In the mid-to-late ‘90’s, as the first roots of the Internet began to take hold, Don Tapscott coined the phrase The Digital Economy. Tapscott’s landmark book is entitled The Digital Economy: Promise And Peril In The Age Of Networked Intelligence. At the time, it was filled with tremendous foresight. Much of the perspectives Tapscott offered have come to fruition.
The digital economy has become a global phenomenon. Intertwined now on many fronts be they economics, political, finance, consumerism, technologies, globalization, and societal. The digitization and the Internet of everything no longer a far fetch idea but a reality we are experiencing more and more with each passing year. In the past fifteen years, we have seen radical changes to how we view our everyday lives as well as how we view concepts in business.
Digital technologies have made it possible to introduce new forms of business services and operational capabilities. Allowing all types and sizes of businesses to become global and interconnected. Notably changing how we work, communicate, and conduct business.
B2B Is Still B2B – Even More So
One outcome of the digital economy evolution is the widespread globalization of business-to-business transactions. During the past two years, I have conducted a significant number of qualitative buyer interviews with mid-size organizations. What has drastically changed is how globalization is no longer the domain of the large enterprise. The ability to interact, locate, and transact in different countries are no longer subject to the rigid barriers of just a decade ago.
The digitization of business-to-business transactions has led to more partnering and new business models within B2B. From eCommerce to SaaS, the ability of businesses to interact and engage in new ways continues to evolve rapidly. In essence, what you have is more B2B taking place, not less. This is an important development to understand by B2B marketing and sales leaders. It is easy to get lost in the hype of B2B not being B2B anymore but B2P, B2I, or B2W (Whatever).
There is most definitely something more profound happening.
One of the most significant developments changing the face of buyers today is the internetworking of businesses and the people within businesses. A concept Tapscott introduced over a decade ago. In order to evolve in an increasingly global digital economy, businesses will need to interact and be digitally connected to their foreign entities, customers, suppliers, partners, and even competitors.
Internetworking, enabled by digital technologies and new mobility, has altered how people work. Having a direct impact on how businesses and people make buying decisions. Here are a few ways we can characterize the new face of buyers:
More open and connected collaboration. Businesses and people are engaged in more open collaborative efforts on important issues and decisions affecting organizations. Using digital technologies to bring as many parties to the table as possible. Introducing new requirements for engagement.
New rules for decision-making. As businesses become more internetworked and integrated, it is changing the rules of decision-making – including those related to purchases. Decisions are rarely made in a vacuum in the new internetworked world. How purchase decisions are being made and the reasons for purchases are radically changing. Trying to force-fit understanding of buyers into old buying process paradigms will create a mismatch between supplier and buyer.
Production by intent. Internetworking between suppliers and buyers today means buyers are actively involved in the design and production of manufactured products or services they need. Using digital technologies to communicate design specifications, adjustments, modifications, and approvals to the final outputs they need.
Information immediacy expectations. While it is easy to get caught up in the noise of content marketing, it is important to understand its role in the digital economy. The new face of buyers relies on knowledge and the immediacy of information. When thinking of how to be effective with content in the digital economy, B2B organizations and B2B marketing will need to have conscious thinking about the immediacy factor.
Empowered high performance teams. Internetworked businesses, with the use of new evolving digital technologies, are undergoing organizational metamorphosis. We are seeing more high performance teams with highly effective individuals come together on projects as core units of essential operational or customer-facing functions. For example, I wrote recently on the rise of user influence on purchase decisions. Expect to see more organizations create smaller high performance teams to tackle tough projects – empowered with their own decision-making capacity.
Impact On Understanding Buyers In The Digital Economy
As businesses look to survive, stay ahead, or progress, the ability to understand the new face of buyers will be critical. Where companies can falter in doing so is in using a 20th century framework in a 21st century digital world. For instance, when establishing the concepts of buyer insights research and buyer personas, they were heavily influenced by trends reshaping the business world.
What is troubling today is I continue to see many continued misinterpretations of these concepts to force-fit or meet old business model concepts. Making use of old sales and product marketing facts-based attributes to describe buyers – as if the 20th century still exists.
To understand the new face of buyers in the digital economy, businesses will need to understand buyers in new ways and new contexts. Gaining deep insights into the new forces of internetworked businesses operating in a fast evolving digital economy.