Buyers want to be challenged: survey

Research reveals nearly half will pay premium for products that build competitive advantage

January 5, 2018
Purchasing B2B

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Aberdeen Group and PJA Advertising + Marketing, have announced the results of a global survey, The BtoB Buyer: Reality vs. Myth, which the organizations say looks beyond assumptions people make about b2b buyers.

The survey provides an in-depth examination of the preferences and motivations that drive IT professionals and executives, the organizations said. Among the notable trends in the survey are:

  • Buyers want change and want to be challenged. When the survey asked, “Are you more likely to work with a vendor who challenges the way you currently do business—for example, by highlighting a pain point or organizational weakness you weren’t aware of?” more than 65 percent agreed.
  • Buyers will alter their purchase criteria for companies that address pain points. More than half of respondents said that would be more likely to work with a vendor who changed their purchasing criteria by addressing a pain point they couldn’t solve before.
  • Buyers want a path to competitive advantage; products are just a means to this end. A plurality of companies said they last paid a premium for a product or service when they believed it would generate competitive advantage. Only total cost of ownership was judged more important.
  • If buyers don’t find compelling reasons to purchase, the process stalls. The two greatest barriers to purchase approval in today’s organizations were lack of clarity around what the company needed (32.8 percent) and indecision (27.9 percent).

During July and August 2017, Aberdeen and PJA surveyed more than 250 b2b buyers across a range of industries including technology, professional services, and manufacturing. Company size ranged from under $50 million to over $5 billion, with 60 percent in North America, 21 percent in Europe, 12 percent in Asia/Pacific, and the rest distributed across Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

More than a third of respondents were CEOs or presidents, with managers, directors, and vice-presidents making up 41 percent of the rest.

The survey also looked at purchase triggers and perceived product differentiation. These results included:

  • Brand is an important factor in putting together a short list of vendors, but less important as the purchasing decision nears (13.3 percent versus 4.3 percent).
  • In two-thirds of cases, buying decisions are triggered by a perceived business strategy need, versus when a solution is outdated or a higher-level executive calls for it.
  • More than a third (37 percent) reported that products under consideration are infrequently or never seen as superior to each other.
  • The single greatest factor that determines the time horizon for a purchase is not budget review cycles, but perceived complexity of implementing a new solution (45.1 percent).

“Companies are hungry for real competitive differentiation,”said Matthew Grant, senior director of content strategy at Aberdeen. “Once you understand that, you become acutely aware of how few companies are actually able to articulate how their solution offers anything of the kind.”

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