Digitalization is radically changing the way business-to-business (B2B) markets operate and B2B customers increasingly imitate habits learned as a consumer in business buying behavior. Based on recent reports business buyers increasingly search information online, communicate with sales representatives and peers through digital channels, share and publish their experiences through social media and purchase products online (e.g. Think with Google, 2015; McKinsey&Company). The on-going Diva project aims to increase understanding of B2B customer behavior and value drivers in digital channels by taking a look at B2B customer behavior during B2B purchase process, and thus we invited over 35000 Finnish B2B decision makers to participate in Diva’s online survey in autumn 2015. As a result total of 2358 responses were collected from B2B customers of the co-operating companies, the response rate being 8,5 %.
The first look at the results reveals that conventional digital tools still play a major role in B2B buying process. Respondents were asked to rate perceived importance of selected digital tools before and after making a purchase decision, and for the Finnish business buyers search engines, websites, possibility to pay online, email and mobile applications are the most important digital tools before making a purchase decision. After ending up with a purchase decision email, possibility to pay online, websites, search engines and online delivery tracking systems are the most important digital tools. Even though studies conducted among consumers indicate that social media, blogs, chats and photo/video content communities are widely used in today’s digitalized world, our results reveal that they are less important to B2B customers compared to for example websites, email and search engines.
Results reveal that age impacts on the perceived importance of digital tools among B2B customers. Among age segments from 18 to 65 years search engine was the most important digital tool before a purchase decision, while mature respondents (aged 66 years or over) rated email the most important. After purchase decision email is the most important digital tool among age segments 18-35 years, 46-55 years, 56-65 years and 66 years and older while B2B customers aged 36-45 years rated online payment systems as the most important after the purchase decision.