Adobe partnered with the consulting firm Lenati to conduct a study of enterprise and consumer technology buyers and found a generational shift regarding purchase decisions.

B2B tech buyers under 35 are a growing portion of the modern tech buying community, according to the report, which surveyed business professionals and consumers in two age cohorts: under 35 and 35 and older.

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“It’s no longer safe to assume that the decision maker is the older employee,” said Jill Steinhour, director of high-tech and B2B strategy at Adobe. In fact, she said, 73% of millennials are now part of B2B tech buying committees.

What’s more, Adobe research reveals that 40% of the under 35 cohort are making the final decisions on device, IT infrastructure, and application software purchases, Steinhour said.

Steinhour said the intent of the report is to “provide qualitative insights into what tech buyers actually want in addition to quantitative data that can be leveraged for marketing purposes so that vendors and retailers can take advantage of understanding not only what customers want from their product but also how they intend to use it beyond the sale.”

She said the research is intended to offer timely insights for C-level decision makers at enterprises, technology vendors and tech retailers.

The study consisted of two online surveys of business professionals and consumers during August 2019. A total of 201 enterprise and 300 consumer surveys were completed with a randomly representative selection of US technology buyers.

“Generational Insights on B2B and B2C Technology Purchasing,” written by Julie Wotruba, a director at Lenati, and Rebecca Lucash, a consultant with Lenati, with analysis and support from Adobe, was shared with TechRepublic this week.

The objective, the authors said, was to understand specific technology needs and delivery, key considerations when thinking about technology initiatives and offerings and differences by age cohort, as well as the top companies and brands buyers prefer.

Steinhour said the report provides “a unique lens into the enterprise and consumer purchase drivers; beyond the generational distinctions, there is common ground when making an investment: the need to acquire cutting-edge technology and having trust in its reliability.”

The insights may prove helpful for vendors and C-level managers budgeting for 2020, especially with potentially tighter budgets.

David Payne, an economist for Kiplinger, forecasts a 1% growth in capital spending in 2020.

Consumers, who have been holding up the economy, are likely to cool purchases after a robust fourth quarter, according to the Conference Board, which forecasts a 2.6% annual growth in consumer spending.

“It’s certainly timely given that budgets and purchase decisions are being made right now for 2020,” Steinhour said.

Image: Adobe

Top takeaways from the Adobe/Lenati report

  • Enterprise tech buyers are growing younger, and increasingly emphasize the importance of being tech-forward.

  • Younger buyers have a different attitude toward technology–they’re early adopters because they’re more confident.

  • Technology needs to work well for everyone, anywhere. These attributes are “table stakes” for both older and younger buyers, but younger buyers have additional considerations. (Table stakes provide a baseline understanding of what the buyer wants and needs, Steinhour said.)

  • As millennials take over enterprise leadership, innovation itself will become table stakes. Deliver on innovation to capture tomorrow’s buyers.

  • Younger consumers want technology that is predictive, enables social sharing, and is intuitively designed. Actively keep these dimensions in mind when evaluating product roadmaps.

  • As technology products and services commoditize, differentiate with exceptional service.

Consumer tech buyers offer perspectives

“Subscription services are one of the fastest-growing purchase trends and it’s having a decisive impact on the way we consume new products,” Steinhour said.

The trends are propelled mainly by millennials and Generation Z, who consume content on their mobile devices more frequently than older consumers, she said.

The research found that 83% are paying for subscription content or software, versus 65% of older consumers. “As this digitally native generation continues to gain more buying power, expect the subscription economy to continue to grow.”

The growing interest in DaaS (device-as-a-service) is an early signal that a tech-forward agenda is becoming a priority to the younger enterprise buyer, the report finds.

Of the respondents, 45% under 35 say that they are considering adding DaaS to their company’s roster in the next year as it enables them to be on the cutting edge, Steinhour noted.

“Another factor in the adoption of DaaS is linked to how this generation views their personal and professional spheres more holistically,” she added.

Access to the latest technology is required for their personal technology purchases, and services like Netflix have fostered a proclivity toward subscription-based models, according to the report. “Millennials expect choice and flexibility when it comes to buying technology, so B2B vendors must adapt and accommodate this changing demand,” Steinhour said.

The report shows that smartphones have become an inseparable part of daily routines. Personal and professional lives have converged onto devices with 83% of survey respondents under 35 (and 70% over 35) reporting that they use their personal devices for work.

Further, the work they are performing extends beyond email with 63% of younger users (and 50% older) saying they conduct complex work activities like content generation and editing on their phones.

“The upshot is that mobility will increasingly drive consumer purchase decisions,” Steinhour said.

The report concludes with four key insights:

  1. Technology is essential but must be reliable, secure, high-quality, reasonably priced, mobile and easy to use.

  2. Innovation is key to the future of business and an imperative of young buyers.

  3. Younger consumers have additional needs with social sharing, predictive capabilities and design as additional levers.

  4. End-to-end experience is a point of differentiation: “Right now, technology attributes pertaining to customers’ experiences with a company are some of the lowest-performing aspects of the marketplace,” the report found.

Image: Adobe