By Richard Bush, Dip DM, Joint Managing Director, Base One

Richard Bush

There’s a lot of talk going on about the new breed of customer. Not only on this blog, but throughout the B2B marketing world and, of course, at next week’s IDM B2B Marketing Conference, where it is understandably the main theme of the event. But with all this talk, there is a big question to ask: is this Customer 2.0 real or imagined?

It was with this question in mind that we produced the Base One Buyersphere Report 2011. We wanted to find out if Customer 2.0 was actually out there, and the report came back to confirm that customers are indeed changing significantly in the way that they make purchase decisions. The Buyersphere Report asks over 1,000 business buyers about the actions they took when making their purchases. It is about buyer behaviour not marketer opinion, and provides a wonderfully clear picture of Customer 2.0.

So – what does it tell us about Customer 2.0?

Meet the information gatherer

Perhaps the most important observation from this year’s report is that buyers now use an even greater variety of channels than ever to form an opinion on a specific brand. With a thirst for information, they will pursue as many different avenues of communication as possible before they eventually make their decision.

Of course, this is of massive significance for the marketer because of the opportunity it represents. Those brands that can quench their potential buyers’ thirsts will ultimately be the most successful. If you can offer relevant and worthwhile content to your audience – including whitepapers, videos and blogs – you could be giving them a valid reason to choose your product or service over that of a competitor.

Traditional online channels are still king…

Unsurprisingly, social media is now an even more prominent medium within the Buyersphere; Facebook, for example, has doubled in popularity since our 2010 report. But for those assuming that this signifies the decline of more ‘traditional’ online channels, you may be surprised. The Report showed that 68% of buyers consulted supplier websites, while 65% used search engines to find the information they needed to support their purchase decision.

…but webinars are coming of age

According to last year’s report, one in three buyers attended an event as part of their information gathering; in 2011, however, just 18% did. Whereas in 2010 just one in ten buyers attended a webinar, in 2011 that number had almost tripled. We can assume that both brands and buyers have become increasingly confident about engaging online.

Buyers are reluctant sharers

Despite the popularity of webinars, it appears that buyers are still wary about sharing personal information online. The Report shows that 55% of buyers were discouraged ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ often from downloading content if they were presented with some form of data capture.

When it comes to sharing information in general, buyers don’t automatically look towards social media. Only 9% of respondents said they use Facebook ‘very often’ to share professional information, whilst 27% used the company intranet and 44% used email with the same level of frequency.

Download the full Buyersphere Report – free

These are just a few of the findings. If you would like a more detailed look at what B2B buyers are really doing – whether as part of your own communication planning or simply to prepare yourself for next week’s event – download it here

Accreditation: Article supplied by The Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM), Europe’s leading body for the professional development of direct and digital marketers. The IDM offers a wide range of up-to-the-minute training courses, bespoke training solutions and internationally recognised qualifications, all devised and delivered by expert, real-world marketers. Visit the site to experience their range of online digital qualifications and the brand new Award in Data Management

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