Marketing Ecommerce B2B Marketing

McKinsey study finds omnichannel B2B sales 'are now the standard'


By Webb Wright | Reporter

December 15, 2021 | 4 min read

McKinsey & Co’s annual Pulse Research finds that business-to-business (B2B) buyers have become far more comfortable with making large, high-consideration purchases online. The digital channel has become a crucial part of an omnichannel approach that has proven both effective and indelible.

B2B omnichannel sales

Omnichannel sales are now an indelible part of B2B marketing

B2B buying once rooted in face-to-face selling has changed forever now that digital has proven itself to be a channel capable of closing big sales. In fact, an omnichannel approach, with a heavy dose of digital, is now expected to become the industry norm. This was one of the key takeaways from McKinsey & Co’s 2021 Pulse research, which polled hundreds of B2B decision-makers.

“Omnichannel is the standard, not the exception,” says Liz Harrison, partner, McKinsey & Company. “Omnichannel sales have grown exponentially throughout the pandemic and the model has proven to be incredibly effective.”

Here are six key takeaways B2B marketers need to know:

  1. The omnichannel approach is working. An overwhelming majority (94%) of B2B decision makers now consider omnichannel sales – a blend of channels, remote, online and in-person – to be ‘as effective or more than before Covid-19.’

  2. Supplier interactions have splintered. B2B customers say they are now interacting with suppliers via 10 or more channels – up from five in 2016.

  3. Large-scale B2B spending is happening online. Buyers are opening their wallets for big ticket online purchases. More than a third (35%) are willing to spend $500,000 or more in a single transaction. An additional 77% are willing to spend $50,000 or more.

  4. The pressure is on to perform. More than 80% of B2B customers say that they will ditch their supplier if their primary needs are not being met. With that in mind, being able to supply customers with a performance guarantee has become more important than ever.

  5. Customers have come to expect a ‘rule of thirds,’ whereby they have access to a mix of sales options – including traditional (in-person meetings), remote (such as a phone call) and self-service (a digital portal, for example).

  6. B2B buyers expect a personal touch. It isn’t enough, in other words, for companies to merely offer automated, do-it-yourself sales options. The report found that the majority of customers prefer that suppliers make the time for face time, regardless of whether that takes place in person or via, say, a video conference platform such as Zoom.

“Overall, our findings indicate that ‘human touch’ is here to stay, as it helps further cultivate customer relationships,” says Harrison. “We anticipate that it will be top of mind for businesses as they look toward the new year.”

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