The Marketing Strategist:

Buyer Behavior Research and COVID-19

April 27, 2020

  • Marketing Strategy & Operations

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. When I presented the key findings from ITSMA’s How Japanese Executives Engage with Solution Providers survey research to one of our Tokyo-based sponsors in February, the world had not yet changed.

Our four recommendations based on the January 2020 data collection were on target for B2B marketers:

  • Personalize with insight
  • Prioritize high-touch
  • Orchestrate engagement
  • Engage the innovators

But then everything changed and I, of all people, should have seen this coming.

On the last day of January, a business trip to Tokyo to work with another ITSMA member had been cancelled. That member company, concerned with what was then known as 2019-nCoV, changed its policy to prevent all travel to, from, and within Asia. Although I’d been grounded in London a few weeks earlier, the implications had not sunk in.

To be clear then, this ITSMA research is a pre-COVID-19 snapshot of buyer behavior.

Has buyer behavior changed due to the virus? Absolutely. Japan today is in a state of national emergency. At this point, we can only speculate as to what will be different and how different it will be.

Does that make the January 2020 Japanese buyer behavior data useless? Definitely not!

Japanese executives buyer behavior

We at ITSMA are convinced that many of the findings will remain true during the pandemic, and, we’d wager, post-pandemic. For example, the top motivation in Japan for B2B decision-makers to participate in solution provider-relationship programs is influence. For 35% of Japanese respondents, participating in relationship initiatives is about influencing the solution provider’s offerings and strategic direction. That driver, which incidentally only scores 18% with Western executives, is here to stay. Other motivators such as building relationships with the provider’s senior executive team and advancing one’s career, will also continue to be strong personal reasons for engagement.

What will differ during and post COVID-19 are the tools, channels, formats, and orchestration marketers use to tap into these participation drivers and engage clients and prospects.

To better understand the impact of the pandemic on B2B buyer behavior for high-consideration services and solutions among senior executives at large global enterprises, ITSMA is doubling down on its 2020 annual buyer research.

ITSMA’s 2020 How Executives Engage survey will explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on B2B executives’ buying behavior. Two survey waves will provide near, real-time insights to help you stay on top of the fast-moving trends:

  • May 2020
  • September 2020

The study will dig deep into executives’ priorities, preferences, and perceptions of different types of solutions, engagement, and content.

Since 2002, ITSMA’s B2B Buyer Research has helped marketers understand changing buyer behavior; in 2020, this research is more important than ever!


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