Today, an average of 6-10 individual stakeholders are involved in B2B purchases, with multiple generations participating in buying decisions worldwide. In the US alone, three distinct generations are currently impacting B2B purchases. While Gen Z is an up-and-coming demographic, their purchasing presence in the workforce will be more evident in about five years; hence why we decided to only focus on Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millenials:
Baby Boomers: Baby boomers are born between 1946 to 1964. In 2021, their population was 70.3 million.
Gen X: Gen X is born between 1965 to 1980. In 2021, their population was 65.8 million.
Millennials: Millennials are born between 1981 to 1996. In 2021, their population was 72.19 million.
Each group has different levels of comfort around digital interactions and expectations for their buying experience. What works for one group is unlikely to work for the next.
Changing buyer dynamics and expectations requires changing approaches.
The key to winning a “Yes” is evaluating your buyers and understanding the underlying generational biases that may influence how they buy and their decisions. Acknowledging these underlying biases, assessing their values, and understanding each generation’s expectations during the B2B buying journey are all steps in the right direction.
Marketing and sales organizations must adjust how they approach the B2B buying journey — where to find them, how to communicate with them, how to market and sell to them (and, in some cases, how not to), and so on.
To help you understand these generational B2B differences, we pulled together 27 key B2B buyer statistics as you build your go-to-market strategy. We also created infographics (at the end of the post) for each category that you can download.
The B2B Buyer Journey by Generation
Overall B2B Buying Experience Trends
Multiple reports cite that the number of B2B decision makers has increased.
4 out of 5 buyers state that the buying experience companies provide is just as important as the product and services (Salesforce)
Only 49% of companies are meeting customer expectations on the B2B buying experience (Salesforce)
Over 80% of B2B buyers prefer digital commerce for ordering or payments (Gartner)
The majority of the B2B buying process is done without sales interaction. Only 17% of the time is spent with suppliers, with sales having about 5% of B2B buyer's time. (Gartner)
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 (Gartner)
B2B Buying Decisions
Millennials are the largest B2B tech buyer group, making up 59% of B2B buyers, and 30% of them are lead buyers for their B2B brand (Trust Radius)
While 33% of millennials influence or participate in the B2B decision making process, 44% are the final purchase decision maker (Demand Gen Report)
All generations are highly influenced by price, quality, and product reviews. Millennials and Gen X also value B2B brands that have active communities around them and a social media presence (Hubspot)
80% of respondents indicated that a B2B vendor’s content had a positive, significant impact on their buying decisions (Demand Gen Report)
Only one out of four B2B buyers consulted vendor representatives during the buying process. This decline was experienced across all generations (TrustRadius):
- Millennial declined from 42% to 24%
- Gen declined from 46% to 26%
- Baby Boomer declined from 43% to 29%
B2B Buying Journey
Millennials spend more time on the initial research phase of a B2B decision (13 weeks) as compared to Gen X (12 weeks) and baby boomers (8 weeks) (B2B International)
23% of millennials say checking review sites was the first step in their buying journey (Trust Radius)
Social media, internet searches, and Youtube ads are vital for reaching Millennials, while Gen X and Boomers favor TV, search, and retail (Hubspot)
Millennial buyers are two times more likely than older generations to discover a product by searching online. Baby boomers are more likely to hear about tech products from their own prior experience (Trust Radius)
51% of millennials agree that digital purchase channels lead to more personalized solutions (B2B International)
Reviews (61%), webinars (47%), and case studies (34%) were the top-three content formats preferred by millennials during their research. They mainly use it for comparisons (58%) and to learn their needs and requirements (56%). (Demand Gen Report)
B2B Buying Experience
Gen X and baby boomers are more inclined to interact with brands via email and telephone. On the other hand, millennials increasingly prefer messaging apps (B2B International)
In a survey of over 1,000 respondents, 29% of Baby Boomers and 54% of millennials preferred a rep-free self-service B2B buying experience (Harvard Business Review)
Millennial buyers use digital channels along their buying journey, including customer portals, channel partner portals, marketplaces, and more. 55% of B2B buyers said the digital buying experience is extremely important to select a vendor. (SFE Partners)
80% of millennials expect a personalized experience compared to 56% of baby boomers and 71% of Gen Xers (Marketing Charts)
80% of millennial B2B buyers today feel that companies’ environmental, social and philanthropic efforts are important when considering them as vendors (Merit, Northwestern University)
Conclusion: Adjusting to Multi-Generation B2B Buyers
In our previous infographic, the Buying Experience Matters, we highlighted how the B2B buying journey is long and complex. The way B2B buyers make purchase decisions has continued to evolve, reaching an inflection point in the last two years.
With three different generations currently making B2B purchase decisions, these differences are more apparent. By understanding who your buyers are, your organization can provide the right information at the right time throughout the buying journey. As Gartner pointed out regarding the B2B buying journey, those vendors who are seen as providing helpful information, customers are 3x more likely to purchase with less regret.