It’s easy to talk about changes in the sales channel, when there are so many new technologies like Industry 4.0 initiatives reshaping how businesses approach business. However, this runs the risk of overlooking the other side of the equation: how new technologies are changing buyer behavior.
We’ve discussed this before, but if anything we should probably be discussing these matters more often. Buyers and their behavior are shifting at least as much, if not more, than business processes – and generally in response to shifts in technology. The businesses which succeed will be those who can adapt to new te
chnology and adapt their sales processes to fit buyers using those technologies.
So, it’s high time we took another look at some of the major trends shaping buyer behavior.
1. The ever-growing importance of MILLENNIALs
Fortunately, most of the businesses we work with seem to be realizing that the Millennial generation is becoming hugely important to business. They are now officially the biggest demographic in the US workforce, and more of them are moving into positions of responsibility every day. And they have radically different ways of doing business, ranging from being more self-reliant about product research, to generally having a “work smarter, not harder” attitude towards personal effort.
We’ve discussed how to work with Millennials previously, so we won’t repeat that.
(But just as a reminder, Generation Z is now mostly in college and very close to entering the workforce in large numbers, and they’re going to be another hugely disrupting factor when that happens.)
2. The increasing rise of voice searches and “virtual assistants”
For our money, the trend in technology which will do the most to reshape sales and marketing in the years to come is the increasing use of voice-based interfaces. Based on current trends, estimates are that fifty percent of searches will be voice-based within just another year or two. Gartner goes a step beyond to suggest that 30% of searches will be screen-less by then, as well.
If you’re in marketing, and those numbers don’t make you blink, you’re not paying attention. How does one even begin to advertise to customers who will literally not even see the ads, and are allowing primitive AIs to make buying decisions for them? It’s going to radically reshape SEO and content marketing, at the very least.
This will undoubtedly be a huge field of research in the years to come. For now, focus your content marketing on providing answers to questions people are likely to ask of their VAs, and integrate as much structured/meta-data as possible into your content that VAs will be able to leverage.
3. More reliance on buyer online reviews
Online reviews used to mostly be aimed at consumers, but now, they’re taking over all aspects of purchasing, both B2C and B2B. According to Inc, 84% of buyers are just as influenced by online reviews as they are word-of-mouth from friends and associates. And for roughly half of buyers, a product or service isn’t even worth considering unless it’s rated at least 4 out of 5.
So we’re now calling this one: If you aren’t tracking online reviews as part of your KPIs, both for your product and for your individual partners, it’s high time to do so. We’d even consider going so far as to recommend making review scores part of your incentive programs, with bonuses for those partners with the highest ratings in Google Local, Yelp, and other appropriate review databases.
This is doubly important because online ratings are a major indicator used by voice searches and virtual assistants as well. When customers aren’t even looking at their screens, your review scores may genuinely make the difference as to whether Alexa recommends your product, or someone else’s.
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