Buyer Activism Will Rise Among B2B Buyers

Tony Zambito

Tony Zambito

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Buying Decisions Are Affected By Intensified Buyer Activism Sentiments

During the past decade, we have seen a significant rise in consumer activism. And that has translated to a rise in both brand activism as well as shareholder activism. We have seen consumers changing buying behaviors with their pocketbooks. Refusing or boycotting certain brands due to their social or environmental stance. For many years, activism centered on the environment. In the past two years, we have seen more prominence in social justice issues. Affecting primarily consumer brands. B2B buyers seemed to be on the sidelines. This is about to shift dramatically. B2B buyer activism will be on the rise.

We have become accustomed to seeing consumer-oriented brands like Pepsi Co, Nike, H&M, Apple, Volkswagen, and more be confronted by consumer activism. Faced with pressures to respond to outbursts from consumers, intense media focus, and political scrutiny. Heeding to calls to adapt or educate. And make strategic course corrections as well. We have not seen this dynamic of activism in B2B.

This is about to change dramatically. The world order of business and commerce has been changed forever because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Bringing to the surface pacts of commerce that often turned a blind eye to conflicts. As the arc of the Russian invasion wreaks destruction and humanitarian crises, B2B buyers and brands will be confronted with moral and activism choices.

We now live in a global economy where the ties to everyday life and industry involve some form of inter-country or inter-region commerce. It is how things get supplied and made. And how things get transacted. The moral and activism choices become real in this catastrophic conflict when you consider just a few ongoing commerce continuing:

  • Chemical companies like Dow, Dupont, Exxon, and others are still actively producing in Russia
  • Major investment firms such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, etc. continue to invest in Russian financial markets
  • The SWIFT ban was only applied to selected banks and not all financial institutions in Russia
  • Oil and gas continue to be purchased in the hundreds of thousands of barrels per day
  • The Big 4 accounting firms are still providing professional services

For the first time in decades and since the Cold War, there are real questions and choices confronting B2B buyers. Both on a corporate level and individual level. These questions and choices related to a new world of business commerce will, without a doubt, affect buying decisions. 

And that is the point. We will see new variables come into play, related to buyer activism, as B2B buyers make important high stakes choices and decisions. Calling for new buyer insights and understanding of changed buyer persona archetypes as a result. 

A key buyer insight to consider is the rising class of next-generation b2b buyers. Next-generation b2b buyers care more about what is happening in their world. Bring more acceptable sensitivities related to climate change, social justice, and geopolitical crises. Unlike past generations, we are seeing more vocal denunciations of important issues in the B2B world by b2b buyers. And accounts for why ESG is becoming one of the top priorities in boardrooms today. 

We may view buyer activism as b2b buyers catching up to consumer activism. I am not so sure that explains all of it. The recent development of the Russia-Ukraine war makes buyer activism more pronounced. More is at stake. The implications are greater. Sacrifices based on choices are more impactful. 

In the end, the impact of buyer activism on b2b buying decisions will become more prominent. As mentioned, the next generation of b2b buyers is not afraid to talk about important global issues. For B2B brands, they should be prepared to talk about their stance and conduct on the world stage of commerce. 

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