All you have to do is spend a little time with a “20-something” and you’ll usually have your visit interrupted with their attention being diverted to something on their mobile device. If you want to talk to them, you better be ready to text – even if they’re sitting right beside you! What are they doing on these devices? The answer is, almost everything. Listening to music, catching up on work tasks, updating their Facebook page, texting their friends and shopping online.
I have two daughters that are both in their 20s, so I am living that reality right now. For a while, I fought the good fight and demanded they put down their phones and talk to each other, me, the wall, but talk. Ok, so that strategy didn’t work. I finally decided to connect with them on their terms. If I wanted to communicate with them (and I do), I had to learn to adapt.
There’s a lesson here for those of us who make our living in the print industry and who conduct business in the B2B world. The digital age is not only upon us; it’s ingrained in our culture. This is particularly true in our interactions with customers, who are increasingly millennial buyers, sometimes characterized as the “digital-first”, “mobile enabled” generation. They are younger, online, mobile, independent and they are growing in numbers. In fact, for the first time ever, millennials outnumber baby boomers in the workplace.
Here’s some statistics about them that should either excite you or scare you to death:
- Almost half of all online researchers in the B2B space are millennials (The Economist)
- According to Forester Research, 9% prefer not to interact with a sales rep as the primary source of information
- 62% agree that eCommerce maintains or increases customer loyalty
- 85% of B2B buyers want eCommerce optimized for mobile
It’s clear that there’s a new, digital-first print buyer you need to meet online.
These customers want to engage with us at a time, place and a manner of their choosing. And when they do, they expect their shopping experience to be similar to the B2C sites they frequent, sometimes characterized as “Amazon-like”. That is, they expect a high quality shopping experience that is mobile responsive, easy to use and engages them with the site’s brand. If not, they will go elsewhere.
The good news is that leading B2B eCommerce providers are well aware of these dynamics and are providing cloud-based, pay-as-you-use, mobile-responsive technology tools for the print industry that enable you to engage with these buyers on their terms. More good news – these new technologies can help you reduce operational costs, drive increase customer loyalty and help you grow revenue. And some of these open architecture systems make it relatively easy to integrate with your existing technology so that you don’t have to shutter the systems you have to get the benefits.
That’s important since most in the print industry do business with a range of vertical markets, including large manufacturers, retail banks, healthcare facilities, to name but a few. Reaching buyers in these various vertical markets and segments requires a nimble, flexible solution and one that addresses the omni-channel needs of the various parts of these organizations and their digital-first buyers.
Sound complex? Maybe not as much as you think. With the right technology tools, assistance, and mentoring, implementing the right B2B eCommerce system can help you reach this new type of buyer and set your company apart from your competitors in the process. This will enable you to expand business with your current customers, reduce risk of lost business and position you to win new customers going forward.
And maybe, like the lesson I learned with my daughters, embracing these changes can be a quite rewarding experience.