The digital economy continues to expand and reach into every corner of the globe. Digital technology advances have shrunken the world and made it possible for businesses to connect and collaborate on a scale like never before. These advances have altered buying behaviors drastically where conventional thinking about the B2B buyer can no longer be relied upon. Whereby continued outdated focus on the B2B buyer may put an organization at peril.
Buying Behaviors Reshaped
For some time now, we have had predictions of forthcoming changes in how people will adopt entirely new buying behaviors. Alvin Toffler, the famed futurist, who first coined the phrase prosumer in 1980, made one such prediction. The term has been defined and redefined several times over by the likes of Phillip Kotler in 1986 and most recently by Donald Tapscott in 1995 in his book The Digital Economy. The term, as you can guess, refers to the blending of professional and consumer. For the purposes of this article, my use of the word is intended to point out the continued movement of the professional B2B buyer into extensive use of consumer-like behaviors. Referred in various publications as the consumerization of B2B.
Another prediction came from Australian media scholar Axel Bruns, when he coined the phrases produsage and produser. Bruns posited that the digital online world created producers out of users, who used content to produce further user-led content output. Thus, you have the phrase produser to articulate the behavior of people who produce user-led content.
Rather than get bogged down into theories and concepts, it is best to have an understanding of the basic premise for each and how it applies to the B2B world we now see in 2015. The two basic premises are these:
- Prosumer: B2B buyers seek the open sharing and exchange of information, including collaborating on design and production data, to create a product or service intended to be consumed
- Produser: B2B buyers seek openness to information and data, which are used to create derivative content or service oriented output to suit their purposes
Why Are These Behaviors Important Now?
A recent Frost and Sullivan study showed by the year 2020, nearly 30% of all B2B transactions will be conducted online with global online sales expected to grow to $6.7 trillion. In addition, we have a fast growing shift taking place whereby B2B organizations are moving from hosted or owned products and services to subscription-based usage models of services. These developments are creating entirely new B2B buying behaviors, which by the end of this decade will be a significant portion of how business-to-business transactions take place.
What we may see in just a few short years is the continued manifestation of prosumer and produser buying behaviors. Even in today’s B2B workforce, we are seeing virtual professionals, prosumers, who exhibit consumer-like behaviors in research and how they access as well as share content. On the other hand, we are seeing a rising segment of professionals, produsers, who access as well as subscribe to content services to produce something entirely new and useful – whether it be for internal use or be sold back out to the market as an entirely new form of output.
The Digital Buyer Persona
What both of these types of behaviors have in common is they call for people and businesses to work together in highly open and collaborative environments. What many are referring to as the collaborative economy. In my field of work in conducting qualitative buyer interviews, I continue to see an increase in networked collaborative environments taking shape. Drastically impacting how work gets done and how decisions are made.
When you consider these buying behaviors we label prosumer and produser, you have an emerging new digital buyer persona. One who will be vastly different than older conventional ideas we may have about a typical B2B buyer. Many B2B businesses today operate with traditional profiling of buyers. Whereby the traditional thought of a man or woman sitting at a desk or in a conference room with a team and making a purchase decisions is the present image. And, their B2B marketing campaigns and content are a reflection of this image.
Buyer personas have always been a reflection of understanding goal-directed buying behaviors. Yet, many companies have signed-on to miscast buyer personas, which are a reflection of outdated profiling commonly used in product marketing and sales. Profiling a buyer’s initiatives, KPI’s, buying criteria, pain points, risk factors and the likes commonly used in sales but never really understanding actual buying behaviors. While these profiling factors remain helpful for sales, they do not guide the B2B marketer in understanding true buying behaviors needed to connect in a humanizing way with the new digital B2B buyer. To truly understand digital buyer personas, B2B organizations will have to understand new buying behaviors, such as prosumer and produser behaviors, resulting from the digital and the collaborative economy.
Implications For B2B Marketing
The implications for B2B marketing will be profound. New means of understanding the new digital B2B buyer and creating ways to support new buying behaviors will become more important than ever. B2B marketers must consider how content and services can work well in a networked collaborative environment where prosumers live and work. Their professional and consumer behaviors melded into one. Just as well, thought must be given to how content and data can be in a state of preparedness for the produser, who will create an entirely new form of output either in advocacy of a new direction or for other output purposes.
While what I share with you in this article may sound futuristic and perhaps even a bit science fiction, what can be surmised is this: after two years of conducting hundreds of qualitative buyer interviews – I am confident these buying behaviors will be and are becoming mainstream. It is only a matter of time now.
(Here is a short video by Eric Payne, Senior Content Strategist at Moxie. He touches upon the consumerization factor in a nice articulate way. Although intended for 2014, it is still very relevant. Enjoy.)