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Millennials bring consumer shopping tactics to corporate buying

Lauren Brousell | June 8, 2015
An IBM study of more than 700 people who make corporate buying decisions, including Gen-Xers, people from Gen-Y and millennials, sheds light on notable differences in their motivations to make corporate purchases and offers valuable lessons for B2B marketers.

When moving on to the actual corporate purchase, millennial behavior is evenly split. Thirty-six percent of respondents rely on recommendations from family or friends, another 36 percent use their company's data analysis, and 34 percent go with gut feelings. Millennials are also the only age group that cites personal or peer recommendations as a top three influencer; Gen X-ers and Boomers trust their own personal opinions of products above all else, followed by expert analysis, according to the IBM report.

"I definitely look at the data, heavily, but I trust my gut when it comes to the individual people from the vendor that I interacted with," Rogers says. "If the data shows a promising and competitive product, and the individuals selling it pass my gut-check, then I'm likely to go into persuasive mode and explain why this is the right vendor to my colleagues. If I feel uneasy about either, then I start checking in with others and weigh their past experiences in similar situations."

Satisfied millennials spread the word
B2B vendors should also note that if millennials like their products, they're more likely to show love online versus past generations. Sixty-nine percent of respondents leave compliments on vendor sites, and the same number of respondents post positive comments on social media. Millennials are also less likely to blast companies with negative feedback online than the previous two generations.

"Millennials are very aware of how quickly a brand can be damaged with negative social exposure," Baird says. They also know the potential impact of negative feedback on their own careers, and their responsibilities to represent their company brands and reputations, so Baird says they are reluctant to regularly express dissatisfaction.

Millennials are now the majority in the workforce, and more of them will become B2B buyers in the future. A key takeaway from the IBM study is the need for B2B vendors to observe millennial buying habits in the consumer world and then apply the lessons to current sales and marketing strategies. This insight, combined with solid product and good in-person impressions, will help grab the attention of millennial buyers and could result in both positive shout outs online and word-of-mouth recommendations.


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