••• b2b research

The path to purpose

Study looks at how B2B companies are incorporating purpose 

Purpose is top-of-mind for B2B companies this year as organizations work to integrate purpose into their structure. Ninety-three percent of companies say they are somewhere on the purpose journey, with 57% saying they are more focused on purpose today than three years ago and 42% reporting that they are still early in the purpose journey, anywhere from discussing purpose internally to assigning teams to develop it. 

Companies report a range of reasoning for pursuing purpose but the majority of respondents report their motivation falls within four main categories: greater success than those without (82%), supports recruiting (75%), motivates sales teams (73%) and shows values and character in action (51%). 

The study found that in most organizations, the C-suite drives purpose strategy, while HR and corporate planning functions are responsible for implementation.

While 86% of respondents say that purpose is “important” to their business, 29% report that purpose is “critical” to all they do. Despite this, only 24% said that purpose is so integral to their business that it influences culture, innovation, operations and their engagement with society. Additionally, about two-thirds of respondents don’t think their purpose has a measurable positive impact on society anyway. This discrepancy highlights a gap between the stated purpose of an organization and its “activated purpose,” or the way this notion is incorporated into the business and related processes. 

So, what’s holding businesses back? Purpose can feel more like a PR exercise than a legitimate business strategy according to 56% of respondents and half (50%) say their company lacks the capacity to put purpose at the center of their strategy. Another 51% say that purpose does not play a considerable role in their competitive set, while 28% do not even have a way to measure the impact of purpose.

Purpose takes a hit from employees as individuals as well: while 63% of respondents believe that purpose is an important aspect of culture, only 24% believe that their company’s engagement with society impacts culture. 

Despite varying perceptions on purpose, the study shows that purpose can be a significant factor in employee satisfaction, engagement and inspiration; 73% of purpose-oriented employees report job satisfaction and employees are increasingly prioritizing purpose over money and achievement in their careers.

Together, values and purpose provide cohesion for culture and, ultimately, direction for business growth. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said purpose is important to company culture and a quarter said purpose is the most important aspect. But these leaders also believe values and people must precede purpose. In a ranking of importance of components of a company’s culture, the majority of respondents ranked values first (80%), followed by people (64%), purpose (63%), practices and policies (48%) and engagement with society (24%). This ranking also varies by function as well – 90% of respondents in strategy and corporate planning functions said that values are the most important factor supporting culture, compared to HR at 79%.

Who is the priority audience for B2B purpose? Employees – followed by customers, shareholders, communities, future talent and supply chain. More than half of respondents said employees are leading the call for purpose at their organization, making it critical to involve them at every step of the purpose journey. In fact, the study found that employees playing a role in defining company purpose was the most-identified element of internal engagement at 81%. Giving employees time off to volunteer was a close second at 77%, followed by purpose efforts being a clear source of pride for employees (74%), excitement of employees to discuss company purpose on social media (67%) and employees leading the call to become a more purposeful organization (55%). 

While customers are not always the core reason to develop a purpose, respondents do believe their organization’s purpose plays a role in engaging their customer base. The least-targeted audiences for engagement on the B2B purpose journey are supply chain (47%) and future talent (54%). Survey respondents may be indicating that supply chain issues can be dealt with more effectively through strategies other than purpose (sustainability, pricing, etc.). The lack of attention paid to future talent is significant: Purpose has been shown in countless studies and interviews to be critical to Millennial employees, who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2030.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll as a collaborative effort between Harris, the ANA and Carol Cone ON PURPOSE among 259 B2B professionals. All qualified respondents held a title of director or higher and represented companies in sectors including financial and insurance, health care and allied industries, manufacturing, professional services, technology and telecommunications, and other. 

••• content marketing

Social media in the mix

How agencies are using content marketing in 2020

Agencies buy into content marketing in a big way for their clients. But how do they use content marketing to promote their own businesses?

An article by Cathy McPhillips takes a look at Content Marketing Institute’s annual study of for-profit agencies. One difference stands out – even jumps out – from when this segment was first studied for the 2019 research. A whopping 76% reported using paid channels to distribute content to market their firm in the previous 12 months. The previous year only 59% reported using paid content distribution to market their business.

