In 2015, the US Census Bureau estimated that millennials outnumbered baby boomers and have become the largest generational cohort in the US population. As millennials enter the labor force, many will work for B2B companies, and as they advance in their careers, millennials will become increasingly involved in B2B buying decisions. So, it's safe to say that millennial B2B buyers are poised to have a significant impact on B2B marketing and sales.
Sacunas recently published the results of a study that provides important insights regarding the attitudes and preferences of millennial B2B buyers. While there is an abundance of research regarding millennials, the Sacunal study is one of the few studies that have focused specifically on millennial B2B buyers.
For this research, Sacunas surveyed 2,000 millennials across the United States. Sacunas defined millennials as adults between the ages of 20 and 35, and the survey results are based on the responses of 1,444 individuals who were employed, either full-time, part-time, or self-employed.
One surprising finding of the Sacunas research is that millennials are already having a significant impact on B2B buying decisions. Seventy-three percent of survey respondents said they are involved in buying decisions at their companies, and 34% said they are the sole decision-maker for their department.
Some of the findings of the Sacunas research confirm what many of us have suspected about the preferences of millennials. For example, it's not particularly surprising that millennials have a strong preference for digital communication channels.
- 56% of survey respondents said that digital channels - search engines, vendor websites, and social media - are the most important channels for researching B2B products and services.
- 82% of respondents said that mobile devices are somewhat or very important when researching new products and services.
- 85% of respondents said they use social media when researching products or services for their companies. The most popular social network for millennial B2B buyers is Facebook - 40% of respondents said they use Facebook to research B2B products and services. LinkedIn, which most research shows is the premier B2B social network, came in fourth in popularity among millennials, behind YouTube and Google+ as well as Facebook.
The table below shows the content formats that millennial buyers prefer when researching products and services for their companies. The clear preference for videos indicates that millennial buyers - even more than buyers in other age groups - prefer engaging visual content.
The Sacunas research shows that millennials are already involved in making at least some B2B buying decisions, and their influence will grow as they advance in their careers. So, what does this mean for B2B marketing?
Other recent research has painted a somewhat confused picture regarding the role of social media in the B2B buying process. Most studies indicate that a significant majority of business buyers are using social networks, but some studies indicate that social media is playing a relatively minor role in B2B buying decisions. The findings of the Sacunas study indicate that millennial buyers are using social media more than older buyers, particularly when they are researching potential vendors.
The Sacunas study also shows that millennial buyers have a strong preference for video content. Video content has been playing a significant role in B2C marketing for some time. The Sacunas research indicates that B2B companies will need to add video content to their marketing mix if they want to connect effectively with millennial buyers.
Top image courtesy of ITU Pictures via Flickr CC.