According to analyst firm Forrester Research business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce in the US is poised to reach $559 billion by the end of next year. In comparison, another analyst firm – eMarketer – predicts that business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce in the US will reach $256 billion in 2013. Thus, in spite of the overwhelming immaturity of the B2B online commerce landscape, the value of B2B online purchases are expected to be more than twice as high as B2C online purchases next year.
Compared to the B2C market, most B2B companies still have a long way to go in making it easy to find information and purchase their products and services online. Despite a rapidly growing demand and expectation by procurement professionals to be able to find and purchase products and services just as easily as they can as private consumers, most B2B companies have yet to embrace online as a key sales channel.
According to a recent study by hybris, a multichannel commerce software company, 81 percent of B2B procurement specialists prefer suppliers that provide both digital commerce and traditional physical commerce (e. g., print catalogues, sales reps and call centres) over providers that offer only traditional sales channels. In other words, 81 percent of B2B procurers would choose a supplier that offers an online ordering option over an equal supplier that does not.
The study, which is based on answers from 224 B2B procurement specialists on their preferences for conducting business through suppliers across a variety of channels, clearly show an appetite for online commerce among B2B professionals.
When asked why they prefer ordering online, unsurprisingly B2B buyers reported that the top advantage of online purchasing is convenience and time saving. 89 percent of respondents agreed that the ability to do business with a supplier when it’s convenient for them is an advantage and 85 percent that the ability to save time is an advantage.
The hybris’ survey also show that 89 percent of B2B buyers believe that the online purchasing experience should be just as compelling and easy as it is for consumers. This figure increases to 91 percent for B2B buyers with budgets over $1 million.
However, there is a big gap between the demands of B2B buyers and what most B2B suppliers provide in terms of online purchasing options. According to the survey, 94 percent of buyers believe suppliers need to invest more in making the online purchasing experience in B2B as easy as the B2C online purchasing experience.
Other findings from the survey demonstrate the connections between online procurement, offsite (aka social media) and mobile technology. Armed with the latest mobile devices, procurers have the ability to forge anytime, anywhere connections with suppliers. Statistically, 89 percent of procurers who own a smartphone research purchases through vendor’s .com/.xx and 60 percent perform research on alternative resellers’ .com/.xx like Amazon Supply or eBay.
It is clear that the behaviour, habits and demands of B2B buyers already match those of ordinary consumers. It is thus high time for B2B suppliers to adapt to this changed environment or suffer the consequences of diminishing ability to conduct business.
Chief Analyst & Digital Strategist since 2011. Martin helps clients interpret how online and digital impacts their business, and how to plan and execute a strategy to achieve maximum results in the digital age.