Agencies in 2020 are focusing on the audience’s needs, with 71% of respondents saying they prioritize informational needs over their own sales/promotional message. Eighty-six percent say they are using content marketing successfully to build brand awareness, while 76% say they have a content marketing strategy (45% actually document it).

Paid social media advertising is the top paid distribution method agencies use by far (83%). Of this group, the top two channels are Facebook (82%) and LinkedIn (58%), followed by Instagram (36%), Twitter (21%) and YouTube (12%). Over one-third (38%) of the agencies that use more than one paid social channel say LinkedIn generates the best results, followed by Facebook.

Almost every agency (91%) in the survey uses social media for organic content distribution. And agencies aren’t ignoring their owned channels: 86% use their company website/blog and 78% use e-mail. Another 61% take the opportunity to speak at or attend events to market their business.

Brand marketers often turn to agencies for help with content marketing but do agencies look for outside help when they’re marketing their firms? As it turns out, most don’t. Only 33% of agency marketers say they outsource any content marketing activity. Of those who do, most (71%) outsource content creation. Just 23% are investing in native advertising and sponsored content other than paid social and only 44% measure content marketing ROI – but of those who do, 71% say they’re doing an excellent or very good job of it.

Of all the verticals examined in the study, agencies were the least likely to say they outsource. For example, 64% of manufacturing marketers and 70% of enterprise marketers (more than 1,000 employees) outsource at least one content marketing function.

When asked which three content marketing activities they thought their organization would prioritize in 2020 when marketing their own business, agency respondents most frequently answered: focusing on content quality/quantity (50%), improving content distribution/promotion (47%) and improving the quality/conversion of their audiences (46%).

Content Marketing Institute’s 2020 annual content marketing research surveyed 230 for-profit agency respondents.

••• financial services

Can I Venmo you later?

Study explores adoption of digital payment methods

In a recent article by Ian Heinig titled, “Digital payment trends: How people use money transfer apps,” results from Visual Objects’ research highlight the rise of digital payment platforms and the global shift toward digital commerce that drives the change. This is due largely to the widespread use of smartphones and the prevalence of online shopping.

Merchants are adopting digital payment services to deliver the streamlined shopping experience consumers expect. Although digital payments integrate easily into the busy lives of consumers, these services are at odds with the mature credit system in the U.S., entrenched consumer habits and concerns about security.

Most people say the main reason they use money transfer apps is convenience (54%), followed by efficiency (20%) and security (17%). The adoption of this method is fairly new, with nearly three-quarters of digital payment users (73%) saying they began using digital payment methods in the past five years. More than one-third (34%) started using digital payments in the last one-to-three years.

A range of digital payment services exist, each offering users a convenient way to spend their money. For example, people can pay for online purchases via any digital device in a single click (PayPal), make in-store purchases using their iPhone instead of cash or credit card (Apple Pay) and exchange money among peers in real-time (Venmo). The growing popularity of money transfer apps coincides with a downward trend in cash use. According to McKinsey, the share of the world’s transactions in cash has dropped from 89% to 77% in the past five years. 

In the U.S., only 30% of people always carry cash and 43% still use cash but only inconsistently or at random. The U.S., however, lags behind the rest of the world in its adoption of digital payments. According to The Paypers Digital Payment Report, credit remains the primary payment method in the U.S. The widespread use of credit cards makes adopting a new payment system unappealing to some.

Despite this, consumers are warming to digital payments as a way to manage money with enhanced levels of flexibility, visibility and convenience. Most people use money transfer apps monthly (79%), followed by weekly (44%), less than once a month (21%) and daily (14%). Digital payment methods are most popular among younger generations, with 52% of users ages 18-34 and 47% of users ages 35-54 using them weekly, compared to 24% of users ages 55 and older. 

People’s primary concern with using money transfer apps is hacking (41%), specifically the theft of financial information and personal data.

PayPal, Venmo and Apple Pay each dominate their respective niche for online transactions, peer-to-peer exchanges and in-store payments. Most people use Paypal (84%) then Venmo (31%) and Apple Pay (23%) when making a digital payment but people also use Google Play (16%), Amazon Pay (11%), Facebook Messenger (11%) and Square (8%) to a lesser extent. 

PayPal’s continued dominance is rooted in the long-standing trust it has built with both businesses and consumers. Websites feature the “Pay with PayPal” button to offer one-click payments but also to display a trust-badge to shoppers – both of which help boost conversions.

