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B2B Millennials’ Path to Purchase

The often talked about Millennial generation – ranging in age from 18 to 34 – is a rapidly growing segment of the workplace, now more numerous than Gen X or the retiring Baby Boomers and making up 50% of the workforce.

This generation is being looked at more closely, not only because they are now the largest age group as a whole and their presence in the workforce is increasing, but also because they are doing things differently. They are “digital natives" and have different expectations from their work and the companies they do business with. It stands to reason then that they also have different expectations and preferences when it comes to the types of technical documentation they seek out on a purchase journey.

As the largest B2B buying group, millennials may not yet have risen to the C-suite, they do, however, significantly influence purchase decisions. According to recent research, about 81% of non-C-suite employees influence purchase decisions to some degree. The majority of purchasers/purchase-influencers don’t start with company specific searches but will start with generic searches looking for a solution to a specific problem. On average, before reaching a purchase decision they will have conducted twelve different searches before reaching the point of engagement.

Where Do Millennials get Information?

The Millennial search path may include reviews, participating in or listening in on user-group discussions of a problem or product, product videos that show how a specific product works, or simply browsing a company website. If they find the information they’re looking for quickly they may come back, but if the search becomes a hunt through pages and pages of disparate webpages with no order or cohesion, they will leave. That type of site will in fact have a negative influence on their purchase decision. Purchasing from that kind of a site will be a last resort.

Different sources indicate that the majority of B2B purchasers of all ages simply do general searches to find what they’re looking for. Company websites are the next best trusted source, but in order to keep a purchaser’s attention a company website needs to have all relevant information in one location. Making a purchaser go first to a marketing type site for basic information, then having them click through to either the sales site or the technical site where they again have to enter their search parameters, adds too many layers and drives a customer away because that takes up too much of their time.

How Do You Grab Their Attention?

Much has been said about Millennials’ purported short attention spans, but perhaps we can also interpret that as wanting information in bite sizes instead of having to slog through long, drawn out pieces of text. This does not mean they don’t seek out and absorb sizeable amounts of information; they just consume information differently and in digital format.

The pace of the working world is not slowing either, which means for a person adept at searching online, they expect to find the information they need at the top of a page or in a short – engaging – video.

They’re not interested in overly salesy content; they want to know what they need in a clear and concise way. With instant information available, searching online to gain awareness of a product, compare features and make purchases is par for the course.

This article on Think with Google shatters a few myths about the impact Millennials have on purchase decisions and where they go for information. On the whole, they play a far larger role in corporations than you might have thought.

The reality is:

  • Nearly half of all B2B researchers are millennials.
  • B2B researchers who are not in the C-suite influence purchase decisions.
  • The majority of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search.
  • Mobile usage is intensifying; B2B researchers are using it throughout their entire purchase path.
  • B2B researchers watch videos during the entire path to purchase.

This means that what you put on your website has a direct impact on the sale of the products you offer. It also means that your online technical documentation cannot be an afterthought. In fact, we’d go so far as to say it’s one of your most important customer engagement tools.

In a recent Lightspeed GMI and SDL product information survey one thing stood our very clearly: “… the increased demand for high quality product content from companies drives not only purchase decisions but builds brand loyalty."

In addition to bite-sized technical documentation, you can capture the Millennial B2B buyer by offering product videos and hosting user groups.

The Value of Video

A picture is worth a thousand words, but if that picture moves, you capture your audience in an even more meaningful way. Video – optimized for tablet and mobile – is a great way to add value to your web content. Seeing a product in action will certainly have a more immediate impact than sifting through pages of technical data.

A useful guideline for video is to make sure you show what your product does, instead of just talking about it. How-to videos have their place, but the first touch point should show your product in action. That is what will entice a potential customer to look for more content.

User Groups

User groups are another tool that allows you to build brand loyalty. By starting user groups that you monitor and host, you are providing your customers with an additional resource to share information, share best practices and help each other troubleshoot potential problems with a product. Not only that, a user group can provide you with valuable feedback on how your products are used, what people would like to see improved and what features are their favorite.

Rule of thumb for user groups is to make sure it’s not a one-way broadcast. Ensure that the majority of positive information comes from users. Create a place for people to share their success stories and reviews, as these play an often overlooked part in the Millennial purchase decision. Millennials enjoy sharing reviews with others via social media, which can have a tremendous impact on your business.

What Does This Mean For You?

It may mean that you, as a content creator, will need to adapt your messaging and global content strategy to better serve the Millennial audience. Understanding how this group consumes data and where they find that data can help you to build that all-in-one place website where they can quickly navigate between technical documentation, video and user groups .

It should be clear that if your offerings don’t meet their needs, Millennials will go elsewhere. Gaining their loyalty requires more initial effort, but will pay dividends in positive and shared reviews that drive others to your products.

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