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Executive Q&A: CloudCraze President Shares How Millennial Buyers Are Driving B2B Commerce Trends

ray grady cloudcrazeThe evolution of the marketing landscape is heavily driven by Millennial consumers, who demand a convenient, personalized buying experience. To satisfy Millennial needs and ensure future success, B2B businesses are rethinking marketing strategies and implementing AI and mobile platforms.

Ray Grady, President of CloudCraze, shared his thoughts about the role Millennial buyers have in the growing and evolving trends within the B2B marketplace — especially around commerce and consumer-like buying expectations in a B2B setting.

Demand Gen Report: What are some current trends in the commerce space that have been mostly driven by Millennial buyers?

Ray Grady: The growth of advanced technology and the increased availability of connected experiences has cultivated a deep desire for fast and convenient commerce experiences. As a result, mobile tech has become a dominant trend in the industry, emerging as a critical channel for commerce in both the B2B and B2C worlds. Mobile quenches Millennial buyers’ thirst for fast, convenient commerce experiences through one-click ordering, simple search capabilities and customized account options. The demand for convenience and speed has made it essential for brands to have a mobile site that contains these user-friendly features and streamlines ordering capabilities. And as mobile applications become more data driven, companies are enhancing their overall user experience by informing every touch point with accurate and up-to-date customer data (e.g., previous online interactions, orders and cart abandonment).

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We are also seeing increased applications of AI as Millennials demand more personalized user experiences. AI learns from every customer interaction, which enables companies to better understand their buyers’ behaviors and refine the commerce experience accordingly. AI combines this customer data with contextual data (e.g., weather forecasts, regional patterns and inventory) to optimize customer recommendations, providing the hyper-personalized experience Millennials crave.

AI will also be a disruptive force in customer service. Many companies are already investing in AI to develop chatbots that aid buyers in their purchases through digital, human-like conversations. The expansion of chatbots allows customer service agents to spend more time focusing on higher-level tasks.

DGR: What types of services are Millennial B2B buyers looking for in their commerce experiences?

Grady: Millennials’ customer engagement preferences look much different than earlier generations, forcing brands to rethink their strategies to appeal to this demographic. Self-service is one way brands are adapting to meet this demand. Millennials want to order in as few clicks as possible; they crave automated ordering options and the ability to purchase whenever and wherever. To accomplish this, B2B companies are investing in mobile-first technology that lets buyers purchase at their own convenience.

Subscription-based services are also increasing in popularity among Millennial buyers. Rather than paying high upfront costs for a large package of services they don’t use, subscription models allow customers to buy the specific products and services they need for a monthly recurring fee. You can see the value of this flexible service model when looking at the success of some of the world’s leading software companies like Adobe.

DGR: What can B2B companies do to meet the needs of the Millennial B2B buyer?

Grady: First and foremost, B2B companies must always put the customer at the core of the commerce experience — as basic as that may sound. But many companies still struggle with establishing a strong user experience. Companies should make sure they inform every customer interaction with data across commerce, sales, marketing and service channels to offer the most customized, efficient experience possible. Investing in a commerce platform built on top of a CRM platform will ensure they capture a holistic view of the customer and can apply that data to every touchpoint.

If we’ve learned anything about the Millennial buyer, it’s that their needs and expectations change regularly. To ensure they can adapt and scale with the customer, B2B organizations should consider investing in a modern, cloud-based platform. Unlike traditional legacy systems, which require heavy coding, cloud-based solutions allow you to configure — not code — because it’s built for business users. This makes it easier for companies to add new products and capabilities, and more quickly meet evolving customer demands. As an added bonus, the high costs of complex maintenance by highly skilled developers are eliminated with a configurable platform.

Finally, B2B companies should consider adopting SaaS to give customers the flexibility and customizability to bundle the services and solutions that meet their unique needs. SaaS allows B2B companies to capture more revenue through automated renewals and lower overhead costs. And it gives customers the freedom to pick and choose the products they need, engage with partners more freely on marketplaces and buy a wide variety of products and services all on one platform.  

DGR: How are Millennial buyers different than those of their Gen X predecessors?

Grady: As the first generation to grow up on mobile technology, Millennials are used to having the world at their fingertips. They expect companies to meet them where they are (e.g., mobile, desktop) and provide them with instant access to information about products and services.

That said, the gap between mobile and online shopping habits is closing for Millennials and Gen X. Today, Millennials are the key age demographic for online commerce, but Gen X is not far behind. What’s more, Gen Xers reportedly spend more time on social media than Millennials according to Nielsen, which indicates this generation's’ propensity for online engagement. As the B2B industry continues to evolve, companies should consider how buyers of all ages are engaging as consumers and apply those trends to the B2B buying experience.