Visual Objects surveyed 983 digital payment users in the U.S. to understand how they use digital payment methods.

••• real estate research

Home ownership across the ages

Generational differences and similarities in home-buying

Are Millennials becoming their parents? When it comes to choosing a home, the similarities are striking. According to a study by Coldwell Banker Real Estate, almost all Baby Boomers (91%), Generation X (91%) and Millennials (92%) say that owning their own home is important – and at nearly identical rates.

When it comes to picking a neighborhood, the generations mostly agree on one thing: location. Eight in 10 (81%) Americans agree that they value the location of their home over the size, with all generations in agreement: Boomers (79%), Gen X (79%) and Millennials (81%).

These generations also overwhelmingly agree on the importance of living in a safe neighborhood with both Boomers and Gen X at 98% and Millennials at 93%. Nearly three out of four Boomers (72%), Gen X (73%) and Millennials (73%) want to live close to their families. When family can’t be close to home, the generations agree on how to stay connected. Phone calls are the top choice across generations – Boomers (77%), Gen X (66%) and Millennials (64%) – calling on the phone beat out texting and social media when it comes to making faraway family members and friends feel closer to home. A majority (54%) of Millennials say living close to bars and nightlife is important. Those numbers drop slightly for Gen X (46%) and Boomers (34%).

Is avocado toast to blame? Paying down debt is the No. 1 reason some Americans struggle to afford their first home. Among those who have purchased a home, 26% cite this as the main reason they struggled to afford their first home, while just 6% cite spending on luxury items, 5% say dining out at restaurants and 5% say travel. Spending on avocado toast – and at restaurants in general – is not a barrier to home ownership. Sixty-six percent of Millennials spent $0 on avocado toast in the previous year and only 15% spent more than $50 in the previous year. In fact, the average American spends only $35 per year on avocado toast at restaurants. General spending at restaurants and spending on travel were tied for last when respondents were asked if and why they had trouble affording their first home.

Millennials dream of more than just vacations and experiences – they are also more likely to say they believe that, in their lifetime, they will live in their dream home (81%) compared to 75% of Gen X and 67% of Boomers.

When Americans who previously worked with a real estate agent were asked why they did so, the most common response was, “I wanted a trusted advisor to help me navigate the buying/selling process.” A majority (56%) of Americans who previously worked with a real estate agent cite “excellent customer service skills” as one of the most important qualities for an agent to possess. Excellent customer service skills were defined as: “kept in touch/followed up, explained things well, made themselves readily available.” Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans say they would prefer to work with an agent affiliated with an established national or local real estate company; only 3% would prefer to work with a startup.

Millennials are nearly twice as likely as Boomers to say they would be more likely to purchase a home with a white picket fence. Boomers, however, are more likely than Millennials to say hardwood floors would make them more likely to purchase a home (53% vs. 35%). Carpeting is less popular among all three generations, with 20% of Millennials, 21% of Gen X and 21% of Boomers saying that carpeting would make them more likely to purchase a home.

The two most desired home features across generations are a master bedroom with a private master bathroom and a fenced-in backyard. Eighty percent of Americans say they prefer to buy a move-in-ready home over one that requires any updating but what would they give up? Roughly seven in 10 Millennials (70%) and Gen X (71%) say they would be willing to sacrifice home size for a move-in-ready home. Boomers agree but at a lower rate (63%).

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Coldwell Banker among 2,002 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 543 are Millennials, 540 are Gen X and 569 are Boomers.

••• generational research

Stuck in the middle

The Sandwich Generation shoulders financial, familial burdens

New research from Haven Life Insurance Agency reveals that the Sandwich Generation is struggling physically, mentally and financially. The study was conducted to better understand the individuals who are sandwiched by the responsibilities of providing care and decision-making support for both dependent children and aging parents.

The key insight from the survey shows that 80% of the Sandwich Generation is overwhelmed often or constantly, which translates to five out of seven days of the week. In fact, 84% of respondents indicated that their retirement will be negatively impacted by their financial responsibilities to both children and aging parents. The results from this survey underscore the enormous stress that individuals face when navigating the realities of caring for their aging parents and kids at the same time.

Gender and income may play a role in how overextended the Sandwich Generation feels. Women (84%) in the Sandwich Generation are more likely to report feeling overwhelmed compared to men (75%). Additionally, 84% of respondents with an income of $0-$49,900 report being overwhelmed compared to respondents with an income over $150,000 (63%).

