Tell me how old you are: I'll tell you what sort of a buyer you are…

Mirakl survey generations B2B purchasers
May 31th, 2018
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The value of digitising BtoB procurement is understood and shared by professional buyers all over the world. And yet traditional methods of sourcing by tender and direct transactions have not disappeared. BtoB Online, Mirakl and Oracle had the idea of asking buyers about their practices according to their generation. The result is fascinating, with a real difference in outlook between the "Millennials", born between 1977 and 1995, "Generation X", whose members were born between 1965 and 1976, and the "Baby Boomers", born before 1964. With a particular insight highlighted by the authors of the study: in 2020, the Millennials will represent almost half of all buyers. History is on their side…

Across all generations: a picture ofthe digital world

From the outset, the study is very clear about this: digital platforms (marketplaces, e-commerce or e-procurement) are likely to bring benefits that no one disputes. The 200 buyers in the survey – from companies with sales in excess of $500 million and located in North America, Latin America and Europe – had nothing but praise for the transparency, fluidity, services, accessibility of products and personalisation promised by digital technologies.

In terms of usage, however, the authors note that practices are still heavily rooted in tradition: calls for tenders, for example, come in second place – and they even make first place if buyers are asked not about their practices but about their preferences.

For BtoB Online, Mirakl and Oracle, the resistance of what they call "traditional practices", at the forefront of which they place calls for tenders, stems partly from the fact that they remain overwhelmingly preferred by Baby Boomers, and partly from the fact that the digital solutions available in BtoB are often not up to expectations. The Millennials – the leading advocates of digital procurement – make no mystery about their disappointment with customer experiences that are often far inferior to those offered by BtoC.

For each generation: specific expectations about the digitisation of BtoB procurement

The merit of the study is also that it surveys its respondents with great precision, enabling the authors to differentiate the use values that each group attributes to the digitisation of BtoB procurement.

For the Millennials, digitisation must, at core, be a source of transparency, flexibility, personalisation, and services that often have a technological appeal, such as augmented reality or sophisticated payment systems.

Generation X, on the other hand, looks primarily for process fluidity, to save time in processing and find the desired products more quickly. The accent is less on the customer experience and more on efficiency.

For the Baby Boomers – who view digitisation with much more distance than their younger peers – expectations are more vague, although there is a sense of a change in scale: Baby boomers expect volume benefits from digitisation. For them, digital means greater diversity in the products available and greater richness in the services on offer.

To find out more about the BtoB Online study: click here.