Nearly three out of four B2B buyers (72%) reported completing a recent significant purchase by ordering and paying online, according to Gartner, Inc. A Gartner survey of 725 B2B buyers from November through December 2021 found that buyers use digital commerce to address complex, new problems and ongoing operational issues, not just product replacements or upgrades. Overall, 83% of B2B buyers say they prefer ordering or paying through digital commerce.
B2B buyers’ appetite for digital commerce often exceeds their ability to make successful purchases online. Compared to traditional buyers, digital commerce buyers are significantly more likely to experience purchase regret. Customers’ embrace of virtual buying has come at the expense of productive decision making and deal quality.
“The potential benefits of digital buying are so exciting that it’s easy to miss warning signs that B2B buyers also face unprecedented challenges,” said Sharon Cantor Ceurvorst, senior director, research in the Gartner Marketing practice. “The obvious solution — proactive sales rep intervention — comes with its own pitfalls. When buyers report their digital purchase process was primarily led by sales reps (as opposed to self-navigated), they make lower-quality deals.”
The survey found that while most deals are transacted digitally, nearly all buyers still engage a sales rep at some point before they buy. Only 24% of B2B buyers in primarily sales rep-led purchases completed a high-quality deal, versus 65% of B2B buyers who self-navigated the purchase process.
Customers are not maximizing the value of either digital or human-led channels due to ineffective customer learning. Digital experiences and seller engagements are too often encouraging shallow, “good enough” learning.
Most digital experiences are designed to make it easy for customers to follow through on their decisions, even when they are misguided. Likewise, sales enablement resources often provide oversimplified recommendations and encourage buyers to move forward without a full understanding of their own needs.
Overcoming “good enough” learning requires suppliers to create self-reflective learning paths that integrate digital and human-led channels to deepen customers’ understanding of their own needs. When buyers experience a self-reflective learning path, they are 147% more likely to buy more than originally planned. This multichannel approach requires a new class of digital experiences. Rather than removing all friction from the digital commerce experience, digital content and sales tools must cause customers to pause, deliberate and make better decisions for their needs.
Gartner recommends marketing leaders seeking to improve digital buying and sales enablement should:
- Offer information and tools that prompt buyers to (re)evaluate their purchase needs to overcome the purchase regret associated with digital commerce buying.
- Help buyers create organizational consensus by offering digital-first tools designed specifically to facilitate shared learning among buying group members.
- Partner with sales to create multichannel learning paths that drive progressive self-learning and decision confidence.
Gartner for Marketing Leaders can learn more in the report: B2B Buyer Survey: Avoid Pitfalls and Realize the Promise of Digital Buying.
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