by Ray Grady

How millennials are changing B2B commerce

May 01, 2018
Digital TransformationE-commerce SoftwareTechnology Industry

Millennialsu2019 technology habits are accelerating the adoption of digital commerce.

millennials digital entrepreneurs
Credit: Thinkstock

Millennials are driving major changes in B2B commerce. Empowered by technologies they’ve known for most of their lives, millennial buyers expect first-rate digital experiences, near-effortless self-serve options and access to trusted partners who are invested in their organizations’ success.

But just as importantly, millennials are changing the selling side of B2B commerce. As B2B sellers, millennials’ technology habits are accelerating the adoption of digital commerce – enabling B2B sales teams to leverage digital transformation as a strategy for business growth.

Millennial buyers and the digital commerce experience

Millennials grew up with technology woven into the fabric of their everyday lives. For millennial consumers, e-commerce has always been a normal part of shopping and purchasing routines. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that in the B2B sector, millennial buyers expect a similarly diverse range of digital tools to support the buying process and help them complete purchases.

Recent research shows the scope of the changes that millennials – the first truly digital generation – are introducing to B2B buying. In the current B2B marketplace:

  • More than three-quarters (76 percent) of buyers feel significantly more empowered as decision makers than they did as recently as five years ago.
  • 83 percent of buyers report that technology keeps them more informed about product choices than ever before.
  • Almost 60 percent of buyers say they are likely to switch brands if their current vendor doesn’t offer an easy-to-use mobile experience.

In addition to digital commerce experiences, millennials expect sellers to use digital tools and insights to create informed, personalized buyer journeys. In fact, 79 percent of buyers indicate that it is important for salespeople to serve as trusted advisors – a role that can only be fulfilled through the intelligent use of digital commerce technologies.

The seller side of the millennial effect

Conversations about the commerce-related impact of millennials have mostly focused on the new generation of buyers. But millennials aren’t just reshaping B2B buying behaviors – they’re also transforming the selling side of commerce in several important ways:

1. Millennial account executives embrace digital commerce technologies with open arms.

While older generations of professionals sometimes feel threatened by digital commerce, millennial account executives and other customer-facing professionals tend to welcome the use of commerce tools in the workplace.

For example, millennials usually aren’t put off by notifications alerting account executives about customer behaviors on the company website. Instead, they view notifications and other digital capabilities as essential workplace tools.

Salesforce research shows that sales teams with significant year-over-year revenue growth share four common traits. These sales teams: (1) develop a single view of the customer; (2) create more selling time with self-service and automation tools; (3) use data and analytics to improve intelligence, personalization and responsiveness; and (4) rely on digital commerce to create deeper customer relationships.

The willingness of millennials to embrace digital commerce gives them a distinct advantage in the workplace. Even more importantly, their easy relationship with commerce tools sets their companies up to leverage digital as a primary channel for business growth.

2. Millennials accelerate the adoption of digital commerce technology in marketing and sales operations.

Millennials’ relationship with technology is not only comfortable – it’s constantly evolving. More than any other generation, millennial employees demonstrate an openness to innovation and a willingness to adopt new technologies.

As a result, the adoption of new technologies in marketing and sales operations is accelerating, driven by millennials who quickly ramp up the use of modern digital commerce solutions. This adaptability to new technologies promotes agility in commerce organizations and makes it much easier for organizations to respond to industry and marketplace dynamics.

From a customer standpoint, the accelerated adoption of digital commerce technologies empowers buyers to research products and complete transactions, enabling the organization’s sales team to think more strategically. Customer-driven interactions also generate additional data and insights that inform sales teams and enable them to serve as trusted partners to customers.

3. Robust commerce technology is essential for attracting and retaining talent.

In addition to the bottom line business advantages of digital commerce, more and more B2B companies are realizing the importance of implementing cutting-edge commerce technologies to attract and retain millennial talent.

For millennial employees, everyday workflows hinge on the use of technology. In fact, the use of commerce technology in the workplace has become so vital that organizations without digital commerce tools run the risk of perpetuating cultural ruts by missing out on younger generations of talent.

Additionally, it’s important to recognize that consumers aren’t the only ones who expect companies to continuously innovate on their behalf. Similarly, B2B organizations must constantly invest in new commerce technologies to retain millennial employees.

Raised in the digital age, both millennials and commerce technology are coming into their own. In the same way that millennial buyers transformed expectations in the marketplace, millennial sellers are converting their comfortable relationship with digital technologies into improved revenue and market share for B2B businesses.

All B2B businesses stand to gain from digital commerce. But to maximize the business impact of digital, B2B organizations need to give millennials an increasingly louder voice in their commerce operations and allow the digital generation to help guide their companies toward digital transformation.