When the CEB Marketing Leadership Council surveyed how B2B buyers make purchase decisions, they found a 64 percent purchase rate when there existed “a high brand connection.” When there wasn’t? That rate plunged to five percent.
That was just for completed purchases. When the group looked at purchase consideration—just thinking seriously about whether to buy—a branded buy hit 79 percent, whereas the brand-less option was 15 percent. And according to a white paper the group produced on the results, the willingness to pay a premium price was 60 percent for branded and 2 percent for unbranded.
“Researchers also determined that B2B buying is extremely personal, although B2C buying is typically perceived to be more emotional. Losing time due to a poor purchase, losing credibility, and losing a job were all key stakes cited by B2B buyers surveyed for the white paper,” said a story about the report in Komarketing Associates. “Typically, B2C purchases are assumed to be more emotional than B2B purchases. Digging deeper, the high level of emotionality in B2B is not so surprising. B2B purchases entail personal risks — far more than most B2C purchases."
The report itself said Web-enabled research is a key factor. Although some thought that the Web was this huge enabler that allowed small players to have a more level playing field to compete with a huge companies—which is true—it also has reinforced the power of the brand.
“Today, customers typically learn on their own through digital channels. Using a simple search, customers can easily identify the leading suppliers in a field and evaluate if any can meet the customer’s needs. Suppliers have responded by focusing their B2B brand messages on customers’ business outcomes to convey superior business value. Only after establishing the benefit to the customer does the message present the supplier’s features,” the report said. “By demonstrating business value to customers, marketers hope to differentiate their offerings from the competition. Buyers who see a supplier’s business value are four times more likely to consider that brand in the future. In fact, business value has become a prerequisite for consideration. Most buyers who don’t believe a brand will deliver business value simply won’t even consider purchasing from that brand at all.”
The report also looked at how long decisions are taking.
“Contrary to conventional wisdom, purchase intent does not increase as buyers get closer to purchase. Although buyers report high levels of brand engagement and purchase intent when they initiate the purchase process, their excitement wanes over time. Indeed, as buyers enter the phases of criteria setting, supplier search, and evaluation, purchase intent drops steadily rather than rising,” the report said. “During these evaluative phases when the rider (rational brain) takes over to compare options, buyers discover risks and complications and rein in earlier positive emotions. This is bad news for suppliers: with purchase probabilities falling below 50 percent, many potential deals are either stalling or likely falling out of the purchase process altogether. Those that do make it through to the negotiation phase report a rebound in purchase intent—but still not to initial levels.”