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Inside Retail & BigCommerce

Why B2B vendors must raise their game as business buyers move online

(Source: Bigstock.)

While every retailer realises the explosion of online shopping by consumers over the past decade, a silent revolution has been underway in the business-to-business (B2B) sector. 

New research from BigCommerce has revealed that buyers purchasing from suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers are no longer relying solely on sales teams to guide their purchases. Instead, their journey is becoming a mix of physical and digital interactions that result in a final purchase online.

Furthermore, people purchasing goods online for business purposes are increasingly expecting the experience to match that of their personal online shopping – a reality that will only increase as younger generations move into company buying positions.

BigCommerce commissioned Price Intelligently by Paddle to survey B2B buyers across the US, the UK and Australia, (with 237 of the 1006 polled from Australia). 

They found that two out of three B2B buyers are transacting online three or more times a week – 15 per cent of them on a daily basis. Just over half (56 per cent) are using B2B e-commerce sites to request a quote, two-thirds to research or browse, and 75 per cent to transact. 

The message is clear. In the words of Lance Owide, B2B GM at BigCommerce: “B2B merchants need to have a strong online presence and offer a seamless omnichannel shopping experience to keep buyers loyal and converting – or they risk losing market share.”

The report underlines the importance of merchants getting the basics of a website right before moving on to bigger and better functionality. 

“Look for potential technology partners that may be able to help alleviate some of these stresses,” it advocates. “Customer service, for example, could benefit from implementing a live chat function, allowing buyers to speak directly to a representative from the site. Merchants could also explore using artificial intelligence (AI) to help reduce the burden on customer support.”

The Global B2B Buyer Behavior Report breaks the buyer journey into three distinct categories – product discovery, shopping experience, and checkout – highlighting key data points along the way. The report contains invaluable data on purchasing habits, including search behaviour, payment preferences, and the impact of customer ratings and reviews. It also outlines the pain points experienced by buyers using e-commerce sites to transact and those leading to cart abandonment. 

Three key conclusions 

Available to download here in PDF format The Global B2B Buyer Behavior Report includes research-backed advice to site owners on how to optimise their shopping experience and maximise conversion rates. Here are three key conclusions as an introduction…

Buyers expect – and reward – basic online functionality: Respondents to the survey indicated that the most basic e-commerce functionality – such as accurate product and pricing information – is extremely important when it comes to their shopping experience. A majority of respondents prefer fast, frictionless experiences and this is especially true for buyers with multiple levels of approval, which is common in the B2B space. 

Buyers want more transparency when it comes to products and pricing: B2B buyers want to see prices and product information displayed clearly and transparently on e-commerce websites. They want to see a value proposition and the total price displayed. No matter what economic factors are in play, price will always be at the front of shoppers’ minds. This is a valuable takeaway for merchants who may unintentionally hide shipping costs or taxes until the final stages of checkout. 

Buyers expect a frictionless checkout experience: Buyers’ e-commerce expectations from their personal online shopping experiences have spilled over into the buying they are performing at work. While certain B2B-specific functions are necessary to meet the at-work expectations – PO invoicing, ACH, and bulk ordering, for example – B2B merchants need to provide direct-to-consumer-like website functionality wherever possible. 

BigCommerce stresses that as B2B buyer expectations evolve, it is important for merchants to meet – and even exceed – them to maintain an edge over the competition. It is also important for merchants to use an e-commerce platform that provides a solid foundation for basic functionality along with a framework for future growth.

“With 75 per cent of B2B buyers using an e-commerce site to purchase products, it is clear that businesses should be investing in e-commerce technology that provides modern, user-centric experiences for their customers,” the report says. “But not only that. Businesses should also invest in technology that can improve internal operations within sales and marketing teams. Remaining on decades-old legacy or bespoke platforms can prove costly, so now may be the right time to start looking for alternatives.”

“The way B2B buyers shop is changing, and B2B merchants need to adapt,” concludes Owide. “Buyers are turning to online channels to research, compare, and purchase products. B2B merchants need to have a strong online presence and offer a seamless omnichannel shopping experience to keep buyers loyal and converting, or risk losing market share.”

Download the report – at no charge – here