Millennials have become the largest generation in the U.S. labor force with 55.2 million of them now in employment. Alongside this, they have also moved into decision-making and purchasing positions in B2B within their companies. With 44 per cent of the U.S. workforce expected to be made up of millennials by 2025, a recent report by the B2B marketing agency Sacunas took a look at their increasing responsibilities as purchasing decision makers in B2B. The survey of the B2B buying habits of millennials looked at over 2,000 millennials across the United States - defining them as adults between the ages of 20 and 35 and born between 1979 and 1995.
The study found that above all else - this generation values authenticity and wants to feel like they have a personal, direct interaction with the brand and in return they'll advocate and endorse that brand. This means that it is more important than ever for brands to evolve and have meaning beyond the products they represent.
It was also found that up to 73 per cent of millennials are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies with approximately one third of those surveyed saying they are the sole decision maker for their company. Additionally, millennials are far more likely to use digital channels like search engines, vendor websites and social media to make purchasing decisions. One millennial interviewed said that "I google it. I search for the 'best' and for reviews - customer reviews, company reviews, and product reviews."
With many millennials using mainly digital channels, the survey notes that they tend to use vendor websites to learn about new product and service offerings, and tend to shift from researching products to researching vendors. The study also indicates that millennials are more likely to turn to video for B2B research and many perform B2B research on Facebook, looking for content and seeking an authentic brand story.
Even in the millennial generation, there are age differences with the youngest millennials preferring social channels to all others for researching new products and services while those in their mid-30s are slightly more comfortable with search engines and vendor websites. As far as researching B2B products through mobile devices, 82 per cent of those surveyed said that mobile devices are important when researching new products and services with 86 per cent of adult’s ages 18-29 using smart phones compared to 83 per cent for ages 30-49.
According to the study, 85 per cent of millennials use social media to research products and services for their companies while 40 per cent use Facebook as their primary choice for researching new B2B products and services. Significantly more females than males use Facebook as their preferred channel as men tend to favor YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter. Further, 63 per cent of millennials use LinkedIn with one third using it on a weekly basis particularly those living in the Northeast who use LinkedIn the most at 67 per cent compared to 58 per cent in the Midwest and 63 per cent in the west. The more upwardly mobile, college graduates tend to use LinkedIn as much as 73 per cent more than high school graduates. For B2B millennials, Glassdoor has also become a preferred site to research and decide to engage with a company. In fact, 37 per cent of those surveyed consider Glassdoor as a key destination when researching new B2B products or services.
When learning about a company, millennials do seem to be averse to reading long papers and prefer video-based content and case studies. With 35 per cent of younger millennials preferring video-based content compared to older millennials (27 per cent), while info graphics and webinars seem to resonate least with millennials. While millennials may not respond as well to info graphics or webinars, they do rate training, demos and product news as being the most helpful information to receive from vendors.
The report also notes that millennials do not prefer industry, company or thought leadership news but respond best to more practical, relevant and specific information. Of note, they also say they have other sources to go to for industry and thought leadership and may feel this information is less relevant to their actual purchasing decisions.
A strong moral compass and environmental, philanthropic and social causes is increasingly viewed as a factor in a millennials research or choice to work with a company. With 80 per cent of those surveyed agreeing that company’s social and philanthropic efforts are a factor in their purchase decisions.