The areas where respondents help out their aging parents the most include health care decisions (60%) and financial decisions (55%). Forty-three percent currently assist their parents financially or provide physical care. Nearly 60% of the Sandwich Generation expect to financially support their parents or in-laws as they continue to age.

The Sandwich Generation could benefit from more support, specifically mental health and financial advisory services. When asked what would help to reduce their stress, the top three choices selected by respondents include access to a mental health professional (63%), decision-making support from their family (61%) and a financial advisor (57%). The Sandwich Generation’s self-care is also suffering. When asked what activities are neglected the most as a result of their responsibilities, the top three choices included self-care (63%), sleep (62%) and financial health (43%). The Sandwich Generation would love more shut-eye. If Sandwich Generation respondents were gifted one extra hour in their days, the majority of them would spend it sleeping (50%), followed by spending more time with their children (48%) and their partner (48%).

As a result of their financial responsibilities, a majority of the Sandwich Generation have had to adjust their retirement goals (55%), with 29% feeling that they will never be able to retire.

Two-thirds of the Sandwich Generation has life insurance. Given the enormous responsibilities of providing physical, emotional and financial support for their parents and children, the Sandwich Generation seems to understand the importance of financial protection. Of those who don’t have life insurance, 66% said that being a member of the Sandwich Generation prevents them from getting coverage.

The study was conducted by Haven Life among 1,078 respondents ages 30-55 years old and who have dependent children and provide decision-making support or care for at least one parent.

••• technology research

Challenges in software development

Research explores roles and responsibilities of software developers

In recent research, IDG Communications explored the roles involved in driving business forward through software development. These go beyond the traditional developer title and responsibilities appear to be growing. The study provides insight into the tasks developers are spending the majority of their time on, the skills they’d like to further develop and the challenges hindering their productivity. While 82% of respondents say they frequently or sometimes spend their time modifying/maintaining software applications, 41% say they would like to focus more time developing/building software applications.

Software development falls into three main buckets and survey respondents represent all of them: 68% are involved in full stack development, 21% are involved in back-end development only and the remaining 11% are involved in front-end development.

When asked about the most important skills they need to be successful in their current role, 62% said problem-solving/troubleshooting skills. Interestingly, only 10% of respondents claim to want to focus more of their time on troubleshooting operations issues over the next 12 months. Ideally, they would like to take on a more strategic role and focus their time building and designing new tools as well as researching new tools and solutions. Due to technology modernization, 40% of developers say they have a need for new programming/language skills and 39% say there is an increased need for new development tools and solutions.

Software developers are very much involved in steering technology investments – more than half (56%) say they are involved during the research stage and 29% say they are consulted once a trial is in place and vendors are being evaluated. Only 11% of respondents said they are never involved in the tech purchase process. It’s also important to note that 81% are somewhat or very satisfied with their level of involvement during the technology purchase process. Additionally, 73% say that their working relationship with business management is highly or somewhat collaborative which gives them a voice when new technologies are being evaluated. This changes slightly by job title and increases to 78% for architects, 74% for engineers and decreases to 68% for developers.

The research also found that these individuals have a collaborative relationship with the security team. Nearly half (49%) of developers say that security is integrated into the development process in the planning stage before development begins and 33% say security is looped in once the first iteration of the application is developed. By communicating with both lines of business management and security personnel throughout the software and application development process, developers are positioning their tools and solutions for success.

With frequent tech advancements, security concerns and a shortage of time to focus on all necessary tasks, it’s evident that developers experience challenges within their responsibilities. Tied for the top two challenges are doing more with less staff and keeping up with new technology advancements and skill requirements (28%). Following close behind, 27% say that the availability of experienced developers is a top challenge inhibiting their role. When faced with a job-related challenge, developers rely largely on peer communication and easily digestible information – 39% rely on peers inside their company, followed by online communities and discussion forums (36%) and blogs (34%).

The study also looked at the current staffing levels of development teams. Close to half of developers (46%) believe their team is adequately staffed, while 17% view their team as being well-staffed and 36% report that their team is understaffed. We can expect some staffing levels to improve within the next year as 39% anticipate their in-house development team will increase over the next 12 months and 42% report their level will remain the same.

