Study: European B2B Buyers use Content Marketing & Social Media for their purchase process, process complex though
The “2012 Buyersphere Report” conducted by The Base One Buyersphere Team interviewed 800 B2B customers in the France, Italy, Germany and the UK. The study reports that B2B buyers in Europe are actively using supplier-produced content and Social Media in order to speed up their purchasing decisions. It defines the importance of combining content marketing with inbound marketing tactics like (social media, search, or PR) for revenue generation.
The study concludes that B2B buyers find most whitepapers (86%) and blogs (71%) via web search. However, seminars and videos (44%) get recognition via e-mail. Still, search (71%) is the most important purchasing information sources, followed by word of mouth (55%) and Social Media (20%). However the general use of vendors’ web sites (73%), articles in the trade press (47%), supplier e-mails (39%), and downloaded white papers (20%) suggests that the world has not massively changed in the last two years.
Nevertheless, for the B2B world, face-to-face is again a key element in the influence process. Offline events and webinars get more and more influence on the information gathering and purchase process.
Mobile is on the rise: Accessing information from mobile devices is increasing. 13% are using their tablets and smartphones to access buying data. The way information is shared is still quite traditional though: 90% emails and 44% company intranet. Seems it is still a long way to become social.
In terms of Social Media the study made clear that B2B buyers are more selective when using modern media. LinkedIn generates half of the social media mentions with an increasing trend. When using Facebook for business only 5% were using the platform in 2012 compared to 15% last year. For the under 30 year olds Social Media was more useful than word of mouth. The report suggests that Social Media is WOM to this group which I would fully understand as well.
In the buying process B2B buyers use different information sources at different stages, the study reveals. First they are relying on white papers, industry press articles, and press advertising when they are defining the demand. When it comes to detect suppliers, web search, Linkedin and supplier websites become important. And when the final supplier is selected, supplier emails, Twitter, Facebook and word-of-mouth lose their importance. Interestingly enough, the importance of communities are almost stable in their influence throughout the purchase process. The study makes clear how important a multi-platform communication and clever content marketing strategy becomes in the future.