The adoption of mobile device usage since 2011 is nothing short of a revolution. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 95% of Americans own a cell phone and 77% own smartphones. This is up from 35% in 2011.
As our comfort with cell phones increases, so does our dependency. This past March, Pew reported that 26% of American adults go online “almost constantly” up from 21% in 2015. The vast majority of us (77%) go online daily, with 43% going online several times a day and 8% going online about once a day.
Wide mobile adoption crosses multiple demographics. Americans ages 30 to 49 are now as likely as younger adults to use the internet almost constantly. Additionally, the share of “constant” internet users ages 50 to 64 has risen from 12% to 17% since 2015.
This widespread adoption of mobile naturally has implications for the way we search for products and services in our professional lives. It also affects how B2B marketers can reach buyers.
This constant connectivity provides new opportunities for marketers to connect with B2B buyers who consume and interact with online content at all hours of the day.
The Modern B2B Shopper
Research from a study by Google and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reports that mobile usage drives or influences more than 40% of revenue in leading B2B companies. As many as 50% of B2B search queries are conducted on smartphones. BCG reports this figure will grow as high as 70% over the next two years. Mobile B2B users spend an average of two hours each day on their devices and this is expected to increase to three by 2020.
It’s important that B2B marketers don’t underestimate the impact of mobile usage on their business’s bottom line. Demonstrating that mobile usage drives revenue can help marketers justify investing in advertising tactics like mobile-optimized landing pages and search ads that provide a positive experience for customers on their phones and tablets. Businesses that don’t prioritize mobile are missing a clear opportunity to effectively reach their customers where they are becoming increasingly more comfortable–on their phones.
B2B buyers don’t limit their research to the office. The BCG study reports that mobile B2B buyers are more likely to work from home or conduct research while commuting and traveling. This has implications for advertisers who can now reach potential customers outside of normal business hours. Additionally, it allows a reach over a wider geographic region.
What about B2B Millennial Buyers?
Millennials, the largest generation in the US workforce and one of the most constantly connected, are becoming key influencers in B2B buying decisions. A recent study on the buying habits of millennials in the US found that 73% of them drive product and service purchasing decisions.
An eMarketer report on B2B Mobile Marketing states that B2B buyers expect to have a seamless mobile experience comparable to their offline engagement. Millennials and younger generations, in particular, have high expectations for mobile experiences. It is therefore essential that companies create positive user experiences at all touchpoints. This includes their website, mobile apps and via the use of appropriately targeted ads and content.
How does mobile usage influence the purchase process?
A good mobile experience is something business users have come to expect. But it can also help with your strategic KPIs, like time to purchase and customer lifetime value. The Google/BCG study concluded that mobile usage can accelerate the time to purchase by as much as 20%. This is true for complex purchases in particular. A positive mobile experience can also increase repurchase rates and builds customer loyalty. B2B buyers are more likely to buy again from the same vendor if their mobile experience is positive. Even so, businesses have been slow to adopt a comprehensive mobile strategy as part of their overall marketing initiatives.
Get ahead of the curve with a mobile-first strategy
For their 2018 Mobile Study, Adobe interviewed over 500 marketing and IT professionals about their approach to mobile marketing. The results were surprising. Though most companies indicated that they treat mobile as an important part of their marketing strategy, only 15% considered their mobile marketing strategy to be advanced.
Organizations that considered themselves advanced employed two key strategies when considering mobile. They had a central mobile leadership team and tied their mobile objectives to their business objectives.
If you want to reach mobile B2B buyers, then you need to embrace a mobile-first strategy. B2B mobile marketing leaders also look at specific trends from mobile site visits such as search queries and user behavior. They then tailor their website experience to their mobile users based on this data.
B2B mobile usage is going strong – and growing
In the Google/BCG study, more than 60% of users reported that mobile research contributed significantly to a recent purchase. Further, the majority of respondents indicated that they plan to increase their mobile usage significantly over the next few years.
The intersection of search and mobile is changing the way B2B buyers find their goods and services. Online searches are shifting from the desktop and laptop to the smartphone. Google reports that roughly 50% of B2B queries are conducted on smartphones. BCG predicts this will grow to 70% by 2020.
B2B purchases on smartphones still comprise a small percentage of total purchases, but this is growing rapidly. Forrester Research predicts that mobile B2B revenue will exceed 12% of all B2B revenue by 2020.
