The way businesses operate is changing, that much we know. 

Against an ever-changing and uncertain backdrop, there’s an even greater need for businesses to understand their B2B target buyers. Our latest wave of GWI Work data aims to do just that and more. 

We’ve surveyed over 17,700 professionals in 10 countries to help different businesses understand their target buyers and what makes them tick. 

This insight enables professional organizations, HR teams and employers to inform brand and product strategy with unique insight into how the pandemic has impacted professionals, across all major sectors and small-to-enterprise-level companies. 

Today, we’re going to shine a spotlight on healthcare B2B decision-makers¹, examining their business challenges, use of emerging technologies, and their purchase journey.

Navigating uncertainty

Businesses around the world have been forced to reexamine their priorities, halt plans, slash budgets, freeze hiring – among many other measures – in an effort to ride the tidal wave that is COVID-19. 

Faced with a global health crisis and a race to find a safe treatment for the virus, the healthcare and pharma sector is certainly feeling the hit. 

chart showing business challenges in 2020

Healthcare decision-makers say the biggest challenge facing their company or team is the economic climate (38%, up from 28% in Q1 2019). 

Budget cuts also have an impact, with more healthcare decision-makers reporting this as a challenge in 2020 compared to last year (31% vs. 26% respectively).

Their financial worries are also evident when looking at revenue expectations in the next year. Those expecting revenue to moderately or significantly decline has more than doubled in the past year alone, jumping from 10% in 2019 to 23% in 2020.

Expected revenue declines in the next year jumped up from 6% in 2019 to 26% in 2020.

Aside from the expected financial constraints and uncertainty, another big business challenge for healthcare decision-makers is understanding their customer or their client’s audience (34%). 

It’s the third highest ranked challenge, coming ahead of budget cuts, staying profitable, and building a good culture and environment. They’re also 14% more likely than the average professional to say this is a challenge.

Data in the healthcare industry is still very fragmented between care providers and other industry players, and with the pandemic situation changing rapidly, it’s no wonder that healthcare decision-makers are struggling to understand their audience. 

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a B2B or a B2C company, getting closer to your consumers is essential to business growth and client satisfaction. It’s often easier said than done, but at the same time it’s arguably even more important now as business spending is tightened. 

B2B data helps businesses tackle this challenge head-on and gives a laser-focused view of their target buyers so they can make the most effective strategic decisions for their business, all backed by robust and reliable data. 

Saying yes to emerging tech.

As demand for healthcare globally continues to grow and pressure continues to mount, creating greater efficiencies and offering more preventative care is vital.  

This is where AI and automation steps in. From automating routine tasks to free up valuable time, reducing and eliminating errors, and detecting diseases – the applications of these technologies are endless. 

In our annual Connecting the Dots report last year we covered the digitization of healthcare, and COVID-19 has certainly accelerated this trend. 

Telemedicine and virtual AI-driven chatbots have come to the forefront this year at a time when visiting the doctor or going to the hospital was a risk. 

AI also plays a crucial role in fighting the virus. Not only can AI be used for detection, it also speeds up drug development and testing, which traditionally takes years. 

chart showing emerging tech in healthcare

From our data, 40% of healthcare decision-makers say their company currently uses automation and 35% say they use artificial intelligence. 

A further 1 in 5 also say they don’t use these technologies currently, but have interest in using them, highlighting the considerable growth potential in the future. 

And automation is largely welcome among healthcare decision-makers. Around half of this group say that automation will have a positive impact on their sector and in their day-to-day job. 

Considering that the top business initiatives to drive growth next year are finding cost-savings and improving efficiency and productivity – AI and automation are in prime position to make these ambitions a reality and soften the burden facing the healthcare sector.

Purchases are taking a hit, while competition is rife.

As COVID-19 continues to take its toll, healthcare decision-makers hit the spending brakes.

36% of this group say they’ve delayed making a business purchase until the situation becomes clearer, while around 25% say they’ve halted purchases to cut costs.

Just 19% say they’ve not delayed business purchases as a result of the outbreak.

Intense competition also adds to the challenging B2B space. Around three-quarters of healthcare decision-makers say they typically consider between 2 and 5 vendors when it comes to their research process for a new product or service. 

A further 20% say they consider 6+ vendors, highlighting just how hard vendors need to work to get in front of these buyers. To make matters even more complex, close to half say there’s between 4 and 20 people involved in the purchase of a product or service – definitely not an easy win. 

So even when purchases are made, healthcare decision-makers will be far more selective and scrupulous about which supplier they choose. Understanding what really matters to this group when it comes to buying a product is one way of standing out from the crowd.

Addressing their pain points.

When we look at what typically makes healthcare decision-makers consider buying a new product or service, value has become even more important due to the pandemic. 

A strong benefit-cost ratio for a product is the leading influencer at 42%, up from 36% in 2019. Other top drivers are to improve efficiencies and productivity in the company and to cut costs. 

Drivers to purchase a new product or service

We already know driving efficiencies and productivity is particularly important for this industry, so products or services that help them create more efficient ways of working at a price-point they can get on board with could be onto a winner. 

When it comes to buying technical products:

Around 60% of healthcare decision-makers also say security, technical support being available, and ease of use are very important. 

Around one-third of healthcare decision-makers say they’ll consider a new product or service to ensure they have the best supplier for their needs, up from around 1 in 4 last year. 

At the same time, 28% of healthcare decision-makers say the existing product or service not meeting their needs is a key consideration when making new purchases. 

Given the importance of product value and the pressure that the healthcare industry is under right now, they’re not going to just sit back and use a subpar supplier. Businesses that can address this group’s pain points and demonstrate their value-add will have a much greater, and memorable, impact on this audience. 

Reviews and recommendations hold the most weight.

Turning our attention to the most influential sources when researching or considering a new product or service, we see that user and expert reviews and recommendations come out on top.

Reviews and recommendations are the most influential research sources

48% of healthcare decision-makers say user reviews are very influential when researching or considering a new product or service. 

This is up from 34% last year and they’re 20% more likely than the average professional to say this. 

Recommendations from industry experts are also highly influential sources that healthcare decision-makers rely on. And it’s not just expert sources that have considerable sway. They also turn to their personal network too including their colleagues, friends, and contacts at 41%, increasing from 34% in 2019.

Supplier calls, demos and trials also have clear value, up from 33% in 2019 to 43% in 2020, highlighting the appeal of seeing the product in action.

While other sources like search engine results and social media play a role too, it’s ultimately those community-based recommendations that hold the most influence overall. 

Decision-makers likely value the more personal, objective reviews they get from those in their network or other companies in their position. Reviews and recommendations, even from strangers, helps to add a seal of trust and instills more confidence in your business. 

As the healthcare industry continues to tackle COVID-19 head on, knowing decision-maker’s challenges, pain points, and what matters to them when purchasing will help ensure businesses get on the radar of this audience. 

Drive data-led decision making, not guesswork. 

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¹Healthcare decision-makers are defined as someone who is the ultimate decision maker for their company; sole decision maker for their department; has equal share in decision making with others in their company; mostly influences decision-making but must get approval before purchasing; or has some influence in decision-making but someone else makes the purchase. They also work in the healthcare, medical & pharmaceutical sector.

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Written by

Katie is Consumer Insights Manager at GlobalWebIndex. Working as part of the trends team, Katie produces a wide range of assets including reports, blogs, and infographics, with a particular interest in healthcare trends. Before moving to GlobalWebIndex, Katie worked at a creative branding agency advising large FMCG clients on brand strategy and insight challenges.

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