86% of buyers prefer virtual, metaverse and social media

 

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According to Showpad’s new report, in-person sales are declining. Eighty-six percent of buyers now prefer to be sold virtually with no face-to-face meetings. The trend is poised to increase rapidly in the near future. Ninety-two percent of millennial and Gen Z buyers prefer virtual selling, the report assures.

Showpad, a recognized sales enablement platform, surveyed buyers from 521 U.S. organizations with revenues up to $1 billion to gain insight on sales preferences and new trends. The State of Selling Survey found that eight out of 10 buyers are already using, or are open to using new technologies.

TechRepublic spoke to Hendrik Isebaert, CEO of Showpad, to understand how leading companies are driving sales through new digital channels.

Isebaert explains that when it comes to cutting-edge technology, the survey revealed that 59% of respondents made a purchase after a demonstration in the metaverse, or by using augmented reality.

“This indicates that B2B marketers and sellers should align to incorporate extended reality sales tactics into their pitches, ensuring better interactions with buyers and ultimately increasing conversion rates,” said Isebaert.

Rethinking the metaverse, marketing and sales

In February 2022, Gartner predicted that 25% of people will spend at least one hour per day in the metaverse by 2026. But the transition to new business models seems to be catalyzing faster than expected.

McKinsey’s “Marketing in the metaverse” report explains that the metaverse has transitioned beyond gaming platforms like Roblox, Fortnite or Decentraland and is now intensively used by companies for marketing and sales strategies.

The very definition of the metaverse, which no one can agree on, is adapting rapidly. For McKinsey, the metaverse is an evolution of today’s internet, “something we are immersed in, instead of something we look at.” Gartner defines it as a collective virtual shared space, where virtually enhanced physical and digital reality converge.

Showpad’s survey reveals that the metaverse has moved from a strictly theoretical concept to a business channel.

“Many companies and brands are starting to enter the metaverse through digital collectibles, loyalty programs, and digital product offerings by creating digital-online stores,” Isebaert said.  Additionally, augmented reality tools are being deployed with ease in sales enablement platforms.

Not only are new channels now fully operational but they are replacing traditional sales channels. “Even amongst those who are responsible for more than $12 million in purchases a year for their business, 69% say there is now no need for the traditional ‘face-to-face’ meeting with a sales representative,” Showpad stated in their report.

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The seller in the new digital era

More and more buyers are switching to virtual purchases, however, this doesn’t remove the seller from the sales experience.

“The seller will always be present, striving to deliver an optimized customer experience,” Isebaert said. Leading companies are supporting their sellers with cutting-edge tech solutions, extended reality interfaces and virtual showroom models to provide a modern personalized customer experience.

The CEO reveals that social media is also acting as a primary driver of B2B sales. Seventy percent of those surveyed said they purchased a product for their company after seeing it on social media.

Top selling social media channels are:

  • Facebook: 69%
  • Instagram: 57%
  • Youtube: 48%
  • LinkedIn: 26%

According to Showpad, more than half of all buyers want to see the physical products before buying them. Of these, only 34% prefer an in-person demo.

Top industries that need to see the product before purchase are:

  • Technology: 64%
  • Manufacturing and engineering: 60%
  • Construction: 57%
  • Insurance: 50%

Omnichannel: Challenges and management

As multiple channels rise to engage with customers in new ways and deliver new forms of payment, demos, products and services, companies face the challenges of managing their omnichannel. Social media, augmented reality and metaverse experiences, online commerce and other channels, can not be siloed, they must be interconnected, share data and react as one.

Buyers expect an exceptional omnichannel experience. Isebaert explains that managing customer experiences in omnichannel can be streamlined with sales enablement, customer relationship management and sales engagement tools and technologies.

Leading companies also align strategies, sellers and marketers to work together. “Customer engagement and success are critical across all sales touchpoints; it’s futile to engage a customer on Instagram and then lose them due to poor follow-up engagement or delayed communication,” Isebaert explained.

Companies are also becoming more data-driven. Customer data allows them to provide customizable and differentiated experiences. Collecting data to better understand customers and their behaviors has become critical for companies to deliver personalized experiences.

SEE: Metaverse cheat sheet: Everything you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The metaverse marketing transformation journey

New technologies help buyers visualize and experience solutions or products digitally, via

interactive selling. The immersive experience transforms how buyers learn about products, no matter how complex they may be. As companies continue to adopt hybrid selling models, AR and VR solutions will be even more critical.

While some brands are already operating with new channels, others are just getting started.

Companies leading the way offer better brand and customer experience with modern selling tactics. Combining the metaverse and social media they set clear goals and benchmark them throughout their campaigns.

Investing in the right infrastructure is essential to make sure marketing strategies and sales tactics have the resources and tools they need.

“Sales reps and marketers need to have ongoing, honest conversations, about what’s working in the market and what’s not,” Isebaert says.

According to McKinsey, metaverse-related companies raised over $10 billion in 2021, more than double that in 2020. Companies have moved from test and learn mentalities to production campaigns. Brands that engage in new channels and technologies are also perceived as innovative, gaining a competitive edge. Omnichannel commerce is becoming second nature and rewriting the rules of brand experience.

The CEO of Showpad said that the future of customer experience will be all about improvements to extended reality tools that will further enhance the human aspect of the buying journey and streamline the overall buying process.