Goodbye Cosy Relationships; Hello Millennials

We haven’t talked about millennials for a while in our blog. This is not because the subject is no longer fashionable or because we have run out of things to say. Quite the reverse. It is of increasing importance and we have lots to say.

The starting point of our conversation today is the importance of millennials in business to business buying decisions. In almost every survey that we carry out, we ask people their age and their responsibility in decision-making. We only carry out business to business surveys which means we have built up a great database which we can interrogate to find out the age of business to business decision-makers. Across dozens of industry verticals and hundreds of different companies, we have arrived at an interesting observation. Millennials, (ie people up to 35 years old), are the key person who chooses a supplier in just less than a fifth of all companies. However, millennials make up a quarter of the workforce so it is clear that they are under-represented in b2b decision-making.

Age Of The Key Decision Makers In B2B Companies


This under-representation should be no surprise. Decision-making in businesses tends to be a task given to people with experience and by definition they tend to be more senior personnel. However, it is an obvious fact that people who are aged 55 years and older will soon retire and drop off the conveyor belt while millennials will grow older and take on greater responsibilities.

In a recent survey we carried out which focused just on millennials, we explored their behaviour and attitudes to a number of different business situations. We found that 42% of millennials in employment have some buying authority at their place of work. This tends to be for relatively low level stuff such as secretarial things, office and cleaning supplies, and IT products. What was surprising is that when they do buy for their companies, they place more importance on tangible factors such as the specification and price of the product rather than on intangible factors such as technical support and brand – see the chart below that shows factors driving the buying decision for office computers. This shattered our view that millennials are driven by brands and emotions. It may be so when they are buying products for themselves but not, it would appear, when buying for their company.

Suppose the place where you work is replacing its computers/laptops, and you are in charge of that decision. Rank the following in terms of their importance to you when making that decision?


If this is the case, it has implications for business to business markets in the future. Those cosy relationships that have long existed between suppliers and buyers and that don’t change year in and year out, could soon be threatened. Look around you. The rational millennial is at a place where you work – right now.

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