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B2B marketing strategies

WHITE PAPER: The Evolution of the B2B Consumer Buyer

January 25, 2024

Why Making it Easy for People to do Business with You is More Important Than Ever

Given the growing influence of digital natives in the B2B sector, it is crucial for businesses to adapt to a digital-first approach. This shift is not just anecdotal but is supported by numerical data indicating a profound change in B2B buyer demographics and their consequent expectations. Consider this chart:

What it looks like as B2B and B2C Consumer Online Expectations Merge

The above graphic illustrates the converging trajectories of B2B and B2C buyer expectations in the realm of online convenience and simplicity over a period from 2010 to projected trends in 2025. The trend lines show a significant increase in B2B buyer expectations, drawing near to the traditionally higher B2C consumer expectations. This convergence is supported by several key milestones, such as the advent of SaaS (Software as a Service), relationship endpoint proliferation, the normalization of remote work, and finally the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in driving customer experiences.

Convergence of B2B and B2C Buyer Online Experience Expectations

In the early 2010s, the expectations for online convenience and simplicity among B2C consumers were already high, as the digital revolution had transformed consumer behaviors. E-commerce had become mainstream, with the expectation of a seamless, intuitive, and personalized shopping experience. In contrast, B2B buyer expectations were lower, with many still relying on traditional sales processes that had yet to be super-empowered by digital experiences.

However, as the graphic indicates, the gap began to narrow significantly around the mid-2010s, which can be linked to the proliferation of SaaS solutions. These platforms democratized the use of sophisticated business tools, allowing B2B buyers to experience levels of efficiency and user-friendliness that were previously exclusive to B2C platforms. SaaS products emphasized ease of use and self-service capabilities, which set new standards for what B2B buyers and customers could expect from online interactions.

By the late 2010s, another significant shift occurred with the endpoint proliferation of relationships, indicating an increase in digital touchpoints. B2B buyers were no longer just engaging with vendors through sales calls or industry events; they were interacting through various online platforms, social media, and an array of B2B relationship end points. This period saw the B2B buyer journey becoming increasingly digitized, with the SaaS ecosystem providing increasingly specialized relationship endpoint solutions in an attempt to level up B2B experiences to mirror the quality of online B2C experiences.

The trend lines converge even more rapidly with the normalization of remote work, which has become widespread by the early 2020s. The global shift towards remote work necessitated by various factors, particularly the pandemic, has accelerated the adoption of digital tools and platforms in the B2B space. Remote work has made digital fluency a requirement, not an option, for B2B buyers, who now expect online research and purchasing processes to be as streamlined as their remote work tools.

The anticipated trends show that by 2025, B2B buyer expectations for online convenience will nearly match those of B2C consumers. This is in part due to the rise of AI, which is set to further personalize the online experience, making it more intuitive and efficient. AI’s predictive analytics, chatbots, and automated customer service can offer a level of personalization and convenience that was once the unique domain of B2C but is now increasingly expected in B2B transactions.

Numerical Support for Convergence

The numerical representation in the graphic provides a clear quantitative backbone to the qualitative observations in the marketplace. The trajectory shows a relative scale where B2C online convenience expectations start high and continue to ascend, while B2B expectations, starting from a lower baseline, rise more steeply over time. This steep rise in B2B buyer expectations can be attributed to several factors:

  • The increasing sophistication of B2B buyers who are also B2C consumers in their private lives, bringing their consumer expectations into the business buying process.

  • The technology transfer from B2C to B2B, where innovations initially designed for consumers are adapted for business use, enhancing the B2B online experience.

  • The competitive pressure on B2B sellers to match the online experience of B2C, as B2B buyers have more options and can easily switch providers if their expectations are not met.

The Nail in the Coffin for Doubters: Generational Shift as a Driving Force

The generational shift refers to the gradual replacement of older generations by younger ones in the workforce, including in decision-making roles. By the 2020s, Millennials and Gen Z, who are considered digital natives, have begun to dominate the workforce. These individuals have grown up with the internet, social media, and mobile technology as integral parts of their lives, influencing their expectations for immediacy, convenience, and efficiency.

Logical Argument for Generational Influence

Logically, digital natives bring a consumer mindset to the B2B buying process because they do not see a distinction between the ease of online shopping for personal items and the online procurement of business services or products. They expect the same level of digital ease and intuitiveness in their professional roles as they experience in their personal lives. This consumerization of the B2B experience is a natural extension of their digital lifestyle, leading to a demand for features such as:

  • User-friendly interfaces that require minimal training or explanation.

  • Immediate access to product information and support

  • Seamless integration of various tools and platforms to support their work ecosystem.

