2023 Product Demo Trends: What You Need to Know
The air is getting crisper, the holidays are approaching, and here at Reprise, we’re starting to get excited about what the fast-approaching new year holds. Naturally, our view of the future is pretty demo-centric, and there are plenty of exciting trends in the demo space! And a few challenging ones as well.
Here are 7 of the top demo trends we’re looking at in the year ahead, plus strategies to thrive in 2023.
1. The B2B Buying Journey Gets Even More Critical
One of the major trends we saw this year that will only strengthen in 2023 is that buyers now are much more educated and want to research a lot on their own. If your buyer journey is making that difficult for them, from getting pricing to seeing your product to even reading your content, you’re gonna fall behind.
(In other words, don’t sell SaaS like it’s 2012, please.)
The data bears the importance of the buyer’s journey out. 52% of companies are still frustrated with the B2B online purchasing experience—and this frustration has caused 53% of them to switch suppliers over the past year.
There’s so much competition in the SaaS world today that you’re likely no longer competing on what your product does alone. Your buyer journey matters so much more to help you stand out to your potential customers.
After all, if you make your sales process (when you’re trying your hardest to win them over) annoying and opaque, what is being a customer going to feel like? Probably not great. Prospects are shopping accordingly, so you need to adjust your buyer journey.
Pricing transparency will become more important as well. Today’s B2B buyers don’t want to have to guess what your product will cost—they’re increasingly expecting pricing upfront. Say goodbye to those “Pricing” pages on websites that don’t actually… give you a price (just one of the many bait-and-switch tactics too many businesses have been playing).
Just look at Slack’s lovely, transparent pricing page.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to put every price up front, since pricing for large enterprises and agencies depends on a lot of factors. But if an individual or team wants to get an idea of what your product costs: give it to them! And if they want to see what your product looks like, give that to them too.
2. Requests for Demos Come Earlier and Earlier
Today’s buyers want to see what you’re selling. And they want to see it right away. Gated content, the “Get a Demo” button that actually gets them an unwanted discovery call, or even a demo where you promise features are coming soon… they’re not into it.
They want to see, touch, and experience your product right away to evaluate it—they’re not trusting of SaaS salespeople anymore after being burned on bad deals in the past.
And that’s understandable. But it also means that requests for demos are coming earlier and earlier in the sales process, and we don’t see that slowing down anytime in the next year.
In fact, early-stage demos are going to be even more critical as a differentiator in the increasingly crowded and competitive SaaS marketplace. Buyers are more educated and more technical these days, and their interest in early demos reflects that fact.
Your company might not be set up to make those super-early demos happen—but you’ve got to work out how to get there and eliminate the demo demand bottleneck. And the next trend we expect you’ll see in 2023 won’t make that any easier.
3. SE Resources Continue to Be In High Demand
Solutions engineers (and pretty much everyone else in the presales field) have been highly sought-after and super scarce this year. And that’s a trend we only see growing in 2023.
There are a few reasons for this shortage.
- SEs have a hard-to-find combination of skills. They combine deep technical expertise with great people skills and great communication, which is pretty tough to find in a single person.
- Presales is not a widely-known field. James Kaikis of PreSales Collective likes to say that presales is the best job no one knows about. If you’re in SaaS, this might not seem true—but it’s a career field that has very little external awareness or recognition. It’s hard to hire people for a job they don’t even know exists.
- Buyers are demanding more time with presales resources. Today’s buyers want to talk technical details and get straightforward answers from an expert—that’s SEs. They’re less interested in the disco-demo dance with sales reps who don’t know the technical specifications.
As SE resources remain scarce, you’re going to have to do a couple of things.
First, focus on retaining the SEs you already have.
Second, find ways to scale up your demo capability without draining those SEs of the little time they have. That means not dragging them into early-stage demos, while still giving buyers what they want.
With the rise of low-code and no-code demo platforms like Reprise, your product marketers, AEs, and anyone else who needs to can put together an intro demo for a discovery call or website tour without calling on SEs. That means they can save their time for those late-stage demos where their expertise and skills will make the difference between closing the deal or losing it.
4. The Demand for Interactive Demos Increases
Another area where B2B buyer expectations have gone up is around the sales content you show them.
In 2023, it’s definitely not going to be enough to give them a “demo” that’s just a bunch of slides with screengrabs of your product anymore, or a long and clunky harbor tour video. Those demos are deadly, and your buyers expect more. You’re a tech company so your sales process must have some decent tech behind it, or why should the buyer trust you?
Interactive experiences are going to be a must-have in the year ahead. That’s because prospects don’t just want to see that your product exists or what a static page looks like—they want that experience of touching it and experiencing it themselves. And they expect SaaS sellers to deliver it.
Interactive demos are the way to go because they give your potential buyers the freedom to explore the features that matter to them, not only the ones you assume they want to see. And when you give them that freedom (and gather some interesting analytics on what they’re looking at), you gain their trust and also essential data about how prospects explore your demo too.
5. Product-Led Growth Takes Off
What’s driving this increased interest in PLG? Some of it is certainly pressure from VCs and investors who look at PLG companies like DropBox and Slack and find the low-cost path to growth and profit promising.
But another reason is that PLG aligns super well with the way buyers want to buy now. They want to experience your product before they buy it, much more than they want to have several conversations with a sales rep before they can get their hands on it.
If you’re intrigued by PLG but know that a free trial or freemium model isn’t for you, there’s so much more to product-led growth than those two options!
6. Your Tech Stack Will Matter More Than Ever
With tighter budgets comes the need for a tighter tech stack. The average company in 2021 had a staggering 242 SaaS apps—and less than half of employees are regularly using the apps that are available to them.
Clearly, there’s some room for pruning here. Focusing on tech that can be used across multiple departments instead of for just one narrow purpose can help.
For demo purposes, buying access to a platform that only your SEs and demo engineers can use, for example, isn’t going to give you the biggest return because its scope is so limited. Instead, try a platform like Reprise that’s no-code so your product marketers and AEs can use it too, expanding the potential for creating demos you can use throughout the buyer journey.
7. Budgets Will Keep Tightening
While yes, marketing spend will likely continue to increase, with a more sluggish economy your marketing efforts will need to be much more effective at increasing conversions, not just users and traffic.
This trend is a big change from how SaaS companies have operated in the past couple of years. VCs and investors were just throwing money at anything in the name of growth, and that phase was exciting and a little reckless.
Now that we have a more sluggish economy (maybe even a potential recession), there’s going to be a bigger focus on needs vs. wants. Marketing to keep your pipeline flowing and brand awareness up? Need. That scheduling software that makes your marketer’s life easier but costs tens of thousands of dollars a year? That might become a want as budgets are scrutinized with greater care in the startup world.
Efforts to create user growth are great. But we expect to see a bigger focus on conversion rates—what’s driving paying customers for you? Demos play a huge part here, because when used strategically they can help you increase your free trial and freemium conversion rates.
Retention rates are also going to become an increasingly critical measure of success. If you’re running through huge rates of marketing spend to acquire customers but failing to hold onto them, that spells trouble for your company’s future.
Aligning product, marketing, and sales so customers get exactly what they paid for and keep seeing value in your solution will help you keep them for the long term. That buyer’s journey we talked about in #1 should flow seamlessly into the customer journey, and using your product should be as delightful as buying it.
New Year, New Trends
Predicting the future is hard, but it’s also kinda fun. The importance of demos is only going to grow in 2023—is your organization ready for that growth? If you’re feeling unprepared, Reprise is here to help you future-proof and scale your demo process.