The Purchase Journey

4. Decision

The decision stage is a critical point in the software buying journey where a final choice is made — although it is also the moment when many prospects get cold feet. According to our research, pricing mismatch with buyer's expectations is the biggest deal breaker for 41% of businesses, followed by confusing information material (36%) and low-quality sales presentation (36%).

Demonstrating the ROI of your product is essential to persuade buyers during this stage. Also, providing training resources and implementation guides upfront will help buyers address concerns about the learning curve, increase their confidence in their purchase and avoid post-purchase regret.

Reasons for disqualifying or dropping a software provider

5. Onboarding

Once a purchase is made, onboarding becomes the moment of truth that sets the tone for the rest of the client’s journey. It’s a crucial stage to collect feedback and build customer advocacy. Communication is critical to maintaining a good relationship with customers and helping them extract the full value from your software. The majority of buyers prefer content and interactions with providers to be in their primary language – in particular for support services (40%), training courses and materials (40%), and software interfaces (36%).

Invest in post-purchase customer success. If you can’t get your new customers up and running quickly and efficiently, they will be quick to leave, and you will lose out on potential repeat revenue. Implement retention strategies, as selling to an existing customer is more cost-effective than acquiring a new one. Tracking attrition can help you identify patterns and get ahead of customer churn.

Content or interactions buyers want in their primary language

6. Renewal

During the renewal stage, buyers evaluate whether their purchased software has solved their problem or improved their business outcomes. Since the beginning of 2021, over two-thirds of businesses have been replacing or modifying software more frequently due to budget cuts, or concerns around software bugs, compatibility issues with existing systems, and the availability of better alternatives.

Provide regular updates and improvements to your software and offer ongoing training and support to help customers get the most out of your product. Use intent signals to identify customers at risk of churn and address the issue to keep them from leaving.

Reason to replace a software purchase

Get more insights to accelerate growth

Software providers should expect changes in the way businesses purchase technology in 2023. But with the right insights, you can anticipate buying behavior shifts and adapt your strategy to instill confidence in your buyers and win more deals. Keep each stage of the buying journey in mind to reach more software buyers in 2023. 

Ready to learn more about how software buying is evolving in 2023? Download the full report and gain the actionable insights you need to adapt your strategy and accelerate growth.

Caroline Hogan

Caroline Hogan is the Senior Director of Vendor Marketing at Gartner Digital Markets, where she is responsible for the platform marketing strategy and execution. She has more than 20 years of marketing experience leading initiatives from brand strategy and demand generation to customer retention and advocacy. Connect with Caroline on Linkedin.


Survey Methodology

Gartner Digital Markets' 2023 SMB Buyer Trends Survey

Results presented are based on a Gartner Digital Markets' 2023 Small and Midsize Business Buyer Trends Survey conducted online from September 2022 to October 2022 among 1,513 respondents from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and France and among SMBs with revenue less than $1 billion and 2-999 employee size across the financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, IT, marketing and retail industries.

Respondents were screened for their involvement in software purchasing decisions, and those who were a leader/member of the group or had significant influence qualified for the study. The survey was developed collaboratively by a team of Gartner analysts and was reviewed, tested and administered by Gartner’s Research Data and Analytics (RDA) team.

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