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As baby boomers’ and Gen Xers’ professional influence fades, millennials and Gen Zers are establishing themselves in the workplace and altering procurement processes every step of the way, especially in interactions with vendors.

Need Recognition

Younger generations are both praised and criticized for their tendency to shun the status quo, embracing self-education and independently seeking greater transparency and innovation; such behavior is now making its way into the corporate sphere.

  • Younger procurement professionals are more comfortable defining business needs on their own without the input of sales representatives, disrupting conventional sales discovery processes and forcing sales representatives to creatively demonstrate personalized value.
  • For millennials and Gen Zers, a modern customer experience defined by vendors’ digital presence and technological savvy is not simply appreciated but expected.
  • Younger generations care deeply about social and environmental issues, have a soft spot for ethical sourcing and prefer to do business with socially responsible brands.

Vendor Selection

Accustomed to being able to swiftly compare goods, services and suppliers online, younger procurement professionals are leveraging technology to streamline the vendor selection process.

  • In response to mounting brand distrust, millennials and Gen Zers first turn to Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook (in that order) when researching vendors, rather than referencing vendor-provided resources.
  • Younger staff prefer to source from manufacturers over distributors, owing to manufacturers’ increased control over the customer experience and consequent ability to cultivate stronger reputations of excellence.
  • Younger generations prefer to source from vendors that allow them to spread purchases over a variety of technology channels (e.g., mobile apps, dedicated online portals, emails), whichever is more convenient, contrasting with older generations’ tendency to primarily purchase from company websites.

Negotiation

Younger generations’ inclination toward on-demand, efficient communication means they approach vendor negotiations differently than their predecessors.

  • Younger generations are more comfortable than baby boomers and Gen Xers using deals found online as negotiation leverage, whereas older generations are more reliant on insight from company sales reps to determine whether they are getting a good deal.
  • Due to the widening skills gap between older and younger procurement professionals, the latter group is more likely to require approval for purchases, making them less nimble in negotiations than their predecessors.
  • The availability of post-purchase support, such as hands-on training and sustainable disposal guidance, can make or break younger professionals’ decisions to work with certain vendors.
  • Younger staff are unafraid to terminate business relationships after negative interactions and are more likely to switch vendors to obtain more favorable pricing, whereas older generations value brand loyalty and hesitate to end long standing business relationships. 
  • Younger procurement specialists are much more likely to source internationally using expedited shipping, encouraging domestic vendors to be more competitive with foreign providers in terms of price and shipping flexibility.

Generational differences are clearly a driving factor in changing business environments, but many professionals may be wondering exactly how their business strategies should evolve to support younger generations’ procurement and broader business preferences. The following strategies should be key methods of cultivating perceptions of excellence and retaining business from younger buyers:

  1. Prioritize online reputation management

Social media is at the forefront of younger generations’ purchasing considerations in their personal and professional lives. Scrutinizing your company’s social media channels and establishing a pattern of responsive social media engagement will help curry favor with younger sourcing professionals.

  1. Facilitate online and mobile purchases

Modern professionals rely heavily on industry intelligence and data insights to quickly process information and make informed online purchases. Increasing your company’s investment in data analytics and cloud-based procurement platforms can help close the buyer-seller gap with younger generations.

  1. Reinforce compatibility with ethical sourcing

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a priority for younger generations that demonstrate renewed interest in correcting social and environmental shortfalls. Be honest about your company’s social and environmental impacts and provide relevant CSR metrics to help younger buyers quantify where your company resides on the social responsibility spectrum.

For those still wondering what to make of evolving generational trends in procurement, keep in mind that satisfying the new generations of procurement professionals will require a new approach.

 

By: Ayanna Leaphart

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