The survey was conducted by IDG among the audience of IDG brands and partners and is based on 364 respondents involved in the software development process within their organizations.

••• artificial intelligence

Personalization in the AI age

Consumers seek transparency in AI-driven services

A study commissioned by WP Engine found that in an era of purpose-driven consumption, values – such as transparency, trust and humanness – are key drivers that unlock value in artificial intelligence (AI).

Despite previous years’ focus on GDPR and privacy regulations designed to give consumers power over their data, nearly half of U.K. consumers (48% according to a survey by CIM1) still don’t know how brands are using their data. They remain concerned about the privacy of their personal information and online behaviors. As consumers demand that enterprises prioritize their data protection and become transparent regarding its use, collection and value, most enterprises have started having these necessary conversations regarding the role of ethics, data protection and consumer rights.

Personalization systems tend to give way to trust and ethical concerns, both from a privacy perspective and in terms of cross-device efficiencies. In the U.K., both consumers and enterprises indicated a high degree of importance regarding values issues, such as the protection of data privacy and security, the expectation of organizations being able to explain transparently what they are using data for, degree of personalization and a clear and direct value for the exchange of data, to name a few. Consumers overall placed more importance on these issues, putting enterprises on notice. Most important to U.K. consumers was that proper privacy protections are in place during personalization (92.2% agreed) and yet only 82% of enterprises indicated this was important, indicating a serious gap that needs to be bridged for enterprises to truly gain U.K. consumer trust.

An increasing number of digital users are now mindful and aware of the “value exchange” that occurs with a brand when they participate in a digital experience. Not surprisingly, the willingness to share personal information in exchange for a better service was highest among Millennials, with older generations less willing to trade their personal information for better, more personalized service.

Data sharing leads to personalized services and in this function AI is extremely capable, such as being able to push an ice cream advertisement to you while walking past an ice cream shop on a hot day. Still, consumers worry that this crosses the line into obtrusive – 86.8% of U.K. consumers felt it was important that personalization doesn’t feel “creepy.” In response, 77% of U.K. enterprises agreed that avoiding creepiness was crucial. Ultimately organizations need to walk the fine line where a person’s digital space must be respected in the same way as physical space.

The research resulted in several lessons for brands and agencies using AI in the digital age. Enterprises are increasingly using AI-driven platforms to make impactful decisions, such as the allocation of jobs, loans or university admissions. Thus, there is a rising concern from users on how algorithms make these decisions, as 92.7% of U.K. consumers feel it is very important for organizations to be transparent about how their data is being used for creating personalized online experiences. Keeping this in mind, organizations have identified the need to incorporate the values of AI, primarily trust and transparency, in their strategies. About two-in-five (41.5%) of U.K. IT decision makers say that it is very important to be transparent about how they use AI to personalize user experience.

Additionally, 81.5% of U.K. IT decision makers agreed that it is important for organizations to interrogate bias in their organizations and the data sets they use. It is particularly relevant for supervised learning and machine-learning data sets where the process of supervision allows brands to change the way they do things. This provides an opportunity to create diverse and inclusive teams to maintain various voices of change. A majority (79.5%) of IT decision makers agree that it is important that the teams building and maintaining AI systems are diverse.

With GDPR, the world began to see governments putting structure around what and how data may be used. The report shows that 86% of consumers do not want organizations tracking data that they don’t have any use for and 92.8% of U.K. consumers said that they expect organizations to explain what they are doing with their data.

Thanks to advancements in natural language processing and conversation AI, the capability now exists for chatbots and digital assistants to closely mimic their human counterparts. In fact, 56.4% of consumers surveyed indicated it’s important that websites have a chatbot or digital assistant to help with customer service and 82% of enterprises are using AI in this way. However, 85% of consumers surveyed agreed that it should be made known when AI is used in chatbots and similar customer-facing applications. A majority (85%) of U.K. consumers strongly agreed that companies have a responsibility to disclose the use of AI in chatbots and similar customer service interactions. Seventy-seven percent of IT decision makers also agreed that when it comes to deploying customer service chatbots, it should be made known to users that such a service is not facilitated by human agents, demonstrating alignment between enterprises and consumers about the importance of this issue.

The study was conducted by the University of London and Vanson Bourne on behalf of WP Engine and surveyed consumer and enterprise companies in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.