B2B marketing and technology: a look back at 2016

Friday, February 17, 2017 | 10am

2016 was a huge year for MOI. We won B2B Marketing’s award for Best Multichannel Campaign, and we rebranded our website to reflect the change in our agency’s proposition to target today’s modern, digital-native B2B buyers. But a lot happened elsewhere too. Here are the highlights of 2016.

B2B is becoming more like B2C…

It’s great to see that B2B brands that sell online are increasingly modernising by providing their services in a way that today’s digital-native buyers engage with, as highlighted in a report from Gorilla Group in November. B2B brands are now using features that B2C adopted years ago, including responsive website design and showing pricing guidelines upfront. The report also uncovered that B2B brands are more than twice as likely to offer click-to-chat features on their websites compared to a year ago.

…But many big brands still aren’t taking digital transformation seriously enough

With B2B brands needing to modernise to stay relevant in a digital world, it’s rather worrying that only 2% of the world’s largest businesses have digital-focussed leaders in senior positions, and only 5% of FTSE companies have a CDO at a senior level, as revealed by research from PeopleTECH.

Using social media for product launches

Research from Five by Five revealed that 74% of marketers are prioritising social media over other channels for product launches.  This is likely because 81% say that the time between the initial idea and the product launch has decreased over the last five years, with 70% saying they now have an average of only six months of preparation time.

Where do senior executives go for thought leadership online? Not where you think

When you think about senior executives using social media to find thought leadership, Facebook is the last place you’d think of. However, a new study by Grist revealed that 79% of senior executives now use Facebook as a source of corporate advice, beating Twitter (73%) and LinkedIn (68%).

It’s true: millennials really do prefer social media and mobile

Most millennials grew up with technology, so it’s no surprise that they use social media more than any other generation, but an infographic by University of Southern California Dornsife has the stats to prove it. Some of the standout facts include:

  • 89% of millennials use social media
  • 82% of millennials engage with brands that they like
  • 85% of millennials own smartphones
  • 87% of millennials prefer socially responsible brands
  • 85% of millennials are more likely to make a purchase if the marketing is personalised

The trends of millennials further show that marketers need to transform if they are to effectively engage today’s digital-native buyers.

Events are increasingly favoured by B2B marketers

Can events still engage modern B2B buyers? We think so, and so do B2B brands, with a survey from Ceir showing that 76% of executives believe that events help engage existing customers, and 63% say the same for new customers.

Voice-controlled personal assistants

In September, Amazon released Echo, its voice-controlled personal assistant, in the UK (it originally released late 2014 in the US), and Google released its competing Home device in the US in November. Both devices allow users to do a range of things, from checking the weather to controlling smart home devices such as Phillips Hue lightbulbs and the Nest Learning Thermostat, just by speaking to them.

Chatbots

With Facebook opening up its Messenger platform to allow developers to create chatbots, and Microsoft experimenting with their own on Twitter, it’s safe to say that they’re here to stay. A chatbot is an AI computer programme that simulates human conversation, and while Twitter users did manage to corrupt Microsoft’s machine-learning ‘Tay’ account, turning it into a Hitler-loving sex robot in less than 24 hours, chatbots are likely to play a big part in B2B in the near-future.

In B2B you could, for example, free up time by asking a chatbot for information you need instead of using email conversations, or B2B customers could tell a chatbot about a specific product or service they need and be told how much it will cost without having to talk to a sales person.

We should see a quick adoption rate over the next couple of years, since more people than ever before are using messaging apps (overtaking social media use), which is where most chatbots currently reside. A study by Oracle, titled ‘Can virtual experiences replace reality?’ suggests that 80% of big brands will be using their own chatbots within the next three years.

Over three-quarters of brands will use VR by 2020

Oracle’s research also predicts that over three-quarters of brands will use VR by 2020 to enhance their customer experience. There are already many examples of VR being used in marketing to create immersive experiences for audiences, and Sony’s November release of a more affordable and accessible VR headset, the PlayStation VR, will likely see wider levels of adoption of the technology, and so a bigger audience for VR content.

Tesla opens Gigafactory 1 in Nevada and announces plan to build Gigafactory 2 in Europe

The world’s transition to sustainable energy took a big step in July with the opening of Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. When the factory’s construction is completed in 2018, it will have the largest footprint of any building in the world, and will produce more lithium ion batteries each year than were produced worldwide in 2013. Tesla’s goal is to drive down the price of batteries to speed up the adoption of electric vehicles.

A second factory, named Gigafactory 2, has been announced to be built in Europe.

B2B tech in 2017: a ‘digital mesh’

What changes are going to happen in B2B in 2017? Gartner has highlighted ten technology trends they think will disrupt businesses in their research paper, ‘Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017’:

  1. Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Machine Learning
  2. Intelligent Apps
  3. Intelligent Things
  4. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
  5. Digital Twins
  6. Blockchains and Distributed Ledgers
  7. Conversational Systems
  8. Mesh App and Service Architecture
  9. Digital Technology Platforms
  10. Adaptive Security Architecture

What does MOI think is next for B2B?

You can find out at our annual Disrupt Forum events, where we bring together thought leaders from B2B, tech, and marketing to discuss everything making a difference in B2B right now and in the future. Our next event is on 23rd February 2017 at London’s Andaz Hotel, and focusses on the skills needed to be a modern marketer, and how marketers can grow their careers – register your interest now.

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