Numerical Argument for Generational Influence

Numerically, a generational shift over the past decade and more, can be increasingly seen in the workforce composition and its buying behaviors. By 2015, according to a Google and Millward Brown Digital study, nearly half of all B2B researchers and buyers were Millennials, a number that had only been increasing. This demographic change coincides with the steep rise in B2B online expectations depicted in our graphic.

The most recent research indicates that Millennials now constitute 73% of all B2B buying decisions, with 44% of final decisions being made by this demographic. Additionally, Gen Z is entering the buyer cycle, bringing even more profound expectations and purchasing behaviors compared to previous generations​​.

Moreover, a significant 70% of millennial B2B consumers prefer to communicate with brands through text-based channels, underscoring their comfort with digital interactions.

As digital natives become more prevalent in the workforce, their preferences are reshaping the market. The trends in our chart above can be numerically linked to the increasing proportion of these younger decision-makers. The expectations of these digital natives have been shown to directly influence corporate policies and buying patterns, accelerating the investment in and adoption of digital solutions to meet these expectations.

The Quantitative Impact of Digital Natives

This is significant and transformational for the business world. For instance, pre-COVID-19 research showed that B2B companies with more advanced digital strategies are 8% more likely to grow share than those with less advanced strategies (McKinsey, 2020). This numerical data suggests that the presence of digital natives within an organization is a catalyst for higher digital expectations, thereby driving the convergence of B2B and B2C online experiences.

Integrating Generational Shift into B2B Strategies

The generational shift necessitates that B2B companies reassess and realign their digital strategies to cater to the expectations of digital natives. This realignment includes:

  • A simplification of the currently disaggregated business end points (chat, schedule, meet, share, sign, etc.) that hinder the ease of relationships between companies.

  • A robust digital marketing strategy that leverages social media and online engagement.

  • Investment in digital sales tools and CRM systems that offer a B2C-like user experience.

  • Development of online self-service portals, as younger buyers prefer to independently research and purchase online rather than through traditional sales interactions.


Businesses that fail to recognize and cater to the preferences of digital natives—who prioritize ease of use, digital engagement, and personalized relationship experiences—greatly risk falling behind. As these younger generations increasingly dominate the workforce, their inclination toward simple, easy business relationships via digital platforms will only intensify, demanding B2B sellers to provide B2C-like buying and support experiences. The rise of digital platforms has already led to a significant increase in self-service and online research in B2B buying processes, a trend that is highly likely to continue as digital natives become more prevalent in decision-making roles.

Moreover, both numerical and logical evidence points towards a future where B2B buying experiences are expected to mirror the convenience and personalization of B2C transactions. The generational shift in the workforce is a key driver of this evolution, with digital natives expecting their professional purchasing experiences to reflect the digital convenience they have grown accustomed to in their personal lives. To succeed, businesses must therefore evolve their digital prospect/customer relationship strategies to meet these expectations, leveraging technology to deliver personalized, efficient, and user-centric buying and support experiences.

Incorporating generational shifts into the understanding of the convergence of B2B and B2C buyer online expectations provides a comprehensive view of the changes in the marketplace. The logical argument based on the inherent digital expectations of younger decision-makers, coupled with the numerical data on their growing influence in the business buying process, reinforces the trends shown in our featured graphic. As these younger generations continue to assert their presence in the workforce, their digital-first mentality is reshaping the B2B landscape. This necessitates a strategic pivot for B2B companies, who must now prioritize digital fluency and ease of relationship experience to meet and exceed these evolving expectations. The companies that successfully adapt to this new paradigm will position themselves to lead in a marketplace that increasingly values digital convenience as much or more than product quality and service excellence.

About Us:

ClientPoint, a leading enterprise SaaS platform, is a “Business Relationship Enablement” solution that gives companies a comprehensive front office for its business activities with prospects, partners, customers, employees, and other key constituents. The perfect pairing with any CRM, ClientPoint seamlessly integrates popular endpoint solutions—schedule, meet, share, propose, redline, sign, chat, pay and more—into secure business relationship workspaces called ClientPoints. With hundreds of customers globally, ClientPoint's SOC2-compliant and GDPR-enabled platform simplifies, organizes, and transforms the customer journey while powering AI, BI, and CRM with the most valuable customer analytics available.

The company’s suite of solutions helps customers nurture leads more effectively, quickly create and share even the most complex custom documents and multimedia proposals, accelerate deal closures, and enhance partner and customer onboarding and growth. For more information, please visit ClientPoint.net, and explore the company's free new CustomerOS® tool at ClientPoint.me.

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