Editor’s Note: This article appeared previously on sister publication Demand Gen Report.
B2B buyers are placing a greater emphasis on visual content throughout the purchasing lifecycle, and are accessing content much more frequently from smartphones and tablets. These trends have led to an even higher buyer reliance on content than ever before to assist in research and purchasing decisions.
Those are just a few of the trends identified in Demand Gen Report’s 2014 Content Preferences Survey, which polled more than 100 B2B buyers about their use of content in making purchasing decisions. Of the respondents, almost one third (32%) held positions in an IT department, while 19% worked in professional services. C-level executives represent 24% of the respondents.
B2B marketers have responded to these consumer demands by providing content through an even wider variety of access points. As an example of the range covered, there are now seven content types that are used by a majority of buyers: white papers, E-books, webinars, infographics, case studies, videos and blog posts.
The Need To Be Visual
The 2014 survey revealed that a higher percentage of respondents are using visually appealing content such as videos, infographics and interactive presentations. This year, use of video content increased by 8% to 58%, while infographic usage increased by 9% to 52%. Interactive formats such as Brainshark and SlideShare increased in popularity as well, up from roughly 21% in 2013 to 28% in 2014.
Unlike last year, when most common content formats gained in popularity, the top two content types of 2013 (white papers and webinars) dipped in usage. Case studies (73%) overtook webinars (67%) as the second most popular form of content in 2014. The desire for this type of content is certainly a trend marketers must take note of during the ideation stage. A substantial number of buyers this year (86%) expressed some level of desire to access interactive/visual content on demand, and the amount of buyers who strongly agreed with these sentiments increased from 34% in last year’s survey to 46% in 2014.
The shift in content sharing is an even greater example of the buyer’s preference for clean content that is quick and easy to digest. Of the 11 content types listed in the survey, B2B buyers are most likely to share blog posts, with 40% identifying that they share them frequently. Coming right behind blog posts are infographics (39%) and videos (37%), with all three top content formats vaulting ahead of last year’s fan favorite, white papers.
While white papers generally provide the most detailed information of any content type available, they involve a much greater investment of time than most videos, and certainly all infographics. Today’s buyer wants to consume as much information about a product or service as they can in as little amount of time as possible. The survey noted that 95% of B2B buyers agreed that they preferred shorter content formats.
Mobile Content Takes Center Stage
With the advent of the tablet and the proliferation of smartphone technology, B2B content now can be viewed at any time and place. Buyers in 2014 are not only interested in viewing content through mobile channels; they are requiring it. Slightly more than 85% of buyers in 2014 say they strongly or somewhat agree that they require content optimized for a mobile device, compared to almost 69% in last year’s survey.
Desktop and laptop PCs certainly still gather the most traffic from buyers, as 95.2% of respondents said they frequently access business-related content on those devices. However, mobile phones and tablets are catching up with their more established counterparts. Respondents who frequently use mobile phones to access content increased from 42.9% in 2013 to 55.8% in 2014, while frequent tablet users jumped from 31% to 42% during the same time period.
The survey revealed that almost 90% of buyers believed that content needs to be more mobile friendly. This data indicates that marketers need to continue improving on the newer design practices that have been implemented to help get mobile content off the ground in the first place.
The growth of mobile content consumption over the past year combined with the sophistication of mobile technology has created an expectation that buyers will continue to consume B2B content at a more frequent rate in 2015.
Peers Still Highest Point Of Trust
Buyers still look first to their peers when seeking an opinion regarding the B2B purchasing decision. Respondents who were asked to rate specific channels in finding relevant content on a scale of 1-to-5 (1 being most valuable) gave “peer referrals” an average rate of 2.27, the highest rate among all channels. Almost all respondents (97%) give more credence to content that includes peer reviews and user-generated content.
Social media’s role in the buying process is still relatively weak, particularly in influencing potential buyers to either access or share content. Although LinkedIn and Twitter have been valuable to buyers, the four least valuable channels according to the survey were all social networks (Google+, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest).
It appears vendors are understanding the natural direction that buyers are leaning towards when they look to access content. The higher frequency by which buyers look to access content via a mobile device or tap into visual content such as videos and infographics has given marketers a better grasp to be more creative and proactive in building content. However, with so many access points and increasing consumer demands, it is clearly up to marketers to ensure that theB2B buyer continues to be satisfied with their content options.
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