IT Buyers Starting to Look a Lot Like Consumer Shoppers

A survey of 1,000 business and IT decision makers shows a blurring line between the business-to-business and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales process. That is, technology buyers are starting to resemble mall shoppers.

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Tue, November 26, 2013

CIO — During the dot-com boom many years ago, the then-called "New Economy" magazines boasted thick, 100-page folios chock-full of ads. At the Industry Standard, for example, there was a waiting list to buy advertising space.

Magazine salespeople weren't really selling at all; they were merely well-paid order-takers. Customers already had done their research and knew what they wanted.

In this case, the business-to-business salesperson shared a lot in common with the retail salesperson at the local shopping mall.

consumer tech, IT tech, BYOD, tech shopping

When consumers go shopping at the mall -- much like they'll do en masse this Black Friday -- they have pre-conceived ideas before even entering a retail store. They make purchases based on existing notions about brands and also what strikes their fancy. While a retail salesperson might talk up a product's features, the customer is mostly flying solo.

In other words, consumers conduct their own research by reading third-party reviews, talking to friends, leveraging their social networks and weighing pros and cons. Apps allow them to do quick price comparisons. The teenage salesperson trying to earn some cash during the holidays factors little into the decision process.

B2B Beginning to Look a Lot Like B2C

Now Avanade, a managed services provider, has released results from a survey of 1,000 business and IT decision makers that show a blurring line between the business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales process. That is, B2B buyers are starting to act a lot like consumer shoppers.

Sixty-one percent of business decision-makers report third-party sites and feedback from business partners, industry peers or social channels are more important than conversations with a company's sales teams when making a purchasing decision, Avanade reports.

"The 'consumerization of IT' is dramatically transforming the traditional ways companies sell products and services to other businesses and consumers, says Mick Slattery, Avanade executive vice president, Global Service Lines. Businesses have lost control of the sales process, and B2B and B2C buying models are merging."

Is this a modern-day version of a "Death of a Salesman"? The most startling statistic: 70 percent of respondents say they believe technology will primarily replace human interaction with customers in the next 10 years. All of this sounds a lot like an automated self-service and order-taking machine.

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That's not to say the customer experience is dead. On the contrary, how a company interacts with business buyers will be even more critical in the future. The company will have to invest in technology to meet customers where they are and where they're doing their research. Think: mobile and social.

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