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SurveyMonkey study: the future of B2B decision-making

SurveyMonkey study: the future of B2B decision-making

Key findings:

  • AI, ML, and automation are expected to become increasingly indispensable to business decision-making as adoption and investment continues to increase
  • 6 in 10 business decision makers say they experience ‘decision paralysis’, citing deficiency of data and insights, and lengthy timelines
  • Buyer-vendor communications continue to go digital as video conferencing and online chat proliferate
  • Social responsibility impacts purchasing decisions as 4 in 10 BDMs say they are ‘very likely’ to stop purchasing from vendors with conflicting values

6 in 10 business decision makers say they experience ‘decision paralysis’, citing longer timelines and increased stakeholder involvement

The majority (67%) of decision makers say the pandemic has led to purchasing decisions taking more time to make - only 1 in 10 (9%) say purchase decisions have sped up, and a quarter (24%) have seen no difference. 

Decision makers who say they experience decision paralysis are more likely to say that decisions take too long to make, compared with those who do not (43% vs. 29%). Nearly half (46%) of BDMs overall say a typical decision-making process takes 3 or more months from start to finish, and one in three (30%) say there are 7 or more stakeholders involved.

Longer timelines are only one of many challenges BDMs face:

  • Having insufficient data or information to make proper decisions is the leading challenge for BDMs, with 40% citing this as a main obstacle, and one in three (33%) cite a lack of proper tools tools to gain insights (33%), highlighting the need for increased data fluency among organizations and decision makers
  • Decisions taking too long (36%), having too many stakeholders involved (35%), being too reactive (35%) pose similar organizational challenges

AI expected to be an indispensable part of the future of businesses and decision making

More than half (55%) of BDMs say their organization increased adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and automation tools for decision-making. The trend is expected to cotntinue beyond the pandemic: three in four (74%) expect their organizations o increase investment in the space over the next five years, and a vast majority (84%) say the technology is ‘very or somewhat important’ to the future of their organization.

Most rely on AI and ML for decision making to some extent: 48% say AI and ML insights contribute ‘a great deal’ to their organization’s decision making processes, 36% ‘a little’, and only 16% do not rely on AI and ML at all.

Reliance on AI, ML, and automation spans many functions: predictive analytics and forecasting, and custom solutions are the most common use cases for the technology today, followed by automated reporting and support systems.

Which of the following do you or your organization use?

The demand for AI solutions also extends externally, with almost 2 in 3 (62%) business decision-makers more likely to purchase from a vendor that includes AI or ML elements in their offerings.

Adoption of cloud services and data management tools accelerates throughout the pandemic

Since the pandemic began, 51% of business decision makers say their organization has added new software tools, and 60% say their total spend has also increased. Cloud services and data management software lead the pack, followed by cybersecurity, collaboration tools, and AI and ML software.

Which of the following software purchases has your organization made since the pandemic began?

Vendors face changing expectations as BDMs look to gain a competitive edge

Business decision makers are increasingly on the lookout for products and services that can bolster their business: 2 in 3 (65%) say they always or often explore alternatives to their current toolset before renewing a contract, and the vast majority (80%) express openness to trying out vendors who are newer to the market over more established players.

Social responsibility also plays an important role in the buyer-vendor relationship, as 84% of BDMs say that a vendors’ corporate social responsibility values, such as equality, sustainability, and community giving are important to their organization’s purchasing decisions. Vendors whose values are not aligned face an uphill battle in garnering consideration for their products: 79% of business decision makers say that they are ‘very or somewhat likely’ to stop purchasing from a vendor if they made a business decision that conflicted with their values.

Vendor relationships continue to go digital as video conferencing and online chat proliferate

Flexibility in providing self-service and multichannel support proves popular with business decision makers, with the majority of BDMs (64%) saying that they prefer availability of both self-service and human interaction when evaluating and purchasing a product or service.

Vendors also need to provide support beyond traditional channels of communication: preference for online chat or messaging and video conferencing are equally popular as phone and email.

How do you prefer to interact with sales and support when evaluating a new product?

Interactions over video conference also expect to be mainstay:

  • 83% of business decision makers say video conferencing with suppliers and vendors is more useful than communication via email
  • 75% say video conferencing is more useful and meeting in person
  • 84% say video conferencing is more useful than just speaking over the phone

Read more about our polling methodology here.