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Content Marketing

How buyers engage with B2B content post-pandemic

PathFactory’s Content Engagement Report 2021 dives into visitor behavior around B2B content beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

In early 2020, COVID-19 turned B2B marketing on its head. It not only shaped how buyers engaged with content — it also caused a major shift for marketers, who had to rely exclusively on digital channels. We dove into the data locked within PathFactory’s Intelligent Content Platform and shared the findings in the special edition Content Engagement Report 2020. However, it wasn’t clear if these radical changes were a temporary response to a global pandemic, or would have lasting implications as the “new normal” for B2B content. We decided to find out.

The result is the new Content Engagement Report 2021, which examines how buyers consumed B2B content almost a year and a half later — and how marketers started looking past the pandemic, adapting yet again. Millions of visitor sessions and thousands of content assets across hundreds of companies tell a very interesting story of how things are still changing. Here are 4 big takeaways you need to know about:

More content engagement across the board

Content demands surged at the start of the pandemic, with remote work en masse fuelling an uptick in screen time. This trend accelerated even further in 2021, when we saw:

  • 54.5% more website visitors
  • 35.7% more sessions
  • 34.5% more page views
  • 42.7% more unique asset views
  • 47% longer sessions

Although content consumption continued its upward trajectory, the nature of the engagement itself was a notable departure from the “short bursts of content” we observed last year. Following the first stay-at-home orders in March 2020, the number of sessions jumped by 42% and unique asset views by 40% from the three months immediately before. However, average session time dropped by 17%, at the same time as buyers were adapting to endless Zoom meetings and work from home distractions. This behavior reversed in 2021, possibly due to buyers recovering from limited attention spans as they adjusted to remote work or returned to the office. Average session time increased by 47% and average view time by 63%.

We also saw notable changes among bingers — visitors who view multiple assets in one session. Although total asset views dipped by 9.2% and return visits by 13.8%, bingers still viewed an average of 4.7% more assets per session than they did in 2020. Session time also increased by 19.2% among bingers, who were already responsible for driving meaningful engagement — especially compared to other visitors. In 2021, bingers viewed 1.9X more assets per session and 4.6X more in total than non-bingers.

Changing asset mix and complex content journeys

Shorter, “snackable” assets like brochures, data sheets and videos became the formats of choice for distracted visitors in 2020, while page views for whitepapers, guides and reports plummeted. This year, long-form content made a triumphant return, with whitepapers averaging the longest view time of any other content type at 6:18. Marketers responded by ramping up on presentations, guides and whitepapers — which saw the biggest gains in content distribution in 2021 — while brochures and data sheets dropped. This is further evidence that visitors are resuming their pre-pandemic behavior around content engagement, as things start to go back to normal.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the complexity of B2B content journeys. In 2021, visitors engaged with a mix of short- and long-form assets, whether they were bingers, non-bingers, known or unknown. Marketers need to not only deliver the right content, but the right mix of content, to the right people at the right time, rather than forcing prospects through rigid content funnels that don’t always align with actual behavior.

Maturing ABM/ABX

Increased focus on and maturity of ABM/ABX efforts yielded 50% more known visitors per account in 2021. There was also an 87% increase in the number of larger accounts with 10+ visitors and at least five known. At the same time, the overall percentage of known accounts decreased by 26.9%, as expanding ABM programs brought in more unknown accounts in the process. Marketers also leveraged AI-enabled technology like content intelligence, which gives websites the ability to adapt to visitor behavior with hyper-relevant, personalized content recommendations in real-time, regardless of whether identity is known.

Better personalization through AI-enabled content intelligence

Visitors who engaged with personalized content recommendations had 5.3X longer sessions and 3.6X more asset views per session than those who didn’t. With content consumption and activation showing no signs of slowing down in 2022, it’s crucial for marketers to deliver relevant assets at every touchpoint. Timing is everything: 26.5% of views originating from a content recommendation happened as the second view within a session, and decreased as visitors consumed more and more assets. This indicates that dynamic content recommendations are most effective when activated as soon as possible.

PathFactory’s Content Engagement Report 2021 uncovered a dramatic shift around B2B content consumption, engagement, activation and distribution. Jump in to read about these changes and what they mean for marketers in the post-pandemic era.