There is a clear opportunity for businesses to gain an advantage over their competitors by focusing on a mobile marketing strategy. B2B buyers are already using their phones to make purchasing decisions. Unfortunately, many businesses lag behind when it comes to creating a positive user experience for these buyers.
Clearly, your business needs a mobile strategy
While the statistics tell a story of wide mobile adoption by B2B buyers, it’s not necessarily clear to companies what this means in terms of developing a mobile strategy. Here’s how the top mobile B2B leaders are addressing the issue of mobile strategy and what this means for your company.
- Simplify your mobile experience. An online experience designed specifically for smartphone users includes less text, square and vertical layouts and use video, images, and graphics.
- Be cognizant of your website’s load time. Google is so passionate about mobile-optimized websites that they have a free tool to check your website’s mobile speed. The tool reports on load time and estimates visitor loss (due to speed). It then provides a list of recommendations focused on improving your site’s load time on mobile devices.
- Leverage smartphone capabilities. Incorporate features like location data and click-to-call links on your website or ads (e.g., via Google Ad location and call extensions, for example).
- Personalize the user’s experience. Leverage data, technology, and analytics targeted to specific customer profiles.
- Don’t forget about apps. Adobe’s recent Mobile Maturity Report states that 69% of marketers and 84% of IT professionals indicate mobile apps are extremely or very important to their marketing strategy.
A quick note on number 4, above. Robust personalization can be an expensive investment. That is why the largest companies (with the largest budgets, and customer bases) end to be the only ones that do this. But personalization can be as simple as segmenting your users by broad personas and customizing your website content accordingly. For example, you may provide an enterprise software solution for large business but also target smaller businesses with only a handful of employees. You can create unique content on your site and in ads that speak to these two different types of customers.
What does it mean?
Incorporating a mobile-focused advertising strategy is an integral part of a company’s total mobile B2B strategy. There are a wide variety of digital marketing tactics that work together to create a cohesive message across search, social and video platforms such as Google, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Ad messaging and ad formats can and should be tailored to users on mobile devices, particularly smartphones. Facebook and Google, in particular, are continuing to develop new ad formats that leverage a smartphone’s capabilities and are attractive (and legible) on smaller screens.
Currently, the share of ad spending on mobile is much lower than the amount of time users spend on their devices. Companies that don’t prioritize their mobile strategy risk falling behind. While it’s true that there are lower conversion rates on mobile devices and conversion attribution can be difficult to track, the evidence is clear that this is changing, and new technology designed for mobile marketing, call tracking, and marketing attribution can help.
What to do next
The task of adopting and prioritizing mobile into your business strategy can seem daunting and expensive. Adobe reports that the most advanced companies (and the largest) invest $9.6 million annually in web development. They spend an additional $6.7 million annually in app development. These are big numbers that don’t apply to most small to mid-sized businesses. But there’s still a lot you can do without spending millions.
- Start with your website. A quick-loading, mobile-friendly site doesn’t cost millions of dollars to create. There are many web developers that work with tools like WordPress and Squarespace that can design a mobile-friendly site depending on your budget. Whatever platform or developer you decide to use, make sure you prioritize your site’s design for mobile.
- Consider incorporating a mobile app into your marketing strategy. Banks, stores, accountants, and many other businesses have developed apps as a compliment to their services. Apps can be promoted on your website and via online media. They are also an excellent way to stay connected with your mobile users.
- Integrate mobile into your overall business strategy. 77% of marketers and 85% of IT professionals in the Adobe study indicated they have a central mobile leadership team. This ensures that mobile is considered and at every customer touchpoint and at every point in the purchasing funnel. Make sure that your key performance indicators (KPIs) for mobile align with your organization’s overall objectives. After all, it’s hard to justify the investment in mobile if you’re not able to successfully measure performance.
Looking back to move forward
In the ten years since Apple introduced the first iPhone, it’s become clear that mobile usage and adoption aren’t going away. What was once novel and separate has now become a way of life. This is reflected every day in the way we live, work and play.
Businesses have an opportunity to reach customers in more ways than ever. This is thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices and the portability of work. Mobile research can be conducted from anywhere at any time. A strong mobile strategy which incorporates positive mobile experiences, personalized and varying content and mobile-optimized websites is essential in 2018 and beyond.