Millennials continue to take the spotlight these days. In past years attending South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, I noticed it here at this conference more than anywhere else. This year seems different. Walking through the halls of the convention center to pick up my badge, I observed a wider range of ages. One thing is certain: the millennial generation continues to make an impact on business. In fact, millennials are having a profound impact on purchase decisions at the companies in which they work, and the B2B vendors who want to do business with them. Separate studies from Google and IBM show how marketers need to rethink their targeted advertising strategies.
Google and Millward Brown Digital fielded a study with about 3,000 B2B researchers, which the companies define as employees involved in researching B2B products and services as part of the buying process for the company. They analyzed their research and purchase habits, and their use of search, mobile and video media.
Google also analyzed 13 months of clickstream data from Millward Brown Digital's desktop panel. The study -- which was fielded in 2014 -- mirrors research from 2012, enabling Google to see shifts during the past couple of years. The results set straight several long-held beliefs and have major implications for B2B marketing strategies.
Nearly half of all B2B researchers are millennials. In 2014, 18- to-34-year-olds account for nearly half of all researchers, up 70% compared with the study conducted two years prior. Nearly half of B2B researchers are known as the millennials, a generation born around 1980, which means they have never known a world without the Internet. Putting this all in perspective, by the time millennials joined the workforce, half of all Americans were using email regularly, and search engines were a part of daily life.
What's new about this generation? They have more influence in the research and the buying process. Targeting only high-level executives with advertisements and marketing material about services or products will not be as effective as they were two years ago. While 64% of C-suite executives have final sign off on purchases, some of the responsibility has trickled down the chain. Nearly 24% of the non C-suite employees have more responsibility to sign off on projects. In fact, 81% have a say in purchase decisions.
Mobile's role in the B2B research and buying process has risen since 2012. In fact, 42% of researchers use a mobile device during the B2B purchasing process. The study reveals 91% growth in use during the past two years throughout the entire path.
While there has been only a 6% increase in use since 2012, the study shows growth -- three times higher -- in mobile queries. In fact, 49% of B2B researchers who use their mobile devices for product research do so while at work. They're comparing prices, reading about products, comparing feature sets and contacting retailers. They're purchasing, too; purchase rates on mobile are up 22% in the past two years. Considering the amount of time they're spending on their smartphones.
IBM surveyed more than 700 individuals who influence or are responsible for B2B purchasing decisions of U.S. $10,000 or more for their company and discovered Millennials want convenience, collaboration and expertise when researchers vendors. This is different from Gen X and Boomers' preferences. Even though Millennials are digital natives, the top ways they research products and services are through experiences. This includes meeting vendor representatives, attending conferences and learning from colleagues. Brands must create hands-on, authentic experiences and create advocacy.
When it comes time to buy, what matters most is data analysis and recommendations from friends and family. Millennials want access to details and the ultimate decision is influenced by peers, sometimes on social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook. They sing vendor praises, but are reluctant to post negative comments, so no news, in this case, is bad news.