The pandemic accelerated a clear shift – arguably already in the works – to online B2B sales. Omnichannel purchases have not only risen from last year to this year but from pre- to post-onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Tech, financial services, and energy are benefiting the greatest out of the B2B sectors. Display and mobile ad spending are seeing the most popularity. Digital strategies will need to adjust to keep up –including shifting to greater digital advertising efforts and online sales use. Here’s what you need to know if you’re an advertiser in B2B.

Download Onesheet: B2B Post-Pandemic

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Accelerated Shift to Digital B2B Sales & Ecommerce

The pandemic accelerated a trend that was already emerging in the B2B space: digital sales. B2B had been shifting toward more ecommerce technology, fewer face-to-face sales calls, more digital communications, and more predictive customer relationship management tools for years. One indicator: millennials in B2B. Research conducted by Merit in 2019 found that up to 73% of B2B buyers are now Millennials. And according to the IBM Institute, Millennials prefer to engage B2B sales through email or phone nearly 3-to-1 over face-to-face meetings.

The number of online B2B purchases rose from 41% before lockdown to 46% during lockdown. During the pandemic, 90% of sales moved to a videoconferencing (VC)/phone/web sales model, and while some skepticism remained as of April 2020, more than half believed it to be equally or more effective than sales models used before COVID-19, according to McKinsey & Company. And B2B companies see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions in the future, according to McKinsey.

 

  • ⅔ of buyers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service (McKinsey, 2021)
  • E-commerce was the most popular route to market for B2B companies as of February 2021 (marginally outpacing in-person). And 41% of leaders say it is their most effective sales route, beating out in-person (37%) and video (31%) (McKinsey, 2021).
  • 73% of B2B buyers are now Millennials (Merit, 2019).

The New B2B Omnichannel Sales Approach Is Here to Stay

“Without in-person events fueling the top of the funnel with leads, digital channels will need to do that heavy lift, at least short term. It is critical to optimize all channels and weigh how much to spend and where.” (eMarketer, June 2020)

Since the pandemic, digital methods have held on and cemented omnichannel interactions as the predominant path for B2B sales – that is, a mixed digital and in-person approach. According to McKinsey, even as in-person engagement reemerged as an option, buyers made clear they prefer a cross-channel mix, choosing in-person, remote, and digital self-serve interactions in equal measure. Eight in ten B2B leaders say that omnichannel is as or more effective than traditional methods—a sentiment that has grown sharply throughout the past year—rising from 54% at the start of the pandemic to 83% in February 2021, according to McKinsey. What does this mean for advertisers? Digital advertising has never been more essential to a B2B digital marketing strategy to reach buyers.

 

  • 83% of B2B leaders believe that omnichannel selling is a more successful way to prospect and secure new business than traditional, “face-to-face only” sales approaches (McKinsey, 2021).
  • 83% of B2B leaders say that omnichannel is as or more effective than traditional methods (McKinsey, 2021).

B2B Digital Ad Spend Increase: Display & Mobile

Overall, ad spending in the B2B sector fared well during lockdown. The US B2B Digital Ad Spending share is forecasted to grow $3.73 billion, from $10.84 billion in 2021 to $14.57 billion in 2023, according to eMarketer. Last year, we noticed a disconnect between B2B digital content creation and distribution spend. Since then, digital ad spending has increased substantially.

According to eMarketer, display ad spending is increasing, while search ad spend is decreasing. US B2B Display ad spending share is predicted to increase from 44.2% in 2020 to 50% in 2023, according to eMarketer.

Mobile is gaining its rightful place in spend popularity, which we identified as an opportunity in our pandemic assessment. According to eMarketer, the US B2B digital ad market, mobile will overtake nonmobile in spending share by the end of 2023 and generate $7.43 billion in ad outlays. To be fair, last year B2Bs focused on nonmobile ads to target audiences working from home and spent $5.16 billion on those placements.

Tech, financial services, and telecom are arguably most effectively maximizing the shift to digital and omnichannel sales approaches with the highest digital ad spend. Tech products and services hold the highest percentage of US B2B digital ad spending at 32.1%. Behind that is financial services at 25.1% and telecom at 10.1%, according to eMarketer.

 

  • In the US, B2B Display ad spending share is predicted to increase from 44.2% in 2020 to 50% in 2023. On the other hand, B2B search ad spending share is predicted to decrease from 51.7% in 2020 to 47% in 2023 (eMarketer, 2021).
  • Traditional B2B ad spending is decreasing while digital B2B ad spending is increasing on a yearly basis. In 2020, traditional B2B ad spending held 60.8% of the total ad spending share and is predicted to drop to 52% in 2023 (eMarketer, 2021).
  • In 2020, digital B2B ad spending held only 39% of the total ad spending share and is predicted to increase to 48% by 2023  (eMarketer, 2021).
  • The US B2B Digital Ad Spending share is forecasted to grow $3.73 billion, increasing from $10.84 billion in 2021 to $14.57 billion in 2023 (eMarketer, 2021).
  • Tech products and services hold the highest percentage of US B2B digital ad spending at 32.1% (eMarketer, 2021)
  • The US B2B Digital Ad spending share of the total digital ad spending jumped from 4.9% in 2019 to 5.7% in 2020. It is predicted to reach 5.8% by 2023 (eMarketer, 2021).
  • In the US B2B digital ad market, mobile will overtake nonmobile in spending share by the end of 2023 and generate $7.43 billion in ad outlays (eMarketer, 2021).

What Does This Mean for B2B Digital Marketers?

Buyers are online and they are looking for answers to their company’s problems. Digital marketing, in the form of high-quality digital advertising to deliver content to interested consumers, will increase awareness and brand favorability and establish B2Bs as a trusted source of expert information.

Utilizing context-driven programmatic advertising can strategically deliver ads next to relevant content and in front of the eyes of decision-makers like CTOs and CIOs. (Read more about Just Media’s successful approach to B2B digital advertising here.) Bidtellect’s well-rounded context-driven approach delivers maximum performance and engagement for advertisers. And going one step further: to enrich contextual targeting and optimization, Bidtellect’s platform creates proprietary audiences based on contextual information and browsing habits.

All this to say: B2B advertisers and digital marketers, don’t sleep on the power of a context-driven digital approach. B2B is moving online, maximizing an omnichannel approach, and spend on digital advertising and mobile is increasing. 

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