Changes in buyer behavior create opportunities for AI in B2B marketing to improve the customer journey.
Any discussion about the current and future state of channel marketing must include the way AI is enhancing the customer and local partner experience.
Changes in Buyer and Seller Behavior
Buyers and sellers are changing their behavior. Forrester research shows that buyers are investing more time during purchases than they ever have before. By far, the biggest shift in buying behavior is the significant leap in the average number of buying interactions. That has increased from 17 in 2019 to 27 in 2021, based on responses to Forrester’s B2B Buyer Survey. Forrester’s insights also show buyers moving together through the purchasing journey. Over 80% of B2B purchases now include complex buying groups. Businesses need to enable each member of those buying groups, based on the way on the role they play in the decision-making process, as those buying groups move together through the purchasing journey.
Research also shows that modern buyers and customers don’t want to be sold at. Today’s empowered buyers expect interactions and information-gathering to happen on their terms across both digital and non-digital interactions. That means they expect interactions with their providers to be open, connected, intuitive, and immediate. Rather than try to control the buyers journey in a linear fashion, companies need to meet their audiences where they are, anticipate their needs, and enable them to take that next step. Real-time buyer enablement refers to the shift from selling at buyers, to enabling buyers to get the information that they need in the moment, in order to support their decision-making process. That is a profound shift. In order to make that shift, businesses have a few items to address.
How Do Businesses Shift Away From Selling “at” Customers to Enabling Buyers?
To shift from selling at customers to enabling customers to gather information during their decision-making process, businesses need to institute four changes:
- First, businesses need to shift from delivering interconnected touchpoints to offering buyers interconnected insights.
- To do that, organizations need to invest in their marketing infrastructure so we can do more than just collect data. They need to analyze that data to recommended actions, execute on that action, and be able to evolve that action as they learn more translating that data into meaningful signals. Those insights then help businesses meet their audiences where they are.
- Rather than just make your business easy to find through ads and websites, businesses need to shift to offering a frictionless engagement with fewer steps, fewer clicks, and fewer dead ends.
- Finally, businesses need to aim higher than personalization. That means starting to offer contextual experiences that resonate for every audience in their situation.
Moving from engagement to enablement requires these interconnected insights that help businesses choreograph individual’s information requirements, actions, and interaction paths with the rest of the buying or customer group as its members move together through the decision process. Companies must deliver frictionless interactions so buyers can spend their time in education and informed discussion, not searching for the right content. And they need to provide immediate value through contextual experiences, responding to buying signals in real time with the most fitting information and treatment of that information across all buying interactions.
Artificial Intelligence in Digital Marketing Optimizes Buyer and Customer Interactions
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is transforming the channel marketing landscape by helping partners drive more revenue with less effort. The increasing utilization of conversational interfaces among buyers and customers, and the adoption of the technologies that automate those conversations, reflect a new normal of consumer expectation, workforce augmentation, and businesses’ focus on the customer experience. B2B marketers are leveraging a variety of applications with AI capabilities to optimize buyer and customer interaction. Using AI also allows marketers to drive precision scale and efficiency in the design and execution of internal tasks and workflows, including tactic orchestration, content recommendations, sales and partner enablement, and even content operations.
27% of B2B organizations plan to significantly invest in AI to drive content recommendations in their plans for implementing or maturing content capabilities over the next 12 months. 70% are prioritizing their speed to respond as conditions change. And 63% of organizations are adopting a center of excellence for business intelligence, advanced analytics, data science, and AI — and many have future plans to adopt.
B2B marketing leaders are also planning to increase investment in the partner marketing function. Investments required to achieve ecosystem success may include: Increased headcount, enablement and skill development of existing teams; funding for partner ecosystems, programs, processes, incentives, and even infrastructure. Technology will be a key area of investment for modernizing partner processes, programs, and systems, with 80% of B2B marketing leaders planning or anticipating an increase in investment of B2B channel and partner ecosystem marketing technologies in the next 12 months. Organizations piloting new processes and tools will facilitate or accelerate ecosystem orchestration. 67% of B2B channel and partner system ecosystem leaders reported that orchestration of partner ecosystems is either very important, or absolutely essential, to their business.
Businesses who embrace AI in their marketing will keep themselves ahead of the curve and dramatically improve their operations. Those who ignore AI will fall behind, as the pages of history turn.
Ready to Leverage AI in B2B Marketing?
Watch the full webcast, Drive ROI With AI: The Future of Channel Marketing With a Virtual Assistant, or contact BrandMuscle to find out how AI drives content recommendations and gets customer the information they need in the moment, in order to support their decision-making process.